April 29, 1930 – November 4, 2018
In the early morning hours of All Soul’s Day, Irma Keiran lost her long and hard-fought battle with Parkinson’s Disease, peacefully passing away at her home in Waltonwood Assisted Living in Cary, NC.
Born April 29, 1930 in New York City to Hans and Hertha (Roes) Basken, Irma grew up in North Bergen, NJ and was a 1948 graduate of Union Hill High School. Following graduation, she worked at the US Rubber Company, where among other duties, she interviewed Rosemary Clooney (a well-known singer/actress who was also George Clooney’s aunt). On a blind date, she met a dashing Navy veteran, Donald Russell Keiran, whom she married on June 20, 1953. Three children were born to that union-Donna Keiran (Chuck Depew), Raleigh, NC; Paul Keiran (YuPing), Santa Rosa, CA, and Diane Pratt (Les), Forest, VA. The family resided first in Cedar Grove, N.J., moving to nearby West Caldwell in 1965, and were long time members of Community Church in Cedar Grove, where Don and Irma were very active in the Couples Club (especially any events that involved dinner and dancing!).
Summers always included a trip to the Jersey Shore (Long Beach Island), followed by camping adventures to Sebago Lake and Acadia in Maine, Montauk, Long Island, the Smoky Mountains, and a five week trip out West to several National Parks, including the Rocky Mountains and Grand Tetons. As her children grew older, Irma, with her friend Margaret Meding, began selling antiques at flea markets, eventually saving enough money to start an antique store, The Mulberry Bush, which she ran for over 20 years. Discovering that they could fly for free on military transport planes, due to Don’s retirement from the Navy, Irma and Don began their world-wide travels, visiting every country in Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. This sometimes involved sleeping on the floor in airports for several days before a flight became available-but this never stopped them. They often took off not knowing where they would ultimately end up-and enjoyed every minute.
In 1980, they embarked on a different kind of adventure. In conjunction with their church, they agreed to sponsor a Vietnamese boat family-ostensibly a professional family with two children. To their surprise, the Tran family with their seven children arrived in New Jersey and moved into their basement for six months. It was love at first sight on both sides, with Irma quickly becoming a second mother to the three girls and four boys. After facilitating the family’s search for their own home, Irma proudly watched the children grow up, go to college, and lead successful lives, all the while continuing their relationship with her, with frequent visits to Waltonwood as her health worsened.
Once grandchildren started arriving in North Carolina, there was a great incentive to move south, so in 1990 Don retired and they moved to the Isle of Palms in South Carolina-much closer to Raleigh and also to an Air Force base in Charleston where they could continue their “Space Available” military flights around the world. Sadly, Don’s untimely death in 1992, while on a vacation trip to Antigua, put an end to this chapter in their lives. Irma, however, being an incredibly strong and resilient woman, rebounded and soon began travelling again with a good friend, Hilde Brown. They ventured to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Japan, and Europe. In China, Irma met her son Paul’s in-laws in Shanghai, and then traveled to Vietnam with the oldest Tran daughter, Ly, and her husband, Peter. As her grandchildren got older, she infected them with her adventurous spirit, taking Jenny to Paris and Jeff to Alaska.
Irma loved singing, dancing, the ocean, playing board and card games, jigsaw puzzles, traveling, camping, martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives, shopping, chocolate, wine, and above all her family, especially her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was always dressed to the nines, complete with makeup and jewelry, and was the life of any party. She instilled in her children a love for travel, the value of education, and the worth of and respect for every person, no matter what their station in life, color, race, religion, or gender.
As time passed, she developed Parkinson’s Disease, and in 2011, moved to Waltonwood in Cary to be closer to her daughter Donna and son-in-law Chuck. Despite her disability, she participated in every activity and every scenic drive possible, especially excelling in bingo and Wii bowling. At the time of her death, she was Waltonwood’s longest living resident, having resided there for 7 ½ years. For the past two years she was the beloved companion of Jim Sugg, who predeceased her in May, 2018. Our family is very grateful for the love, hope, and joy that Jim brought to her life.
In addition to her children, Irma is survived by her grandchildren: Jenny March (Michael), Palo Alto, CA; Jeffrey Morgan (Lauren Bomba), Washington, DC; Melanie and Molly Pratt, Forest, VA; step-grandchildren Sarah Depew (Matthew Grieco), New York, NY, and Ryan Depew (Frederick, CO), great-grandchildren: Oscar Ryan Morgan and Lucy Alice March, step-greatgrandchildren: Braydon and Colton Depew, former son-in-law Paul Morgan, and a number of nieces and nephews. In addition to her husband and parents, she was predeceased by her sister, Ruth Wagner.
The family extends very special thanks to Dr. Surah Grumet and Megan Grady, PA, who provided excellent medical care to Irma; to the entire staff at Waltonwood, especially to ReRe Artis, who was there for her entire stay and was an anchor for us, and to five incredible, special caregivers who became part of our family over the past 4-5 years and without whom Irma’s life would have been quite different: Rachel Wilson, Yolanda Whitaker, Wanda Gregory, Pam Spence, and Kim Crowder.
A memorial service will be held for Irma at Waltonwood of Cary on Thursday, December 27th at 2 pm. Burial will be at Arlington Cemetery at a future date. Memorials may be sent to the Parkinson’s Foundation, 200 SE 1st Street, Suite 800, Miami, Florida 33131.
Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 300 Saint Mary's Street, Raleigh, NC.
- Memorial Service Thursday, December 27, 2018