In loving memory of Irene Jacklynn Dulin: 1930-2024


Irene Jacklynn Dulin pursued knowledge and understanding throughout her long life.

She read constantly, studying history and politics, garden design and plants, and the lives of people far and wide. Friends and acquaintances said many times how much they enjoyed conversations with Irene, that they appreciated her well-informed insights as well as her kindness.

She died March 24, a week after being diagnosed with late-stage cancer. With help from hospice, her three living children — Wilma, Norma and Mark — cared for her until the end. Irene’s response to the diagnosis was, “The only thing that really matters in life are family and friends.” Also: “Well, I guess I won’t finish that book I was reading and that knitting project.”

Born in 1930 in Fredonia, Wisconsin, Irene’s early life was framed by the Great Depression. Her parents, John and Marjorie Duprel, moved 10 times for different jobs by the time she was 14 years old, finally becoming filbert farmers in Auburn, Washington. Her brothers had also been born in Wisconsin -— Ronnie in 1935 and Roger in 1938.

After graduating from Auburn High School in 1948, she studied at the University of Washington in Seattle, enrolling a semester at a time as funds allowed. For a job at Boeing she rode a scooter through the massive buildings, delivering messages back and forth — always in a skirt, often greeted with catcalls.

Irene’s life took a difficult turn during that first year in college. A boyfriend was driving her home one dark, snowy night and hit a truck stalled across the roadway. She was propelled through the windshield then spent months in the hospital and underwent three facial surgeries.

Irene eventually re-enrolled at the UW, where she met Lee Dulin, a World War II veteran and civil engineering student, and married him in 1952. They lived in a small trailer while he worked on bridge and dam construction projects, moving to different locations in Washington or Oregon each time a project was done. Along the way they had daughter Wilma, son Danny, daughter Norma and, once settled in Centralia, son Mark. She was also bookkeeper for Lee's growing business, Dulin Construction.

As the kids grew older, Irene joined a local garden club and launched her decades-long passion for ornamental gardens. She was an adept knitter and seamstress and was a big supporter of her children’s many interests, from sports to pets to arts and crafts.

In 1975, Irene had another severe blow: her 18-year-old son Danny died in a car collision. While grieving deeply she helped her remaining three children move into adulthood. She found solace in her passions, becoming an award-winning floral designer and judge and creating a stunning garden at the family home on Russell Road. She and Lee saw countless plays and musical performances and loved Sunday drives along Washington's back roads. Irene traveled to cities on both coasts, exploring history and the arts, and being fascinated by local cultures.

After Lee died, in 2004, Irene eventually moved to Centralia’s Stillwaters Estates. She had 16 happy years there, enjoying dear neighbors, playing with a beloved cat, reading and knitting, creating another beautiful garden, and spending time with family in Washington and Oregon. At age 91, she moved into assisted living at Colonial Residence, a few blocks from her house. A month shy of her 94th birthday, she moved to assisted living in Vancouver, Washington, and died a few weeks later.

In addition to three children and their spouses (Ernie, James, Sarah), Irene’s survivors include her brother Roger and his wife (Barbara); six grandchildren (Cameron, Elizabeth, Laura, Glenn, Max and Hannah); 10 great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

As she grew older and contemplated how long she’d live, Irene occasionally said to friends and family, “I’m pretty tough. I’m a survivor.” And she was right.

Her children are hosting a celebration of life for Irene on June 2 at the Ford’s Prairie Grange, where the Dulin family shared many wonderful times. Mingling begins at 11:30, with a service and luncheon to follow around noon. In lieu of flowers, Irene asked that any donations go to the Centralia High School “Dollars for Scholars” program or to The Nature Conservancy.