Mary Irene McMullen Shankula Bywater

Feb. 22, 1931-Aug. 20, 2022

Mary Irene McMullen Shankula Bywater peacefully passed into the next life on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Irene was surrounded by comfort, love and her family, a gift she had always hoped to have at the end of her life.

Irene was called by many names in her life: Mary, Irene, Sister, Mother, Mom, Grandma, Nannie, Teacher, Mrs. Shankula, Mean Irene (which she was proud of), Sweetheart and for her, most importantly, Follower of Christ. The Savior was the center of her daily motivations as she prayed, read scripture and shared love anywhere she could.

Irene was born Feb. 22, 1931, in Cumberland, Cass County, Iowa. Her parents were Mary Eblen and William Eugene McMullen. Irene was named after her mother, Mary, and her beloved aunt, Irene McMullen Greaves. She was the fourth of 13 children born to her parents. She loved her large family and had a special relationship with each member.

Irene was raised on a farm in Iowa during the years of the Great Depression. These circumstances built Irene into the resourceful, hard-working, creative, tenacious and ambitious lady she was. Irene could cook something special out of nothing but especially food storage. Her home was always clean and tidy. You would never see her go to bed with a sink full of dishes. These were skills that were taught and practiced by her mother. Irene taught and practiced this with her own children and grandchildren.

Once she graduated from high school, Irene’s ambition, and her dreams, led her to Arizona in 1948, where she lived and worked on a dude ranch while attending Northern Arizona State University. In Arizona, she spent much of her time with Aunt Irene and Uncle Milton Greaves. She loved this period of her life. She earned a scholarship and completed her bachelor’s degrees in education and home economics. Arizona and the Southwest became her second home and part of her identity for the rest of her life.

Irene taught school in Omaha, Nebraska; Phoenix, Arizona; North Ogden, Utah; and Evanston, Wyoming, over the course of her 35-year career. She loved her time with her students. She would light up any time a former student would stop her and share a memory from her classroom. She had a tenacity for life-long learning. It was her mission to share that as much as possible. Even after she retired from public education, she continued to teach in church, service, and missionary work. She encouraged all her posterity to do all they could to develop their personal learning and talent.

In 1961, Irene married Ray Shankula and together they raised four beloved children: Teresa “Teri” Lynn, Celia “Celi” Anne, Randolph “Randy” James and Doreen Michelle. She always expressed deep love and admiration for each of her children. Her family was her greatest joy.

In addition to her family, Irene felt the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was her source of joy and immense blessing in life. During the late 1950s, a 20-something Irene was searching for a religion she could feel the love of God and the Savior in. She found that in the message and teachings of the Church. She read the book, “The Kingdom of God Restored,” by Carter Grant and felt impressed that the message offered what she was looking for. After hearing discussions from the missionaries and reading the Book of Mormon, there was an obvious choice for her. She spent her life in gratitude and exuberant expression to the Lord for all her experiences being part of this gospel.

Ray died in 1989 from cancer. Irene felt a deep loss from Ray’s passing. She turned her sadness and loss to peace through experiences with family, friends, and service.

Irene married Elwood Bywater in 1990 and they enjoyed 16 years together until Elwood passed away. Elwood offered a special companionship for Irene through his ability to love and engage in meaningful conversations with her. They were a support for each other in their dreams for the rest of their lives.

Irene loved being a grandma and “Nannie” to her grandkids and great grandkids. She hosted legendary sleepovers with her grandkids over the years, filled with treats, movies, giggles, and waffles with ice cream for breakfast! She never shied away from being hands-on with kids even as the great grands came along. She loved to hug, hold, kiss, read to, and spoil her little ones. Grandma, like her impressive collection of food storage, was always spoiling grandkids too.

The years after Elwood’s passing have been spent with Irene traveling to Ireland, the home of her ancestors, endless genealogy, scripture study, service and her favorite, time with family. There have been some of the greatest challenges of life during these years as independence dwindled and days felt lonelier. Despite this, Irene kept busy writing in her journals and composing poetry. She embraced and lived by a favorite verse from the poem ” Invictus” by William Ernest Henley: “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

Irene is survived by her children: Randy (Marilyn) Shankula, Celia (Ken) Shock and Doreen (Kevin) Brown, 12 grandchildren and their spouses; 46 great-grandchildren; and her siblings: Thomas “Tom” (Sheryl) McMullen, Sarah Jane “Sally” (Bob) Anderson, Robert “Bob” (Carol) McMullen, Steven (Judy) McMullen, and Deadra “Dee” (David) Erickson.

She is preceded in death by her parents, Mary Eblen and William Eugene McMullen; siblings: Francis Lee McMullen, William Eugene “Bill” McMullen Jr., Lenard Ray “Red” McMullen, Frank Eblen McMullen, Veronica Marie Harrison, Myron Leroy McMullen, and Lloyd Allen McMullen. Also preceded in death by her sweetheart, Ray Lawrence Shankula; daughter, Teresa “Teri” Lynn Shankula; special aunt, Mabel Irene McMullen Greaves and uncle, Milton Greaves; and husband, Elwood Bywater.

Visitation will be held in St. George on Thursday, Aug. 25, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Metcalf Mortuary, 288 West St. George Blvd.

Graveside services will be held in North Ogden, Utah, on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 1:00 p.m. in the Ben Lomond Cemetery located at 526 East 2850 North.

Arrangements are under the care of Metcalf Mortuary, (435) 673-4221. Visit the Metcalf Mortuary website for condolences, complete obituary and funeral listings.

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