May 24, 2023: Irene Paula Jelen Salerno – a long-time resident of the Village she loved - passed away peacefully in Bronxville, New York, with family by her side at the age of 96. “Remember me in saecula saeculorum.”
Irene embodied joie de vivre - always ensuring that others could share in her happiness. She brought elegance, grace, and glamour to everything that she did. Day by day, Irene created a living mosaic of all that she had experienced during her long life. She wore Milanese chic even when gardening, served sukiyaki in Ireland, kept score in German when golfing in the Caribbean, and waltzed at Villa D’Este. She found her bliss in cultivating her Bronxville garden and in creating photo albums and a cookbook of her delicious recipes for her family to treasure and enjoy.
Born in Gleiwitz, Germany on March 10, 1927, Irene’s early childhood was filled with tennis parties, singing lessons, horse shows, and seaside holidays. After her older brother was killed during World War II and her parents were stranded behind the Iron Curtain, Irene – while still a teen – and her younger brother became war refugees seeking safe haven in Europe. Irene’s higher education and English fluency qualified her to work with the United Nations Refugee Agency helping wartime emigrants find passage to America. Soon she too would courageously make that ocean crossing alone, to start a new life in a new world.
And what a spectacular life she made! While working as a translator and model in New York City, Irene met Frank at a Columbia University fraternity party. Thanks to her resourcefulness and determination she brought her younger brother to join her in America. After Frank’s Naval Service in the Korean War, Irene and Frank married. His career in banking led to international relocations in Italy, Japan, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Ireland. With her adventurous and resilient spirit, Irene embraced these opportunities to become fluent in four languages, happily navigate local cultures, and travel far beyond those borders throughout the world. With her open heart and gracious flair, Irene hosted countless dignitaries and business leaders, Christened ships in Hong Kong, played tennis with the Empress of Japan, and skied with Olympians in Switzerland. Wherever she was, Irene always made her family’s needs her priority: creating warm and welcoming homes. She inspired her family to remain true to themselves and to seek out the good in everyone and everything.
Irene loved the arts and sports. For decades she welcomed family and friends to her box at the Met Opera. Her correspondence and daily notes were always embellished with her signature flower drawings. She was a voracious reader and student of history, math whiz, keen tennis player, badminton champion, strong swimmer, and life-long golfer and skier well into her eighth decade. Irene enjoyed walks around Bronxville – always waving a friendly “Hallo hallo” to neighbors – and participating in local tournaments and races.
Her family has been blessed with a beloved and devoted wife, mother and Granny Dear. Her love was unconditional and her default mode was kind. Her Faith was her compass: she was forgiving, compassionate, serene, sweet and generous to all. Irene was a loyal benefactor of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Salvation Army, The Archdiocese of New York, and several local and international charities. As in Proverbs 31, she truly was a rare jewel: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Irene is survived by her husband of 66 years, Frank E. Salerno of Bronxville, New York; daughter, Monica Salerno Corsi of New York City and London; daughter, Susan Salerno of Bronxville; son, Steven Salerno of New York City; son-in-law, Stefano Corsi, and grandchildren, Cosima and Tassilo Corsi of New York City and London.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola of New York in her name (ignatius.nyc). A private family Funeral Mass was celebrated on her birthday on March 10th, 2023 at St. Joseph’s Church in Bronxville.