Irene Targonski Zientek, formerly of Bayonne, New Jersey, entered eternal life at the age of 92 on November 25, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. Irene was a lifelong resident of Bayonne but lived the last 7 years of her life near her family in Maryland. She and her beloved husband, Walter, were married for 56 years before he predeceased her in 2009.
Irene was born in 1928 to Stella and Konrad Targonski, immigrants from Poland who arrived in this country through Ellis Island at the turn of the century. She was proud of her Polish heritage and spoke Polish before learning to speak English in elementary school and remained bilingual throughout her life. Her early years were spent living adjacent to National Soda, the soda factory that her father and his partners founded in 1922, along with her two dear sisters, Felicia and Helene who predeceased her. Irene met her future husband and best friend, Walter, who grew up only two blocks away, in elementary school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and they went on to sing together as dedicated members of the St. Cecilia Choir of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Bayonne for over 50 years. She had a beautiful soprano voice and sang with the choir in many venues throughout New Jersey and New York, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Garden State Arts Center (now the PNC Arts Center) and for Pope John Paul II in Giants Stadium.
As a young woman attending Bayonne High School, Irene was a skilled seamstress who made many of her own clothes. Known for her style and fashion sense, she was remembered by classmates in her high school yearbook who wrote “Irene dresses in the finest attire. She is a girl we all admire.” After high school, Irene worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company until she and Walter married in 1953. After raising her four children, Irene became an active volunteer at Bayonne Hospital where she volunteered her time and led the hospital’s volunteer corps for many years. Irene put “mostess” in the definition of “hostess with the mostess.” Entertaining family and friends was one of her greatest joys and she did so effortlessly, always while wearing her trademark pearls. Whether it was a large holiday gathering for extended family, a theme party for a high school musical or an engagement party for one of her children, entertaining and welcoming guests into her home was part of who she was.
For Irene, a devout Catholic, family was everything. She dedicated her life to raising her four children and once grandchildren started arriving, Irene redirected her nurturing spirit to the next generation, babysitting and helping out with her grandchildren as often and in any way that she could. Grammy, as she was known to her grandchildren, loved babies, always declaring the latest grandchild to be “the best baby.” She was selfless in her dedication to her family and tireless in her willingness to lend a hand, even in her later years. Irene loved music, the Jersey Shore, word puzzles and any family gathering where she could hold a grandchild in her arms, help out in the kitchen or just sit back, relax and enjoy being with her family. Grammy’s famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were a staple at all family gatherings, always arriving in the same cookie tin, now a cherished family heirloom.
Irene is survived by her children, Barbara Zientek and her husband George, Michael Zientek and his wife Patricia, Michele Zientek Dearborn and her husband John (Rick), and Marybeth Zientek Gaul and her husband John. She is also survived by her eight cherished grandchildren, Erica Lynch and Megan Perez (Maunu), Matthew and Mark Zientek, Gregory and Christopher Dearborn, and Patrick and Daniel Gaul and five great grandchildren, Grace and Thomas Dearborn and Andrew, Zachary and Michael Lynch.
A private funeral mass will be held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, DC and a private interment will be held at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, New Jersey.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Irene’s memory to the Little Sisters of the Poor, 4200 Harewood Road, NE, Washington, DC 20017. www.littlesistersofthepoorwashingtondc.org