Sister Irene Anna Poelzer was born 21 April 1926 in an unincorporated settlement along the Hudson Bay Trail near Humboldt, Saskatchewan, to Elizabeth (Hinz) Poelzer–a rural-school teacher, and Michael Poelzer–a pioneer farmer. She entered the fullness of Life on 12 January 2018 in Kamloops BC. This is how Irene wanted to be remembered:
“She was generous and kind, and she didn’t get bogged down with money. She loved the earth, animals, people and Jesus her Brother. She was glad to go home to the Father’s House. AMEN!”
Sister Irene is also remembered by her brothers: Jerome, Kamloops BC; Raphael and his wife Kay, Okotoks AB; and Bernard and his wife Cecile, Milk River AB; and by her sister, Sister Dolores (MM), Eugene OR, as well as by her brother-in-law, Tim Desmond, and by her sisters-in-law, Sonja Countryman, and Sharon Morphy.
She is predeceased by the following siblings and in-laws: Rita and Kenneth Wiederholt, Sister Zitamarie (CSJP), Sister Agnes (CSJP, SFCC), Mildred and Leo Lisowski, Arnold and Theresa (Gurski) Poelzer, Lillian (Moldenhauer) Poelzer (wife of Jerome), Charles Poelzer, Angela Desmond, and Maria Luisa Palau Porres de Poelzer (first wife of Bernard), as well as niece Jean Elizabeth, nephews Mark and Christopher, and grandnephew David.
After completing high school through the Provincial Correspondence School, and in keeping with the mandate of their parents that each child would attend university, Irene enrolled at St. Thomas More College and earned her BA from the U of Sask in 1950. She then embraced the vowed life as a Catholic Sister, first as a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and later with the Sisters for Christian Community.
Subsequently she earned a B.Ed (1964) and an M.Ed (1968) from the U of Sask, an MA in English (1969) from Seattle U, and PhD (1972) in Foundations in Education from the U of Oregon. Irene also taught at the Loretto Abbey Girls’ School in Toronto, in Fort Erie, and was principal of Sedley High School prior to joining the U of Sask as an assistant professor of Educational Foundations in 1970.
Other than one year at Dalhousie (1975-1976), Dr. Poelzer remained at the U of Sask for the rest of her career. She authored or co-authored three books: Saskatchewan Women Teachers, 1905-1920: Their Contributions (1990); Metis Women’s Perception of Social Reality in Seven Northern Saskatchewan Communities (1983), and In Our Own Words: Northern Saskatchewan Metis Women Speak Out (1986); She published a book of poetry, Women of Exodus II; wrote several articles and chapters in books, and was regularly invited to speak at conferences.
Professor Poelzer was a founding member of the Women’s Studies Research Unit, and developed a course on women and education that ushered in feminist scholarship at the University. She engaged in significant research, particularly on women in society, feminist Christianity, Metis and First Nations women in northern Saskatchewan, the impact of development in and the retention of First Nations culture.
Colleagues and students alike described her as an incredible mentor, a powerful teacher, and an inspiration; she was “brilliant and tenacious” as well as had a sense of humour. Sister Irene affected the lives of so many, and they lauded how much she had done for the mass of hurting humanity and for the protection of beleaguered Mother Nature-whether on campus or in the community or at her acreage retreat in Salmon Arm.
We will celebrate Sister Irene’s almost 92 years of earthly life with the Mass of the Resurrection in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 635 Tranquille Road, Kamloops, on Saturday March 3, at 11:00 am; Vigil service on Friday March 2, at 7:00 pm.
Condolences may be made to www.schoeningfuneralservice.com
Schoening Funeral Service 1-800-668-3379