One of Telluride's true pioneers has passed. Telluride's perennial Grand Dame, Irene Visintin, went to be with her sister and mother on December 12, 2013. She passed as gently as she lived, just three weeks shy of her 101st birthday.
Irene was born on January 4, 1913, to Emmanuel and Ermida Visintin, and lived in the same house on North Spruce for nearly 80 years. Irene graduated from Telluride High School in 1931, and went on to obtain a degree in bookkeeping from Barnes Commercial School in Denver. She returned to Telluride to a job in the city clerk's office, working for Ms. Wilma Piele. Two years later she was hired away from the city by attorney Charles Fairlamb to manage his office for 12-cents-per-hour raise. Job hopping yet again, Irene joined the Telluride Mines, Inc., in 1939, where she worked for the next 36 years.
As an administrator for the Telluride side of Telluride Mines Inc. (later, Idarado Mining Co.) for most of that time, Irene had a unique perspective on the mining industry and on the colorful characters who populated it. Irene was witness to a century of Telluride, and some of you can only imagine the “good old days.” As Irene said in the 2006 Telluride Reunion book, "One of the hardest things about getting this old is you have almost no old friends left." She was the last surviving member of the Telluride graduating class of 1931, after the passing of Lila Williams.
Irene chronicled some of her favorite memories of growing up in Telluride in a series of posts at https://www.facebook.com/irene.visintin/notes.Together with her sister, Elvira (Wunderlich), and a myriad of friends including Rena Frank (Bonavida), Marina Mattri (Patterson) and many others, they hiked the mountains, experienced Prohibition and the Great Depression and lived through Telluride's transitions from mining boom town to near ghost town to prominent ski town. She shared personal stories of local bootleggers and highgraders, of the Italian kids fighting with the Swedes on the other side of town over ownership of some donkeys, and trips by horse and tram to the thriving mining towns of Smuggler and Tomboy, where the dances were a much anticipated event (but only in the summer).
Many of you remember Irene as the quiet member of The Sisters, together with her sibling Vera. Together they survived the great Telluride Flood of 1914, Vera – only days old – being passed out a front window to a passing neighbor as the flood was coming in the back window. Irene, just 18 months old at the time, was carried to safety by her mother. With Vera celebrating her birthday on the Fourth of July, The Sisters became part of Telluride lore, gaining some notoriety as float adornments, pedicab denizens and passengers in the classic car parade. Even after deciding to winter in Southern California in 2006 as Colorado winters took their toll, Irene looked forward to her summer sojourns back home to visit friends, spend time at Trout Lake and be in the July 4 parade. One of the finest moments of her life was being presented the key to the city in 2010.
As old folks moved or passed on, The Sisters counted many of the “new folks” as dear friends, and their annual Christmas cookie gifts were legendary. Know that Irene carried a piece of each of you in her heart, and retained a great love for her home and her mountains. A memorial will be held for Irene in the spring, when we bring her remains back to Lone Tree Cemetery. She always said she wanted to come home one more time before we brought her back to Lone Tree. I guess we weren't able to make that happen, but she did get back home with Vera and Mama in time for Christmas.
Thank you all for your love and the support you gave Irene and Vera for all those years. We'll let you know about the service.