rene Icie (Sutherlin) Emde was born August 17, 1909, in the tiny White County community of Davenport, known today as Hickory Flat.  Her forebears came to the Arkansas Territory about 1818, only 15 years after the Louisiana Purchase.  Several of her relatives signed the petition in 1836 to establish the county seat.  Her family moved to nearby Pangburn when she began elementary school.  Her father Sam Sutherlin, a landowner with tenant farmers, taught his children to work.  Irene decided to become a teacher one hot, humid day while she was picking cotton.  Using her mind was a lot easier than dragging that heavy bag of cotton.
            “Miss Irene” became a teacher in 1927 at age 17 and continued until 1987.  Her 60-year career began at Stringtown, where her father had also started teaching.   She was called a “seven-week wonder” because she got her teaching credential after a seven-week course.  She taught in many schools in Arkansas, including Olive Branch, Dewey, Plainview, Georgetown, Bald Knob, Forty-five and Barling.   She went on to teach throughout the Midwest in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.  After retiring from the Pierre Public Schools, she became a substitute teacher at the Pierre Indian School.
            When she returned to Arkansas for a 90th birthday party, first-grade students she had taught at Georgetown in 1929 came and told how she had inspired them to learn.  One student, Algie Lance, said that thinking about her and her class kept him alive in his foxhole in France during World War II.  Lance became a noted engineer, who worked on the Pioneer II space project.  He engraved the initials M.I. for Miss Irene on the nose of the rocket that was sent into outer space.  Former student Sammy Cleaver, said, “When Georgetown hired Miss Irene, they hired a crusader.  She was concerned about each family that was unemployed during the Depression.”
            Meeting her husband Herbert Emde was an extension of her teaching. She went to apply for a school at the president of the school board’s home, the farm of Christian Emde.  His son Herbert was reading the paper and didn’t even look up when she arrived.  But after she left, she said, “I’m going to marry that man some day,” and a month and a day later she did!  
            She joined Eastern Star on April 30, 1928, at age 19 as a charter member of the Pangburn Chapter.  She was presented a 75-year pin in 2003 by the Golden Oak Chapter in Los Gatos, California.  Irene Emde traveled with her husband during many heavy construction projects, first building Camp Chaffee in Arkansas, then building landing boats for the war effort, and highway construction throughout the Midwest before settling in South Dakota, where he was involved in the construction of two large dams, Ft. Randall and Oahe, which at the time was the largest land-filled dam in the world.  During this time she taught in the local schools.  They settled in Pierre, SD, in 1954 and built a house.  She taught fourth grade at that time.  Herbert died in 1969.
            She continued to travel throughout the United Sates during summers, leading an International Girl Scout tour of eastern states.  And then, with three awards from the National Science Foundation Institute, she studied at Purdue University, Iowa State University and Northern Arizona University.  She had been to every state but two.  She and her daughter, Fiona Sohns, traveled around the world on a 55-day tour visiting  Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Cypreus, Israel, Palestine and Greece.  She later went on a tour of the major countries of Europe, another tour to Russia and China, and tours to Mexico, Canada and Alaska.  One Christmas was spent with her daughter on tour of South America visiting Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.
            During her 35 years in Pierre, she became a Girl Scout Leader and was involved on the Girl Scout Council and elected Girl Scout Leader for the International Hertage Trail Tour.  She also served as president of the Association of Certified Eeducators and president of the  Association of Childhood Education and was active in the American Association of University Women.
            She remained active after moving to Los Gatos to be near her daughter in 1988.  At age 80 she returned to college and took creative writing classes at West Valley College where her daughter taught English.  She continued to write her reflections of her life and her experiences until her eyesight failed.   Her daughter Fiona retired two years ago after teaching 35 years at West Valley College in Saratoga, California.   Fiona’s husband Oscar Sohns is a retired architect.  A scholarship has been established in Irene and Herbert’s honor for graduating high school students whose goal is to become teachers.  Miss Irene died January 25, 2005, and was buried at Henderson Cemetery, east of Pangburn.