Irene Hallbacka

Irene Josephine Axelia (Ek) Hallbacka

1923 - 2021

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Obituary of Irene Josephine Axelia (Ek) Hallbacka

A celebration of life will be held at 2:00 pm on March 17, 2021 at Sunnyside Little Chapel of the Chimes for Irene Josephine Axelia Hallbacka, who died on March 11 at age 97. Irene Hallbacka was born in Portland, Oregon, on October 21, 1923. She was the third child of Axel and Agnes Ek, having older siblings Alice and Clarence and younger sister, Jeanette. Irene attended Beach Elementary School in Portland until the family moved to Oregon City in about 1932, where she then attended Barclay Elementary School and one year at Oregon City High School. The family moved back to North Portland in 1938 and Irene attended Jefferson High School graduating in 1941. Following high school, Irene worked in the office at several companies, including Montgomery Ward. She met her husband-to-be, Arthur U. Hallbacka, at a Scandinavian dance in Portland, not surprising given that Irene was 100% Swedish and Art was 100% Finnish. His dashing movie-star looks captured her heart along with his corny jokes that she would tell her boss the next work day! Art proposed prior to being shipped off to the South Pacific during World War II and was gone for three years. During that time, Irene volunteered as a driver for the American Red Cross on the weekends. They married in August 1946 and enjoyed 53 years of married life until Art passed away in 1999. Irene and Art had four daughters and were busy with their growing family. They were also very involved in the Scandinavian community in Portland. They very much enjoyed regular travels in their camper and made many cross-country trips across the U.S., Canada and into Mexico. They were fortunate to also travel to Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand. Starting when the girls were young, Irene and Art were members of Redeemer Lutheran Church in northeast Portland. The family attended church every Sunday. Many years the girls had perfect attendance in Sunday School. Such was Irene and Art’s commitment to their faith and raising their daughters in the Christian faith. Irene taught Vacation Bible School for many years. Irene loved her side of the family and her husband’s family. Many good times were spent with aunts and uncle, cousins, nieces and nephews, in the Portland area and in Meadowbrook. For many years, the women on her side of the family - young and old - came to her house to make Kruppkakka (Swedish potato dumplings) that everyone would then enjoy eating. In the 1960’s, Irene, her mother Agnes, her aunt Nettie, her sister Jeanette and Jeanette’s four boys, along with her four daughters, made multiple trips to Seaside for overnight trips. There was always great food, lots of laughs, walks on the beach, and Agnes chasing the grandkids on the beach with a long tail of smelly seaweed. She also loved attending the many annuals festivals in the area - Scandinavian festivals in Astoria and Junction City, Sandy Mountain Festival, Portland’s Greek Festival, the Daughters of the British Empire tea, and ScanFair in Portland. Her favorite national park was Yosemite. Irene and her daughters made nine visits to Yosemite since 2008, usually staying five nights in the park and visiting favorite spots like Yosemite Falls, Happy Isles, Mirror Lake, Glacier Point, Tunnel View and El Capitan meadow. 4 o’clock coffee each Sunday was a standard occurrence with her daughters and from time-to-time guests. An hour spent each week having coffee and sweets, and catching up on events was an important part of her week. When she was in her 80’s, Irene began volunteering with Meals on Wheels at the Milwaukie Senior Center, which lasted until COVID-19 closed down the Center to volunteers. This started when her friend, Maxine Zobrist, a vibrant lady three years her senior(!), talked her into helping. In 1968, the family moved to Milwaukie, Oregon, where Irene continued to live after Art’s death. Irene is survived by her daughters Lynn Hallbacka, Jan Hallbacka, Kay Knee (Steve), and Gail Hallbacka; three grandchildren Stacey LaFayette (Josh), Isaac Knee, and Sam Knee (Joanna); many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews; and friends. She was a beloved mother, grandmother, aunt and friend, and a wonderful role model for everyone. Interment will be in the Sunnyside Chimes Memorial Gardens. The family suggests a remembrance to Nordic Northwest.
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Wednesday
17
March

Funeral

2:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Sunnyside Chapel
11667 NE Stephens Road
Happy Valley, Oregon, United States
503-659-1184
Wednesday
17
March

Graveside

2:45 pm - 3:15 pm
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Sunnyside Memorial Gardens
11667 SE Stevens Rd
Happy Valley, Oregon, United States
503-659-1184