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Alfreda Locke Irwin, 86, the Chautauqua Institution historian who became an important part of its history, died Saturday (Jan. 22, 2000) in WCA Hospital, Jamestown.

She spent her winters here and her summers at Chautauqua Institution.

Mrs. Irwin, who was a newspaper reporter, free-lance writer and radio personality before devoting her talents to Chautauqua Institution, was honored in 1999 by being named historian emeritus for the institution and by having the Chautauqua Archives renamed the Alfreda Locke Irwin Archives.

A native of Dunkirk, she was a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University. After she married Forest B. Irwin in 1935, she was a staff writer for the Franklin (Pa.) News-Herald and a host of radio programs in Franklin and Pittsburgh. Her husband died in 1989.

A longtime summer resident of Chautauqua, Mrs. Irwin was assistant editor of the Chautauqua Daily from 1959 to 1965 and editor from 1966 to 1981. At that point, she was named editor emeritus of the paper and official Chautauqua historian and began the first comprehensive collection of the institution's history.

In 1970, she wrote the first edition of "Three Taps of the Gavel," a history of Chautauqua. There was a second edition in 1977 and, in 1987, a third edition she named "Three Taps of the Gavel: Pledge to the Future."

Through the years, her contributions continued:

1979, Mrs. Irwin edited the book "Gil's Story: A History of the Chautauqua Opera."

1980, she updated the "Chautauqua County History of Chautauqua."

1985, she was co-author of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra segment in "Orchestras of the United States."

1988, Mrs. Irwin compiled the Chautauqua Women's Club history and the Chautauqua Opera Association segment in "Opera Companies of the World."

In 1983, she founded the Chautauqua Network, an organization of surviving independent chautauquas and other groups tied to the original Chautauqua Movement in the late 1800s.

Throughout her adult life, she continued her free-lance writing for a number of publications and wrote numerous church plays.

Among her many memberships were the National League of American Pen Women, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Society, the Venango (Pa.) County Republican Women's Club, the Chautauqua County and Fenton historical societies, the Mid-Atlantic Region Archives Conference and the Western New York Association of Historical Societies.

Mrs. Irwin was named to the Two Thousand Women of Achievement and the World's Who's Who of Authors in 1975. She received the Chautauqua Institution "Salute" at the Old First Night in 1978 and the Chautauqua Medal, the highest honor given by the institution, in 1999.

Surviving are a son, Thomas M. of Lakewood and Franklin, Pa.; five daughters, Elizabeth Becka of San Antonio, Texas, and Monterey, Mexico, Susan McCabe of Santa Clarita, Calif., Margaret Irwin and Ruth Irwin, both of New York City, and Rebecca Robbins of Lakewood; 11 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Lakewood United Methodist Church, 164 Shadyside Ave.

Burial will be in Chautauqua Cemetery.


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