Renee in her younger years.
Irene Rosenfeld (Renee to her many friends) was never one to mince words. Born into a Jewish family in 1918 Europe, she experienced some the worst that humanity could concoct, yet she never allowed her experiences to dampen her spirit or her love for others. Rosenfeld died Wednesday, Nov. 27, at age 94.
In 2007, Renee's irrepressible spirit moved the Jackson Free Press to include her in our annual Chicks We Love feature. Rather than putting on her prettiest clothes for her photo, she met us in the gardens of the Unitarian Universalist Church on North State Street dressed in a white T-shirt and skirt. The front of the shirt was covered from neck to hem in colorful flags from around the world and proclaimed Renee as a "Citizen of the World." It suited her perfectly.
Friends say that Renee loved the piece Katherine West wrote about her. Here it is again, in her honor:
Those who have been patrons of Rainbow Co-Op for a while probably remember a little lady who would dance carefree in the plaza. One day, general manager Steve Whitlow, the man Irene Rosenfeld--dancer extraordinaire--called "The President" for most of her time at Rainbow, walked over to Rosenfeld, and informed her that it was not OK to drink on the job. She put her beer away and continued on with her day, greeting patrons and folding plastic bags. Anyone chancing to have eye contact with her was likely to be greeted with a heavily accented, friendly voice, "You say something to me. Do I know you?"
Before this part-time gig, though, Rosenfeld's life was already full. Walking through a parking lot in Jackson in the 1970s, she spotted a weed in a crack--a classic symbol of nature growing through human construction. The sight of this weed pleased her, and she plucked it out of the ground. After realizing she'd disturbed a scene that made her happy, Rosenfeld decided to magnify the weeds' message with a photogram and thus began Weeds For Peace, Unlimited.
An activist for peace and justice all of her adult life, she is a testament to living a life of conscious choice, and of releasing desire and control to a universal One. Rosenfeld accomplishes her specific goals by allowing them to happen: She desires an opportunity, makes room for it in her life, and there it grows. A testament to patience, this woman has cultivated her humanity and spirituality for some 88 years. She radiates the optimism of an early activist, and the serenity that comes with the cultivation of tolerance, acceptance and non-judgmental love. Rosenfeld embodies the emancipated ideals of the flower children of the '60s and '70s. She is conscious of the manner in which her beliefs and actions affect her life and the lives of those around her. She walks and talks like she is living the life she dreamt, or that tomorrow her dreams will see dawn. She is a believer in the holy and healing presence of people working together for a common cause.
Rosenfeld is simple, yet concise, undemanding, yet energetic and highly educated--yin and yang. Isn't that just like the woman in all of us?
A memorial service for Renee will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, 4866 N. State St., Sunday, Dec. 2, at 12:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Irene (Renee) Rosenfeld, c/o UU Church of Jackson, 4866 North State Street, Jackson, Miss., 39206. Donations will cover the cost of final arrangements. Additional contributions will be donated to a special charity or to a garden project in one of Mississippi's prisons in Renee's name. For further information, please contact Jim Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org.