Irene Smith


July 20, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Irene E. Smith, 83, Iola, passed away Friday, July 17, 2015.
Irene was born Oct. 1, 1931, on a farm west of Neosho Falls, the daughter of Ira and Gertrude (Harrison) Hepler. She loved to learn and read, so right after high school she enrolled in Pittsburg State Teacher’s College so she could begin her teaching career. She continued summer school each year and graduated with a full master’s teaching degree. Her 59-year teaching career started in a one-room school south of Moran, and included Zillah Elementary east of Humboldt, two schools in Iola, Yates Center, Gas City, LaHarpe and Moran. After retiring, she worked as a bus monitor to continue helping kids.
While attending college in Pittsburg, Irene met and later married Jack H. Smith on Aug. 1, 1954. He preceded her in death Nov. 22, 1996.
Irene was a big part of the Special Olympics and helped out at all southeast Kansas events for over 40 years, being awarded “Coach of the Year” in 2014.
She was a member of Calvary United Methodist Church, Allen County Hospital Auxiliary and several women’s groups. Irene loved to garden and sell her produce at the Farmers Market on the Iola square.
Survivors include her two daughters, Kathy Reffke and husband, Glen, Natchitoches, La., and Wilma Stone and husband, Floyd, Wichita; two grandsons, Justin and Hollis Low, both of Wichita; two brothers, Ernest Hepler and wife, Dorothy, Clearwater, Fla., and Wayne Hepler and wife, Berta, Jefferson City, Mo.; one sister, Wilma Wooden, Rosemount, Minn.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Jack Smith, father Ira Hepler, mother Gertrude Hepler and step mother Eva Hepler.
Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, at Waugh-Yokum & Friskel Chapel in Iola.
Funeral services will be at 1 p.m., Saturday, at Calvary United Methodist Church in Iola. Burial will be at Highland Cemetery, Iola.
Memorials may be made to Calvary United Methodist Church. Memorial gifts may be left with the Waugh-Yokum & Friskel Memorial Chapel of Iola. To sign the guestbook online or leave a condolence, go to

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