Foster, Irene "Renebird" Delores Parks Henderson
Co-written by Geraldine Alice Washington (Sister) and Robbe Lynn Henderson (only daughter)
On September 30, 2021, Irene "Renebird" Parks Henderson Foster would have celebrated her 94th birthday. Irene, age 93, joined our Lord in heaven on November 11, 2020. She was born September 30, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Ira Delano Parks and Mary Crenshaw Bowles Parks.
Irene was the second daughter, following Geraldine Alice, and preceding Charles Alvin, Elizabeth Ann, Patricia Ann, Barbara Olivia, Ira Dean, and Salye Elaine. Irene had a special singular individual relationship with each of her siblings. She enjoyed sharing special unique growing-up experiences with Geraldine. She danced with Charles, who would choreograph with her on his feet. On weekends, Irene & Charles would perform their routines to an adoring group of their peers. She spoke to Elizabeth & Barbara daily from Las Vegas for over 20 years. She traveled to Milwaukee with Patricia. As an airline manager, Ira upgraded/arranged for many of her trips, about which they had numerous hilarious conversations. She took Salye to be baptized as a baby. She also had very close relationships with her cousins, Harold, Inez and Arthur. Although she had many beloved nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives, too many to mention here - they know who they are and she treasured them - however, we must acknowledge Mary Elizabeth, Richard Lawrence, William Lewis (Aqueel), Anthony Rene, Narada, Cyril Antoine, Larry Kevin, Douglas Alvin, Edie, Marlynn Elizabeth, and Charles Jamie who were always there for her. Also included in her special beloveds, Adrienne Joy, Marcia Gleaves, Marvin, Gregory, Yolanda Maria, Jill Allison, Julie Ann, Rory, Christopher, Dominique Nikki, Monica Blair, Kenneth David, Bradley Craig Jerome, Harriette Ann, Robert, David, Willie, Cynthia. She had an extended family which continues today with the children of the Franklins, Whites, Fairs, Hackleys, Battinis, and Magetts. Irene also shared close contacts with the children of her siblings & relatives, and her godchildren, Torricelli III and Elizabeth Irene.
Irene was definitely a people person! She never met a stranger. She could talk to anyone/everyone and found a way to communicate successfully, even when she was called to represent the United States with those for whom English was a foreign language. She took French and Spanish. She didn't realize how fluent she had become in French, until on her visit to Corsica, a wonderful event took place where only French was spoken and she saved the day!
She attended college while working in the editorial, production, and television divisions of these companies. Irene wrote poetry as an avocation.
Irene's thinking was way before her time! She was among the first Black women to be hired by the Chicago Illinois Bell Telephone. She had a brief entry into the modeling career. Beginning in 1961, Irene was a proofreader and became a Production Editor for Encyclopedia Britannica Press Educational Corporation (EBPEC). In the mid-1960's, she starred in an educational film published by EBPEC entitled "The Blue Dashiki", which is still available for viewing over half a century later. She transferred to the American Medical Television division, where she and six other women, pioneered the development of videos to teach doctors new medicine. In the 1960's, Irene created a prototype of a Black girls' paper-doll based upon Jill White of her extended family. Publishers, at that time, were too unenterprising, moreover, entirely underestimated the interest for Black paper-dolls. She lived to see that they were wholly wrong, and she was prescient. After and extremely successful and diverse career, she retired in 1994.
She has received numerous awards, among which are: the 1990, a second award in 1992, World of Poetry Golden Post; 1990 Silver Award Las Vegas; 1994-95 Marquis Who's Who in the Midwest; 2007-09 Cambridge's Who's Who Among Professional Women Honors Edition. In addition to Irene's awards, in 1992, she appeared on television in the New York area reading a poem she had written about her father.
In 2009, in response to younger members of her family requesting to know more of their ancestors, Irene, at 81 years, self-published an oral history of the Parks & Bowles families. The work is entitled "Irene...My Family & Still Growing..." Along with memories of her sisters, brothers, cousins, Irene complied a compendium about her Black Community combined with facts into a story of how her family expanded. It is available at Ex Libris, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. This is an excerpt from the "Closing" of her book "...This has turned out to be mostly the story of my life...I am sorry that I did not have more information about the old Black folks and some white relatives, but they did not talk...I wish I had time to write about all of the other wonderful things that have happened to me in my lifetime...", so, Irene always the historian & optimist!
After 30 years of age, she traveled to over twenty-nine countries and half of the United States. All of us remember her recounting of her perspectives on New York City, Toronto/Quebec/Montreal, Canada, Israel, England, France, Corsica, South Beach, Florida, Houston, Texas, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Seattle, New Orleans, among others - such as riding on a camel in Egypt, the jade ring given to her by a gentleman in Cairo, the white dress for her sister-in-law from Rosarito Beach, Mexico, the chocolatier who gifted her with his family's special box of chocolates from Bruges, Belgium, the unique rosaries from a nunnery in Canada, and the blessed gifts from the Vatican.
She retired to Las Vegas in 1995 with her beloved constant companion of over 40 years, Edmund Handy. They remained together in Las Vegas as a vibrant couple, experiencing all Las Vegas and environs had to offer and living their life together in peace, happiness and warmth. They truly loved each other.
I'm so emotional, as I write this tribute to my mother! Irene was such a positive and motivating force in my life - I'm overwhelmed with gratitude, thanks, respect and joy for having had her in my life. From beating me at Scrabble in my high school years, to teaching me how to making spaghetti with Bay leaves, to hand tailoring all of my clothes for graduation from high school, to selecting an editor for my dissertation, to encouraging me to move to Cali, to driving around Vegas eating nachos, car, to our wonderful trips together all over the place, to just sitting, laughing watching tv with her in Vegas - oh, how I miss our times together! She was/is such a joyful part of my life - I can never forget her - I am today what she made me - and thank God for her! She's with God, but my/our memories and my pc keep me in daily touch!
Irene, from all of the family and friends - much love and respect - delight in your time with God - WE MISS YOU TREMENDOUSLY!
Irene asked that she be cremated. Edmund and I have divided her ashes equally, and are maintaining them in beautiful urns. Instead of flowers/donations, Irene asked that you contribute to the lives of our younger family members & families, when appropriate.
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Published by Chicago Sun-Times on Sep. 27, 2021.