Irene farewelled in Majuro

Family members, friends, students, and dignitaries, with many falling into many of these categories, attended the memorial for Dr. Irene Taafaki at CMI. Photo: Chewy Lin.
Family members, friends, students, and dignitaries, with many falling into many of these categories, attended the memorial for Dr. Irene Taafaki at CMI. Photo: Chewy Lin.

WILMER JOEL

The late Dr. Irene Taafaki, the former president of the College of the Marshall Islands, was buried Sunday next to her Blue Lagoon home, close to the Baha’i House of Worship.

Her life was honored with a three-day memorial service that included a candlelight vigil, funeral, and burial.

Dr. Irene’s casket was transported from the college to the Baha’i Church last Saturday under pouring rain for her funeral. As the coffin passed by the road, CMI and the University of the South Pacific, which she oversaw, came together to give her a dignified send-off.

Her funeral was attended by many family members, friends, students, and dignitaries.

Sultan Korean, who is one of the members of the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly, delivered the welcome remarks. “We remember the late Dr. Irene for her service, a life she lived of dedication and commitment to sacrifice, reflected not only in her Baha’i faith but also in our government and the people of this country.”

Minister of Culture and Internal Affairs Kitlang Kabua, who spoke on behalf of the government, said that Dr. Irene acknowledged the uniqueness of the Marshallese culture of love and kindness. Minister Kabua said that throughout Irene’s professional life, she showed these cultural characteristics in herself. “In the 30 years that she served in the Marshall Islands, her footprint is deep,” she said. “The legacy that she leaves (behind) is one that is vast and one that is immense.”

Marie Maddison, a member of the CMI Board of Regents, spoke about her personal and professional connections to Dr. Irene. “She was a jined ilo kobo” (a mother who molds the family and society), she said. Irene believed that when an idea was put forth to enhance, broaden, and delve into the culture of the educational system, nothing was insurmountable, according to Maddison.

Dr. Hilda Heine, Aur Nitijela Member and Pro-Chancellor of USP, described Dr. Irene as a powerhouse in education, culture, and innovation. “Dr. Irene’s passion for education is the hallmark of her legacy — as shown in the many graduates she mentored at USP and CMI,” she said.

Jane Taafaki-Sam, Dr. Irene’s daughter, read the eulogy and praised her mother for her dedication to her family, faith, and education. “Her desire to serve helped her be brave and courageous,” she said. “She was a woman of grit and tenacity and didn’t suffer fools.”

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