Irene (Triandis) Harvalias ‘52, was nominated for the Alumnae Association’s Lifetime Achievement award by her class of 1952. For their nomination, they prepared an amazing handwritten book, including many photos of Irene at work in the community and of her exquisite handmade quilts.
When Irene arrived in Vancouver in 1948 from Greece after World War II, she knew no English beyond “hello”, “good-bye”, “please” and “thank you”, and “my name is Irene.” Before starting Grad 9 that September, she recalls having 10 lessons with Miss Langridge. From the beginning of her time at York House, Irene showed remarkable determination and by the end of the school year, she was well on her way to speaking, reading and writing in English and very much involved in school activities.
By graduation she was Vice-Prefect of Iroquois, President of the Drama Club, and was the YHS Chronicle’s Language editor as she excelled in languages. Her remarkable determination was not forgotten by her classmates. Irene attributed her success to the smaller classes, and her wonderful teachers. Her all-time favourite was one of the founders, Mrs. Gerhardt-Olly – Mrs. G.O. as she was called. “She was the best teacher in all my years of schooling, and that includes university.”
Throughout her life, Irene has always striven towards furthering her education and it was heartbreaking to have to return to Greece and not continue on to university. When she was able to return to Vancouver, she attended night school, while her children were little, then went to UBC when they were in school to reach her goal of becoming a teacher. “I taught in three different schools, then went back to UBC and got a Diploma in teaching children with learning disabilities. I taught everything from K to Grade 5, and French to Grade 7. I LOVED teaching and adored my students. I am proud to say that I am still in touch with many of them today.”
L – R Beverley (Graham) Hurd, Bobbi (Pritchard) Coates, Ann (Paterson) Bostock, Irene (Triandis) Harvalias, Marilyn (Pipes) Cassady, the late Pam (Rose) Metal, and Penny (Bell-irving) Wilson.
It was only after Irene retired that she was introduced to quilting. ‘I became an avid quilter and have made hundreds of quilts in the last 23 years.” Irene soon found herself back in the classroom teaching students how to quilt. Her daughter, who was teaching in an inner-city school asked her to teach in her class too, which eventually led to the Maywood Mom’s Monday group of 25 ladies from all over the world. This group is now in its 12th year. Much of the finished work of the students is donated to hospitals, homeless shelters and other deserving places. Through her love of quilting and education, Irene has not only lived the school motto, Not for Ourselves Alone, but also shared it with people from all over the world.
One of Irene’s students, Nirmala Mehta in India, sharing her joy at being able to create a stall of items to raise funds for those in need. Nirmala has been in Irene’s quilting group for three years and has deep gratitude for her ability to make a difference through quilting.
Irene commented, “Sharing my love of quilting has been a great joy to me, and being able to do what I do with my “Maywood Moms” gives me a very good reason to get up and get going every Monday morning. This has been a real “gift” for me, and I am SO grateful that I can still do this little bit. My giving has been my gift to myself!” Congratulations Irene, you are an inspiration to us all!