Ina Mae Stephenson Boyles

Ina Mae Stephenson Boyles was born in Boone, Iowa, on Dec. 18, 1927, to a railroad man and his wife who together raised six children during the Great Depression. 

Ina lived a full and deeply meaningful life filled with laughter, butterflies, hot tea, glorious holidays, hilarious missteps, an occasional dumb decision, powerfully expressed opinions, stunning needlepoint, doing the jitterbug with her late husband, beating everyone at card games, a love of stealing her children’s Halloween candy, a stubborn Iowa streak that proved itself most in love deeply protected and so much more. 

For almost 35 years Ina made her beloved Bay Area and Alameda her home. On Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, Ina passed away quietly while in the care of the Alameda Healthcare & Wellness Center on Willow Street.

After working from the time she was 12, the Iowa farm girl met her big city boy in 1946 after her family moved to Melrose Park, Ill. Ina was modeling jewelry in a department store in downtown Chicago when she met a brash, confident Howard Edward Boyles while he was on a lunch break from his job on LaSalle Street. The two married on Feb. 14, 1947, and remained so until Howard’s death from pancreatic cancer in 1995. They had been married for 47 years and 364 days. Together they loved travel, listening to jazz, dancing, playing a great neighborhood game of Tripoly and their family. 

Ina’s three surviving children are: Virginia Lee (Boyles) Birky of Homer, Ark., Richard Howard Boyles of Alameda and Donna Sue (Boyles) Smith of Denver, Colo. Ina was also mother-in-law to Laurie Aldrich Boyles of Alameda, to whom she entrusted her closest feline friend, Tom-Tom, after she could no longer look after him. 

Ina’s adored grandchildren are: Charles Bradford of rural Illinois, Jessica Boyles Lindahl of California, Jennifer Lee (Smith) Smeader of Michigan, Janet Ann (Smith) Hampton of Colorado, Heather Leigh (Smith) Poe of Colorado, Bradley Joseph Smith of Colorado, Russell Alan Smith of California, Daniel Jay Smith of Colorado, Jamie Boyles of California and Michael Boyles of California. She is also survived by 19 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. 

She survived polio just after her third baby was born. She worked outside the home in order to help make sure her children had many of the experiences and advantages she never had as a child of the Great Depression and a young woman of World War II America: Memorable holidays, lovely Wisconsin vacations from our suburban Chicago home, music lessons (clarinet, piano, drums and French horn) and a clean, safe home where life was never dull. 

She worked for political campaigns she believed in and always taught her children how critical the role of citizen is in America. She was patriotic but not exclusively so — she maintained a deep love for everything British, though she never got the chance to visit. 

After she married, she embraced a bit of Howard’s Irish ancestry by helping make the best corned beef and cabbage dinner to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every year. Ina also cooked a mean pot of chili, and her tightly-guarded recipe has allowed her daughter, Donna, to win chili cook-offs more than once. Donna also caught her mother’s political bug. 

Ina’s love of books and reading was infused into her son, Rick, who writes poetry and prose and owns his own bookstore in Alameda. Ina shared a love of the finer sounds of life with her daughter, Ginny, and after losing most of her own hearing to illness, Ina celebrated Ginny’s musical gifts with joy and immense pride. 

Each of her children were her works of art — flawed, talented, inspired, funny, loyal, faith-filled and very different, Ina’s children were without a full appreciation of their mother so often that now it is hard for them to fathom. She mastered the art of parenting grown children.

Her faith mattered to her. She loved to drive — fast, especially through the tubes. She earned her masters degree when she was in her 60s, and she kept learning all the way until she died. 
She enjoyed her friends at Independence Village in Alameda where she lived until her fall and surgery in July 2018.

A finer American woman would be tough to find. Ina Mae Stephenson Boyles was a woman concerned about many, many issues. Domestic violence, substance abuse, animal rights, children and child abuse, economic inequality and so much more. Choose one to donate to in her memory for the good of all. 

Her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends will gather to remember her and scatter her ashes in California in the coming weeks.