Irene Stein was a great leader, a role model—and a dear friend
Linda Hoffman, Chair, Tompkins County Democratic Committee
TCDC lost a great leader and dear friend last month. Irene Stein, who passed away March 26 at the age of 92, was a TCDC member since the 1960s and our chair from 1990 to 2019. During that time she encouraged generations of members to invest their time and talents into building the local party and advancing Democratic goals, whether via elected office or local committees.
Irene was also a driving force in improving the lives of local elderly residents. She started at the Tompkins County Office for the Aging in 1985 and served as Director from 1996 until her retirement in 2006.
In 1996 she helped found the Democratic Rural Conference as a counterweight to New York City and surrounding counties in New York State party politics. Irene served as DRC chair from 2008 until she retired in 2019, making sure the needs and voices of Upstate New Yorkers received their share of state party attention and resources.
A fuller account of Irene’s active political, professional and family life can be read here: https://www.ithacajournal.com/obituaries/bps138427. A community celebration of the lives of Irene and her husband, Peter Stein, who died in 2021, is scheduled for Saturday, May 13 at 3:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, 306 N. Aurora Street in Ithaca.
At Irene’s retirement from the Office for the Aging, a guest read the poem “To Be of Use,” by Marge Piercy. It was a brilliant choice. I’ve pasted an excerpt below.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
Irene devoted her life to work that is real, and we are better, stronger as a committee because of it.