While her outfits attracted many people, they served as a kind of armor as well.
Though the details of her history remained sketchy, Irene's life was, by her accounts, both difficult and challenging. Few people were allowed inside her very private world. She was so fiercely independent that it was difficult for her to trust others and to develop lasting friendships. Over the years I was fortunate that she trusted me enough to reveal so much. In her work she had an ironclad dependability, and she spoke often without reservation or fear of confrontation . She could be stubborn to a fault, often digging her heels in to defend her pride, and her philosophies...but then just as capable of laughing at herself and the absurdities of life. Aging was clearly a subject Irene did not wish to face or accept, and she took great offense to inquiries about her age. Above all, she had a sense of humor born out of wisdom and life experience. Basically, she was a survivor who found creative ways to make life thrive. Given my understanding of her, I think that Irene's legacy would encourage us to be independently true to our nature, then find and explore our own passion and creativity.
Irene died peacefully in her sleep on August 7, 2004 in a nursing home in Miami.