Emma Irene Horton, 95, dedicated churchwoman, skilled cook

Posted: May 09, 2014

WHAT YOU SAW was what you got with Emma Irene Horton.

No pretense, no airs, just the honest, straightforward personality that charmed the people who knew her. Others, those who might have taken offense to her directness, just didn't know what they were missing.

"Those who understood her loved her," said her daughter, Vivian H. Butler. "You took her as she was."

Irene Horton, stalwart churchgoer, devoted family matriarch and an outstanding cook in the Southern style, died April 27. She was 95 and living in Ambler but had lived most of her life in West Philadelphia.

Irene was a child of the South, born in Boone, N.C., to Clay and Elma Mathis Folk. She attended elementary school there and high school in Johnson City, Tenn.

She married Frazier R. Horton, a teacher, and they lived for a time in Boone and Tennessee before moving to Philadelphia in 1943. Frazier worked as an insurance underwriter here. He died in 2004.

An old-fashioned Southern lady, Irene grew up in "an era when it was a woman's place to walk in the shadow of her spouse," her daughter said. "However, she did it with style and class, never trying to upstage him or take the spotlight."

In fact, style and class defined Irene Horton. She wouldn't leave the house without being stylishly turned out, including a hat and her precious jewelry. She set the style for members of her family and church.

"Her life was like most - wonderful and sacrificing," her daughter said. "Family fun was her passion.

"Irene was known to speak her mind, and sometimes it raised eyebrows."

Irene was devoted to her church, Janes Memorial United Methodist, in East Germantown. She was a Communion steward and active with the Women's Society of Christian Service. She was available for any activity the church undertook, such as Women's Day, of which she was captain.

She was a member of the church choir, often taking solos. Her favorite hymn was "It Is Well with My Soul":

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Irene was a member of the Senior Spirit Group led by Herbert Snyder, and the Senior Connection Group led by her longtime friend Dorothy Lawson.

As a Southern-style cook, Irene was a wizard with macaroni and cheese, collard greens, cabbage and the like, but it was her caramel-icing cake that really made folks lick their lips.

After the advent of Tiger Woods, Irene became a devotee of golf. "She knew all the equipment, the wood, iron and putter, and the best-made golf balls," her daughter said. "In addition, the basic principles of the grip, stance and swing were a part of the equation, and the difference between match play and medal play.

"You would have thought she was on the golf circuit."

Besides her daughter, she is survived by a son, Anthony J. Horton; three grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Services: 11 a.m. Monday at Janes Memorial United Methodist Church, 47 E. Haines St. Friends may call at 10 a.m. Burial will be at Chelten Hills Cemetery.

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