Irene K. Towbin, formerly of New York City and West End Road in East Hampton, died on June 10 at a hospice in Galway, Ireland. Diagnosed with a serious illness a year ago, she had not told many people of it. She was not yet 75.
Ms. Towbin, who received a certain amount of attention when she emigrated to Ireland 10 years ago because of George W. Bush’s re-election and what seemed to her to be an increasingly right-wing tendency in the government here, was a painter who also constructed unusual multimedia works and took photographs. She began living in East Hampton with her husband and family in 1972.
Ms. Towbin expressed her opinions freely, according to her children, and loved the Southwest of this country, spending time with the Navajo learning to make rugs the way they do. She testified before Congress, her daughter, Minna Pinger, wrote, about the devastation wrought on the Navajo land and spoke out against injustice wherever she saw it. Her children wrote that she had a real thirst for life.
“I am very proud to be her daughter; she was the bravest person I knew,” Ms. Pinger wrote.
Irene Kathleen Lyons was born on July 15, 1936, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to the former Rose Joyce and Harry Lyons. Dan Lyons, her brother, survives.
She graduated from the Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing in Manhattan in 1957. In 1959 she married A. Robert Towbin and they settled in the city. They had three children, Minna Pinger of New York City, Bram Towbin of New York City, and Zachary Towbin of Madrid, all of whom survive.
The house on West End Road the family lived in when Ms. Towbin and her husband were still married was called the Inkpot. It was where, her daughter said, “our family had some of the best years of our lives. . . .”
Once she was living in Galway, Ms. Towbin visited her friend Kiki Kogelnik, a painter who had once shared her studio in SoHo, in Hungary, even buying an apartment in Budapest and splitting her time between Hungary and Ireland. She also spent time traveling.
In East Hampton there was a statue of her by Bill King that looked out over the first jetty on the Wainscott side of Georgica Beach. The statue was waving at the surfers there. After the family had moved out of their house, a storm blew an arm off the statue, which was repaired and now can be seen waving toward the new house standing where their house once had been.
“We will all miss and cherish her,” wrote her son Zach, quoting one of her favorite sayings, a line from “Dr. Seuss”: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Ms. Towbin was involved in East Hampton Village activites, including the garden at Home, Sweet Home, where she paid for an irrigation system to provide water. East Hampton Village Site Director and Historian Hugh King said that she also paid for the system’s upkeep and had a rose garden planted in memory of her friend Sondra Phelan.
In addition to her brother, children, and former husband, Ms. Towbin is survived by six grandchildren, one niece and two nephews, and four great-nieces and nephews.
Ms. Towbin was cremated. A wake was held in Galway on June 12 and memorials are being planned in Budapest and New York.