James T. Irwin, Jr., 74

James T. Irwin, Jr. (Jim) – 74, passed away peacefully at Golden Hill Nursing Home on Wednesday, December 13th following a lengthy illness.

Jim was born on July 6, 1943 in Ellwood City to the late James T. Irwin, Sr. and Virginia Telford Irwin.

Jim would have been married 50 years in June to Michele Kraynak Irwin who survives. He leaves behind his children: James T. Irwin, III of Moon Twp., Kristen Irwin of New Castle, and Dr. David (Dr. Monica) Irwin of Erie. Jim also leaves his beloved grandchildren: Alivia Michele and Michael David who adored him. In addition, he leaves behind his sister-in-law, Debbie Irwin, and a niece and nephew and their families, all of Indianapolis, as well as various cousins in Ellwood City and around the country.

Jim graduated from Lincoln High School in 1962 and was the Class President. He went on to graduate from Allegheny College in 1965 where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Jim then taught Chemistry at Mercersburg Academy before coming back to Ellwood City and Lincoln High School to teach 7th Grade Science, Senior Science, and Chemistry until his retirement in 1997. He was a past president and head negotiator of the Ellwood Area Education Association. While at Lincoln, Jim coached the cross country team and led the famous “Barnyard Bunch” in intramural volleyball. Jim’s true passions were “puttering” on the farm and teaching. He dearly loved his students. He particularly loved being stopped by students wherever he went, as he so enjoyed getting to discover what they had done with their lives after high school.

In addition, Jim was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church in Ellwood City. He was a member of the choir for years and loved music. He also served as chairperson on various committees. Jim was known as the “fix it man” at church, in the community, and at home. He was always ready with a helping hand for someone in need and would try his best to fix things rather than call a repair person.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents, his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Dorothy and Michael Kraynak, his only brother, Gary Irwin, and a nephew, Jeffrey Smith.

The Irwin Family would like to thank Rochelle, Janet, and the entire staff at Golden Hill Nursing Home (1 West) for their kindness, care, and compassion with Jim and our family during Jim’s stay there. We will forever think of you as part of our family.

Three Rivers Hospice played a key role in keeping both Jim and his family comfortable during his final days. Their efforts are also greatly appreciated.

Viewing will be held on Sunday, December 17 from 1 to 7 pm at the Marshall Funeral Home, 200 Fountain Ave. Ellwood City. Funeral Service will be held on Monday the 18th at the First United Methodist Church at 11:00 am. Reception to follow in the church basement. Private interment will take place at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Memorial contributions can be made to: The First United Methodist Church, 416 Crescent Avenue, Ellwood City, PA 16117

Online condolences may be sent to marshallsfh.com




20 thoughts on “James T. Irwin, Jr., 74

  1. Mikki and family,

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Mr Irwin (Jim) was the best teacher I ever had. He was kind, demanding, and challenging. He made me a better person because of my contact with him both at school and at church. I told my mother today that if he had been my junior high science teacher I may have gone into the sciences. I loved serving as his Chemistry proctor as a senior. I learned so much from him-to be the best you could be, to challenge yourself when others don’t, and to find fun in learning.

    • Melanie,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. My dad dearly loved teaching and his students, but more than that, he loved knowing he’d made a difference in a student’s life.

      We really appreciate you sharing your story.

      The Irwin Family

    • To the Irwin Family,
      Mr. Irwin was my favorite teacher and mentor. You always felt like you mattered in his class and in the seventh grade that made a profound difference. Years later he would always know you and would leave you smiling. Please accept our families’ sincere condolences. Carrie and I were very happy when you and Jim came to the Power Squadron meetings. Because of prior commitments we were unable to attend the services. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.
      Jeff Boots

  2. The man I lovingly knew as Uncle Jim from the time I was a very little girl. The memories run so very deep of Sundays with Uncle Jim, Mikki, James, Kristin and David! Letting me “design” houses, teaching me about all of the beloved animals, laughing when I didn’t know where to step in the barn, taking me to the the other farms, calling me Lori Ann in the tween years, smiling and knowing it made me nuts, breakfast everytiime I came home to Ellwood, prayers at my wedding to the “Governor” and always letting me know I was loved.

    Mikki, James, Kristen and David, Monica,Alivia and Michael-you are in my heart and in my prayers. I am so grateful that I got to see Uncle Jim when I did. May he rest in eternal peace. God Bless all of you. You are loved. Lori, Dan and Family

  3. Mr. Irwin is one of the reasons that I became a nurse. He wrote my letter of recommendation to get into college. He was a great teacher and a great man. He told it like it was. He had a nickname for everyone. Mine was Sqeaky! I visited him many times at GH while I was there with my students. I am saddened by his death. I will keep you all in my prayers. He touched so many lives and was the definition of a teacher.
    Valerie Perry ODonnell ?

  4. My sincerest sympathies Kristen the entire Irwin family for your loss. I had Mr. Irwin in 7th grade. He was quit the formidable teacher, but I think I wore him down a little. He will forever be in your hearts and memories.

    Marianne Cirelli

  5. Dear Mikki and family,

    I was so saddened to hear of Jim’s passing. I have known the two of you all my life.Jim and I graduated in the same class and attended Ewing Park School together when in grade school.

    Jim was such a great guy and the life of any gathering he attended. He will be missed by all, especially those who loved him so much.

    God bless you and your children and may Jim Rest In Peace.

    Kitti Zeigler Taylor

  6. Dear Mikki
    This is a sad day for all who knew him. I will always remember Jim as a great teacher and friend to all who had him. He sure helped my son and daughter. I along with all who knew Jim will always miss and remember him

    Bob Stevenson

  7. Rest in peace, Mr. Irwin. Loved your science class and chatting with you on the street 45 – yrs later. My deepest sympathy to the Irwin Family.

  8. Mrs. Irwin, James the III, Kristen and Dr. David,
    Jim was always willing and able to lend advice and a helping hand with my projects, and fun to be around. He was a great colleague.

    You and your lovely family have our deepest sympathies. May God be with you and comfort you and yours now and always.

    Rick, Caren, Carrie, Ryan and Jason Levis.

  9. My name is Jim Vaughn, and I wanted to write a short note of remembrance and to express my sorrow about Mr. Irwin’s passing. I always knew him as Mr. Irwin. He was my Coach and Teacher. Mr. Irwin taught AP Chemistry to my best friend, Dean Chappelle, and myself. And as it turns out, we were the only two in the class, which made us his focus for “special” projects…. , of which many we had. One of the most memorable, was during one class he asked if we were signed up for the senior class play, the “king and I”. Well, of course, being “cool” dudes, we said no way!!! At which point he made our special “chemistry” assignment to sign up for the class play immediately…. which we did. Dean and I played many background characters, but we always wore our X-country shoes in every scene to pay respect to “coach”… He noticed and gave us a bit of hardship for it. All in fun, of course. He called us the surfer twins, during the cross country season, for reasons I could never figure out. We weren’t the best runners; but he always had a way of getting the best from us. Especially running the hill by his farm. When I started Geneva College, Mr. Irwin convinced me to sign up for the church choir.

    I ended up getting a Ph.D. in Chemistry and am presently working in industry. I have led several successful business’s, and it all started with Mr. Irwin pushing and teaching us and getting the best out of each and every one of us, every day.

  10. I wanted to add. He convinced me to join the Methodist Church Choir one Christmas Season, and it was probably the first and only time I sang in harmony. Handel’s Messiah, no less!!. Yet he was up there with me, singing and keeping a watchful eye… It’s funny, all of these memories coming back. He was the best. and I trust he will be keeping a watchful eye on us all, and pushing us to run up that “hill”, whatever hill we encounter.

  11. “This is POGOP week. Ask me what that is when you graduate,” he said. A year and a half later, at graduation, I asked him. I may have been the only one who remembered to do so. He said it was “Pee or get off the pot week. ” He was one of a kind and the only reason I have any knowledge of Chemistry. I loved his class. My sincerest condolences to his family.

  12. My condolences go out to the Irwin family. May God bless you with his love. Jim was married to my cousin, Mickey Kraynak.

  13. So sorry to hear this news. God did get an awesome angle! He was one of the best teachers at the Ellwood schools. He took the time to know all his students regardless of geek or jock. Rest knowing ur father and husband was a person set out to help all. RIP Mr. Irwin and safe passage home to our Lord.

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