Irene J. Austin


Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2006

Former Juneau resident Irene J. Austin, 77, died March 7, 2006, at the Pioneers' Home in Sitka, with her son and grandson by her side.

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Kooté, Naax' oos tee, of the Eagle moiety, Wooshkeetaan clan, Takdeintaan Yutxee, she was born on Nov. 25, 1929, to Howard and Jessie H. Gray.

She grew up in Hoonah and attended Sheldon Jackson High School in Sitka, graduating in 1947. She married James "Jim" Austin Jr. on March 20, 1950. They made their home in Hoonah as newlyweds, and a year later they had a son.

They moved to Juneau, where they lived for about 25 years. She went to work for the state of Alaska. Upon retirement, they moved back home to Hoonah and became owners of a local business establishment, the Kooteeya Bar.

Family members said, "Irene loved music; as a young lady she was a member of the Sheldon Jackson choir and also the Presbyterian Church choir in Hoonah. While living in Juneau, she enjoyed many 'jam sessions' with their dear friends; Richard and Teresa Stitt."

Family members also said she enjoyed listening to Billy Vaughn music and Hawaiian music, especially Don Ho. "She was thrilled to meet Don Ho in person," they said.

She and her husband traveled to Hawaii numerous times following their retirement. According to family members, it was still her dream to make another trip back to Hawaii with her husband.

She was preceded in death by her parents; infant brother, Gerald Gray; sister, Lila Fawcett; brother, Gerald P. Gray; adopted brother, Richard Stitt; and uncle, Eli Hanlon Sr.

She is survived by her husband of 55 years; son, Darrel Austin Sr.; grandson, Darrel "Saa kaa" Austin Jr.; uncle, Sam Hanlon Sr.; aunt, Cecelia "CeCe" Unick; brother, Howard Gray Jr.; sister, Harriet (Ralph) Knudson; brother, Robert (Jackie) Gray Sr.; brother, Dennis (Liv) Gray Sr.; and numerous nieces, nephews, extended family and many friends.

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