Irene R. Eaton, a retired elementary school teacher who set up a financially successful store at her retirement community, died of old age June 7 at Oak Crest Village. She was 93.
Sometimes called the "Queen of Oak Crest," she raised nearly $900,000 for projects and charity work at the Parkville retirement village.
Born Irene Rollins in Rutherford County, N.C., she earned a bachelor's degree at Appalachian University in Boone, N.C. She moved to Carroll County, and while living and teaching in Sykesville met her future husband, Warren Eaton, an auto mechanic. They got married in 1947 and lived on Shadyside Road in Northwood for many years.
After raising a family, she joined the Baltimore City Department of Education and taught kindergarten and first grade at the old Winston Elementary School and at the Walter P. Carter School. She retired nearly 30 years ago.
"Her mother always emphasized giving back to others, and she followed her, and probably surpassed her. She was always doing something," said her daughter, Sarah E. Eaton of Moran, Wyo. "She thanked those who worked alongside her. She may have come up with an idea, but she felt the others were just as important as she was."
Mrs. Eaton joined the women's auxiliary of the Salvation Army when she left teaching. She helped design and market a sale of limited-edition dolls at the Hunt Valley Marriott. Her committee raised about $5,000 each year.
After moving into Oak Crest Village 13 years ago, she organized a Christmas stocking-stuffing drive for children being assisted by the Salvation Army.
"She had the gift of making people very special," said Ann France, a friend who is also active in the Salvation Army. "She was empathetic and had unbounded energy."
While she collected clothing and household articles for the charity, a fellow resident attempted to buy a piece of furniture from her. She thought: Why not open a resale store for Oak Crest residents?
She began in an old storage room and worked alongside Helen Davis, a co-chair. The shop, called the Treasure Chest, offered clothes and furniture from residents who were downsizing their households.
Oak Crest officials said the shop she established has raised nearly $900,000 over the past decade. The money has been used on projects throughout the retirement community - including the purchase of a grand piano for musical performances - and donated for Hurricane Katrina relief. Open two days a week, the shop became popular with Oak Crest's employees. It also served those who needed to clear out living quarters after the death of a family member.
"Her whole life fit into the mold of 'How can I serve others?' " said Todd Sullivan, Oak Crest's philanthropy director. "She was a quiet leader who had the ability to make people feel valued."
Mrs. Eaton did not live to be honored at an Oak Crest gala planned for the summer. She was to have been the first honoree at the event.
"She was highly generous and would never take credit for what she did," said Nancy Barczak, director of resident life at Oak Crest. "She exhibited and inspired energy."
A member of Calvary Baptist Church in Towson, she also collected antique dolls.
A memorial service was held Thursday.
A son, Wesley Eaton, died in 1995. Her husband died in 2005.