Pines Village resident profile: Irene Malasto
If you ask Irene Malasto to describe herself, the first thing she will say is, “I’m an open book.” It’s no mystery book – but it certainly is a romance, a thriller, and a heartwarming history.
Born Irene Karlawsky in Detroit, Michigan, she was just nine months old when her parents moved to Decatur, Illinois. An only child, Irene had the complete attention of Mom and Dad, took piano lessons, studied ballet, and always did her homework. By the time she was sixteen, Irene became interested in something new.
“Well, about that age you notice boys,” Irene says with a laugh. “And I did.”
Irene admits she was most focused on a unit of Air Force cadets stationed nearby. One of the family’s neighbors, however, had other ideas. He wanted Irene to meet “a really nice boy” with whom he was working who was serving in the Army’s railway battalion.
“I met him in April and by September we were serious,” confesses Irene. “He was an only child, too. He was the nicest, kindest boy I’d ever met. And he was so quiet – I was the one who was always jabbering!”
That boy was Art Malasto. And so began a 66 year romance which lasted from 1945 when Irene and Art tied the knot in Colorado, to March 26, 2011 when one glorious long chapter ended with Art’s passing.
“My friends thought it wouldn’t last,” says Irene. “Ha! We got along great and we were never apart. Art and I were always kidding each other. And we had a lot of fun along the way.”
Irene and Art had a busy, bustling life. In 1955, they moved to Valparaiso so that Art could become administrator of Porter Memorial Hospital – a post he held for 35 years. It was a job he loved so much and performed so ably that people still talk about it.
“Art loved that hospital and the people who worked there,” Irene recalls. “Both of us loved Valparaiso. And we loved our kids and being a family. We had it all.”
The couple had six children: Judy (Leetz), Charlie, Steve, Jim, Lynda (Sanders), and Tom. They continue to be the lights in Irene’s life – along with 20 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
“I have the best kids and the best grandkids and great-grandkids,” Irene says with a twinkle in her eye. “That’s just a fact.”
Irene and Art had a profound effect on Valparaiso. For more than six decades, they were a couple, a team, a force in the community. They welcomed leadership roles at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, on Chamber of Commerce and city improvement committees, and on the board of the American Heart Association. There wasn’t a worthwhile community effort the Malastos didn’t support. In fact, the Valparaiso Parks Foundation board created the Art & Irene Malasto Award to recognize their role in the creation of the award-winning Valplayso, an innovative children’s play park. Irene and Art had seen a park like it in another state and brought the idea home. They then donated months of time serving on the planning and construction committees to help the idea of Valplayso become a reality. *
In 2011, Irene moved to Pines Village. It was a place she already knew well.
“My mother, Neva, lived here for more than eight years,” says Irene. “I visited her every day. When I moved in, it was like coming home.”
If her life’s an open book, she’s busy adding chapters everyone can read.
“I love my life at Pines Village,” says Irene.
Indeed, she does. Today, she brings the same energy, openness, cheerfulness, and community-mindedness to her life at Pines Village that she has always demonstrated.
Irene is a corridor representative who serves on the resident council, a member of the planning committee, and a regular at concerts and cultural events held at Pines Village. Irene spends her free time listening to music, watching movies (she adores John Wayne films), and visiting with her many friends. When the “lunch bunch” or dinner group plans an outing to a local restaurant, Irene is gung-ho.
“I go to all of them!” Irene says with a chuckle. “I wouldn’t miss it. It’s so much fun.”
Irene appreciates her well-appointed apartment, which holds treasured possessions (including an ever-growing collection of miniature bears), and says visiting the dining hall is “like going to a nice restaurant every single day.” Irene appreciates the fact that Pines Village offers all of the services (cooking, cleaning, laundry) that give her the freedom to enjoy time with family and friends.
“It’s just the best place,” says Irene. “It’s warm, friendly, with the best staff and residents. I feel lucky to live here, I really do.”
This woman who loves the hubbub of family life and community building admits she doesn’t crave quiet.
“I need people around me,” Irene insists. “That’s what life’s all about – the people.
* Editor’s Note: The Art & Irene Malasto Award recognizes people and businesses that support Valpo Parks in a significant way through volunteer service, leadership, and/or gifts of financial support. Read about the next award ceremony, set for Sunday, May 13, at http://www.ci.valparaiso.in.us/index.aspx?NID=541
We Celebrate Life is a collection of portraits, in words and photographs, of just some of the wonderful, extraordinary people who live, work and serve Pines Village Retirement Communities. View more >