By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Irene Gardner of Delano is a cheerful woman with decades of memories linking her to the Delano community.
Many people might remember Irene from the Delano State Bank, where she worked for 51 years.
“I liked my work very much,” she said.
She started as a teller/bookkeeper straight out of high school. The summer after her senior year, Irene had been working at the local dry cleaners, and had planned to go to college in the fall. Someone from the bank asked her if she’d be interested in trying out banking instead.
“I said, ‘well, I’ll give it a try’,” Irene recalled.
Little did she know, she’d enjoy it so much that she’d make it her lifelong career.
“You learn so many things,” she said. “It’s really worthwhile.”
Throughout the years, Irene held a number of positions, working in personnel, human resources, and loans. She ended up as vice president before she retired at age 73.
Working at the same place never got boring, Irene said.
“It’s because I was doing different things all day,” she explained. “I had good bosses all the time.”
In the early 1950s, Irene took a four-year break from banking to care for her twin sons, Den and Dan. They were born Nov. 9, a few days before Irene’s birthday, Nov. 13.
“I didn’t know I was having twins,” Irene said. “I was very surprised. At that time, they didn’t do all the testing like they do now.”
It was a Monday when the doctor told her she was having twins, and Friday of that week, they were born.
“I didn’t even have names picked out,” she laughed. “They left the hospital as twin 1 and twin 2.”
Den now lives in New Prague and has his own marketing business, and Dan is a high school activities director who lives in Belle Plaine.
Irene’s husband, Kenny, passed away seven years ago, but she is thankful to have her two children, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Her youngest great-grandchild is 2 months old.
Irene also keeps active in the community, and is a parishioner at the Church of St. Peter in Delano.
“I’ve been singing in the choir for many, many years,” she said.
The Church of St. Peter is putting on a play the first week of December called “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” and Irene is one of the shepherds in the chorus.
The participants have been practicing for the performances for about two months.
“It’s very busy, and it takes a lot of work,” Irene said.
Before her husband passed away, Irene said travel used to keep her busy, as well. She and her husband liked going to Alaska and Europe. They also went on several cruises.
“I counted them once, and I think I got up to 18,” she said.
Now, she doesn’t do as much out-of-state travel, but still enjoys going on day trips with friends.
There is a group of women she gets together with at the Delano Senior Center on a regular basis.
“We’re all widows,” she said. “We have a good time.”
Irene also rides the senior bus to various plays and events in the metro area.