Editor’s note: We often hear about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in numbers of cases and deaths. But each data point represents a human life whose loss is felt by countless other people. We are chronicling some of them in an obituary series called Lives Remembered. If you know someone who has died of COVID-19, please tell us about them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Lives Remembered,” or by filling out the form at the bottom of this page.
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Edith Irvine was the person at a dinner party whom everyone wanted to sit next to.
“She knew how to make people feel special,” says Irvine’s niece, Linda Butterfield.
She was known for co-founding the Black Angus line of steakhouses with Stuart Anderson (the third of what would be Ms. Irvine’s five husbands), but that was but one highlight in her long, colorful life.
Born during the Spanish Flu in December 1919, Ms. Irvine died on April 29 at the age of 100 from complications due to the coronavirus.
Ms. Irvine moved with her family from Spokane to Seattle at age 3 and went on to lead an incredibly rich life: one that had her living in a Quonset hut in Alaska and going on safari in Africa and floating down the Amazon River.
She graduated from West Seattle High School, followed by Edison Technical School. She mastered the comptometer — a complicated, pre-computer accounting device — and worked as a bookkeeper for Safeway, Boeing and Arco.
Ms. Irvine was married five times over her 100 years, but as Butterfield says, “that isn’t the story of her life, really.”
To Butterfield, her Aunt Edie was the one who always took the time to ask you how you were. She had a sense of adventure, and enjoyed travel, camping and sailing. Once she mailed Butterfield and her sister, Nancy, a coconut from Hawaii.
“She just wrote our address right on it and mailed it,” Butterfield says with a laugh. “She never missed a birthday or holiday, cards arrived in the mail still scented with her perfume. She loved getting dressed up and going to lunch, loved art shows, and a good gin and tonic. “Edie was always up for fun.”
Ms. Irvine and husband Stuart Anderson lived in two rooms at the Hotel Caledonia in downtown Seattle on the corner of Union Street and Seventh Avenue. Anderson owned the hotel and operated the Ringside Room, which later became the French Quarter.
In 1964 the couple opened the first Black Angus Steakhouse, serving a full steak dinner for $2.95. Ms. Irvine made the tablecloths and the uniforms for the cocktail waitresses, and she helped to design the iconic square cow logo while also doing bookkeeping.
Once, a cocktail waitress failed to show up for a shift and Ms. Irvine was right there, serving drinks.
“She was invested. She said Stu had a dream and she wanted to help him see that dream,” Butterfield says.
In Anderson’s 1997 memoir “Here’s the Beef, My Story of Beef,” there’s a photo of Anderson and Ms. Irvine in full dinner dress, seated at a table with a white tablecloth, surrounded by cattle. The restaurant grew quickly, adding a dozen sites and kicking off a trend in Western-themed restaurants. The couple sold the chain to Saga in 1972.
Anderson and Ms. Irvine were members at the Seattle Yacht Club, something Ms. Irvine fought to hold onto after their divorce in 1976.
“Originally they didn’t let women on their own be members, but she argued the point that she had just as much right to be a member as the men did. Then it became standard procedure,” Butterfield says.
Ms. Irvine owned a 30-foot sailboat — which she didn’t operate herself — Butterfield’s father, Walter, often served as her captain. The Club was the site for Ms. Irvine’s 100th birthday party, where girlfriends told stories about kicking up their heels at Vito’s in Capitol Hill with Ms. Irvine in the old days.
Butterfield says although Ms. Irvine was legally blind and had suffered some memory issues toward the end of her life, she “loved to be with people until the very end.” She enjoyed driving past houses she had lived in and going out to lunch, striking up conversations with everyone she met.
“For me, she’s just been the most special person in my life. Very generous, very loving,” Butterfield says.