Wilma Jean Irby Fridenberg, age 92 of rural Pocahontas, left this world the evening of January 21, 2020.
Wilma, or Jean as she was known to family and friends, was born to William F. and Naomi (Copeland) Irby, on April 23, 1927, during the wilds of the rains tormenting the southern Midwest. At the time of her birth, her mother was alone with her children on the farm of her parents, Benjamin and Sarah Treadway Copeland. Naomi Copeland Irby tried to coax her daughter to get help, but unsuccessfully. What she was successful in persuading her three year old daughter to do was to assist her in bringing her sister in to the world. Her husband was off at his school, teaching. Wilma Jean’s mother did what maybe a lot of women did during times such as this. They did what they had to do.
Wilma Jean had a nice childhood, except when her mother died the month before her fourth birthday. The family had moved to New Mexico in hopes of improving the life of her mother who had developed tuberculosis. Sadly, the family made the trip back to Arkansas with the mother in a casket to be buried in the town of her raising. Wilma Jean began her professional life in the county clerk’s office of her father in Clay County, Arkansas. Upon graduation from high school, and at the time when most women married, Jean’s hopes of attending college had been dashed by the local doctor not approving her wish to get a degree as a nurse. He encouraged her to get a degree in teaching instead. That was not what she wanted. She decided to move to Washington DC to start a career in civil service. She worked with the Navy department until becoming homesick for her hometown of Piggot, Arkansas. Upon moving back to Arkansas, she met her husband, William Burnette Fridenberg, who had just returned from war after recovering for a year in a Rhode Island hospital from a WW2 injury. Wilma Jean married William Fridenberg and they had three children – Frana, Patricia, and Linda.
While married, Wilma Jean worked on the hobbies of many women of the times. She developed the skills of sewing, designing clothing for women and children, painting, and writing, all while nurturing her interest in history and genealogy. She made many of he school costumes needed while her children were in grade and high schools, including the Rhythmette’s and Choralier’s in high school.
After the death of her husband, she did return to college shortly, thinking about being an art student. Although she did not finish the degree, she did spend the rest of her able life in art pursuits, although she was a library helper at the Rector Library for a while during her life in Rector.
Mrs. Fridenberg leaves behind three loving daughters – Frana Schulte, Patricia Newkirk, and Linda Hardy (Doug); five grandchildren – Hiley Schulte, Theresa Newkirk Haag (Aaron), Ben Schulte (Becky), Reagan Newkirk Lampe (Jason), and Sarah Graves; seven great grandchildren – Alex Schulte, Emma Haag, Nyah Schulte, Jackson Haag, Audrey Lampe, Nicholas Lampe, and Ellie Winkeler; a niece – Dana Speer (Alton); and a nephew – Jimmy Irby (Nan). She was preceded in death by her parents – William and Naomi Irby; her step-mother – Edna Burton Irby; her husband – William Fridenberg; and two sons-in-law – Mark Newkirk and John Schulte; 3 brothers – Weldon Irby and wife Roxie, Doyne Irby and wife Pauline, and Clyde Irby and wife Irene; and a sister – Frances McBride and husband Dan.
A graveside service will be held at 2:00 P.M. on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, at Woodland Heights Cemetery in Rector, Arkansas. Friends and family are asked to gather at the cemetery.
Expressions of sympathy in memory of Mrs. Fridenberg may be made to the charity of the donor’s choice and will be received at Zieren Funeral Home, 1111 Clinton Street, Carlyle, IL 62231.
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