Our loving wife, mother, and grandmother, Irene Ann Jurgens Kotwoski, was born on March 12th, 1948 – a glorious Friday – to Hans Jurgens, who had immigrated from Longen, Germany, and Dorothy Elkins Jurgens of Queens, NY. Irene was their beautiful second child, born after the passing of her brother, William Patrick Jurgens.
A jovial child, Irene helped plant and maintain the family garden and orchard in Springfield Gardens, NY. As quickly as the fruit grew, Irene mischievously picked and promptly ate from their luscious garden. She loved spending mornings preparing food with her father at Han’s Deli, which was so famous that it became featured in the movie “Wall Street”.
The Jurgens were a devout Lutheran family. One of Irene’s favorite childhood activities was attending the dances held in the church basement. She loved music, and on February 7th, 1964, Irene was one of the 3,000 screaming fans greeting the Beatles as the boys stepped off their plane onto American soil.
As a young adult, Irene would go shopping on Jamaica Avenue with her girlfriends and pick out several pairs of shoes, just to have the boys place them on her feet like Cinderella. She loved attending Broadway shows such as Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly, and her favorite, West Side Story.
Irene met the love her life, Peter Michael Kotowski at a party with mutual friends. Pete pursued her the whole night until she finally allowed him to drive her home. Peter and Irene were engaged in a year and married on November 22nd, 1969. Irene gained a sister through marriage, Dorothy Kotowski. Irene and Pete traveled, went to shows, and set up a home in Rosedale, NY during which time Irene worked at Idlewood airport, now known as John F. Kennedy airport – named after her favorite president.
She loved children and as a child dreamed of becoming a mother. On June 6th, 1973, Irene and Peter were blessed with their first baby girl, Dena Elizabeth Kotowski. She loved everything about being a mother, from bathing her baby in the sink, to dressing her up like a doll. Dena met her forever friend, playmate, and sister just one year later, when Jan Marie Kotowski was born on June 18th, 1974. Irene and Peter raised their ‘Irish Twin’ daughters to love to dance, sing (although not too well) and appreciate nature’s beauty.
Irene become a mother-in-law to Christopher Smith when Dena and Chris were married on May 28th, 1999, and soon took on the role she cherished most in life, a grandmother “Meme”. Hope Irene Kotowski was born on May 30th, 1999 to Jan Marie. Irene helped raise Hope. They loved visiting the train station together, and watched the trains where Hope would cry “choo choo!”. They fished together at Bay Park, baked, and loved doing arts and crafts.
The first and only grandson to Irene, Andrew Peter Smith, was born on a snowy December 26th, 2002, to Dena and Christopher. Andrew become a brother to Elissa Ashely Smith on April 26th, 2007. Irene became a mother-in-law once more to Min Yong ‘John’ Chang when Jan and John married on July 17th, 2006. Her last blessing in birth was born to Jan and John on September 9th, 2006. A baby girl, Addison Nicole Chang.
Irene lived happily through the eyes and joys of her grandchildren. Building Legos with Andrew, baking and passing on her family cheesecake recipe to Hope, doing puzzles with Elissa, and egg hunting with Addison. She instilled the love of gardening in her daughters. Her home in Lynbrook bloomed every spring with flowers and vegetables that took her back to the days of gardening with her parents.
The beauty of Irene’s Garden is personified by the beauty of her heart, her love of family, nature, and of animals (especially Friday, Sydney, and Belle). She was the ultimate care giver and friend, who always put the needs of others before her own.
Irene was surrounded by her loving family as she took her last earthly breaths at 3:57pm on April 5th, 2023, listening to the Beatles and Dean Martin. She is survived by her husband Peter Michael Kotowski, daughters Dena Kotowski Smith, married to Christopher Smith, and Jan Marie Kotowski-Chang, married to Min Yong Chang, and grandchildren, Hope Irene Kotowski, Andrew Peter Smith, Elissa Ashley Smith, and Addison Nicole Chang.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105