Irene M. Kinsell

Irene M. Kinsell

Irene M. Kinsell, 87, died on June 16, 2021, at MorningStar Senior Living in Billings, from causes related to Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. 

Irene was born in 1934 in Chicago, to Bernard and Marie Wardinski. Irene earned her bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1959 from Illinois State University and her master of education from North Texas State University in 1969.

She married the love of her life, Theodore A. Kinsell, on Dec. 23, 1961. They were married for 60 years. She affectionately referred to Ted as her “T Bear.” Irene was a devoted wife and her love for her husband, Ted, was apparent to those who knew them. They had no children.

Irene lived and taught school in several places before settling in Wapiti in 1969. She briefly taught grade school in the Cody School District before becoming a teacher at Wapiti School from 1970 to 1995. She taught fourth and sixth grades and eventually became the headmaster. There was no principal at Wapiti School during those years, so the headmaster assumed the responsibilities of a teacher and principal.

Educating students was her passion. Irene taught her own physical education classes for all her 25 years at Wapiti School. She enjoyed watching students gain skills, self-confidence and independence as they learned various subjects. 

Irene kept the students interested in their assignments by integrating projects into various subject matters, such as science experiments, poetry/story writing and art. Irene would smile and beam with joy in later years when she told her friends about the annual Wapiti School Christmas plays. 

Recalling the plays in her later years would evoke pleasant memories of her former students and teachers. Every December, the students would perform a Christmas play for parents and community members. Irene’s upper-grade students would write and plan the Christmas plays under her guidance. This was one example of how Irene created a special bond with her students. 

She appeared to be genuinely happy when telling stories about Wapiti School, her Dunn Creek Road neighbors, who became lifelong friends, and the Wapiti community she loved so much.

As the school grew, Irene shared in the efforts of parents, faculty and the Wapiti community in getting the approval and funding for additional classroom space and the needed addition of the multi-purpose room. The multi-purpose community room was named in her honor.

On July 7, 1995, Irene was recognized by Wyoming Senators Al Simpson (R), Craig Thomas (R) and Congresswoman Barbara Cubin (R) for participating in designing one of four flags to represent Wyoming’s youth to be flown at the christening of the USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) on July 15, 1995, in Groton, Conn. This was a high honor, as the delegation received numerous statewide entries. 

Irene was thanked for her effort and was commended for working with her fourth and fifth grade students to design a flag that truly portrayed Wyoming’s pioneer spirit.

After retirement in 1995, she and her husband traveled. One of her favorite trips was to Israel to visit the Holy Lands and to visit the tomb of Jesus. She continued to stay active, enjoying their beautiful Wapiti home, gardening and being active in community affairs.

Irene, her husband Ted and their much-loved cat Buffy moved to Billings in May 2008. They were well known in their neighborhood and were frequently seen holding hands while walking together. The two would stop and make conversation with neighbors they encountered along the way and share a kind word or story. Irene had a wonderful vegetable and flower garden. She produced some beautiful tomatoes and raspberries that were generously shared with the neighbors.

Irene belonged to Christ’s Church in Cody. She was a devout Christian and enjoyed participating in prayer. She could recite the Lord’s Prayer from memory even in her later years.

Irene requested cremation. Her ashes were spread in two of her favorite spots near Wapiti. A memorial headstone for Irene is in section 17, Blk 65Y of the Riverside Cemetery in Cody.

Irene is survived by her husband, Theodore A. Kinsell. 

She was preceded in death by her sisters Patricia Fancher and Barbara Hyson, and brother Bernard T. Wardinski Jr.

A celebration of life will be held at a future date.

Ted wishes to express his sincere thanks to Irene’s care team: the professional staff of Morningstar Senior Living, Stillwater Hospice (specifically Chaplain Randy Hope), Melisa Pfeiffer, MSW and NP Kevin Hammond. A special thank you to Irene’s guardian Sue Fachini.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Big Sky Senior Services or the Alzheimer’s Foundation for research.

Condolences may be made at michelottisawyers.com. 

(1) comment

Gera Feist

Mrs. Kinsell, it's hard to call you Irene, there is something special and respectful about your being my teacher all those years in Wapiti. Mrs. Kinsell, you really set a standard of excellence, you wanted us to be the best version of ourselves. I remember a few rowdy shenanigans on my part, I did not follow the rules sometimes, but you never made me feel like a naughty girl, just a kid who could do better. I loved Wapiti School, I felt confident and curious and adventurous- due in no small part to you. Rest in peace, Mrs. Kinsell, you sure made an impact!!!!

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