Irene Dunham, oldest person in Michigan and 10th oldest in the world, dies at 114

Irene Dunham spending time outside in 1970
Posted at 10:58 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 22:59:48-04

DEWITT, Mich. (WSYM) — Irene Dunham, the oldest person in Michigan and the 10th oldest in the world, died in her DeWitt assisted living facility Sunday afternoon at 114 years, four months and 15 days old.

Irene 1958

Irene's son Bruce Dunham, with whom she shared a birthday, said she was ready to go and died peacefully in her sleep.

Bruce and Irene

Before she died, she was able to meet her first great-great-great grandchild.

Bruce talked to FOX 47 News, WXYZ's Lansing sister station, for a story last year, and said there was a lot his mother lived through: two world wars, two pandemics and the deadliest school massacre in U.S. history.

Irene getting her COVID-19 vaccine

When the 1927 Bath School Massacre happened, Irene was a senior in high school. She was not at school that day. She'd stayed home with a sore throat. It did not spare her the pain of the bombing entirely, however.

Bath School Bombing

“She was at home with her mother, and they heard the explosion, and her mother – they jumped in the car and they drove into town and…to see what it was about…and that’s when they saw the school explosion and the carnage and all that. She talks about seeing body parts hanging from the telephone lines, and dead children and their mothers kneeling over them crying," Bruce said.

“All I remember was all the little kids that were killed. It was terrible," Irene said.

The graduating class of 1927 didn’t get their diplomas because of the bombing. They were presented their diplomas in 1977, along with the Bath High School Class of 1977.

Irene also said she knew Andrew Kehoe, the former treasurer of the Bath Township school board who detonated the bombs that killed 38 children.

"He talked to all of us girls like we were… OK... just before he did what he did,” Irene said.

When she was 90, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and survived both surgery and chemotherapy. Irene drove until she was 106.

Irene Dunham's 110 birthday
Irene Dunham's 110 birthday

She attributed her long life to her time spent outdoors, something she always loved.

Bruce said Irene's funeral will be held at Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes in DeWitt, but arrangements have not yet been made.