Irene Dobson, a titan of Zephyrhills community, died Feb. 7. She was 98 years old.
The community leader and icon was relentless to create change for the African American community in Zephyrhills. Her passion for her community touched the lives of generations of families living in the Quarters and other predominantly black neighborhoods. Her impact did not go unnoticed.
Born in Patterson, Georgia, on April 30, 1924, Irene moved with her husband Robert to Zephyrhills, in the 1950s. She proudly raised four children, six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren
Irene was a vibrant and contributing member of the Zephyrhills community for more than 65 years and during the course of this long residency provided numerous acts of public service and devotion to the community.
Last summer, Irene was honored with a plaque declaring her a “Pillar of the Community” presented to her by the 2022 Quarters Reunion Board Members. The plaque also recognized Irene as a “Leader, Pioneer and Change Agent for the Community.”
Visitation will be held Wednesday, Feb. 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and services are Thursday, Feb. 16 at 10:30 a.m. all at St. John Baptist Church, 14549 8th St., Dade City. Internment will be at the Nation Cemetery in Bushnell.
She will be honored again Monday night when Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield presents her family with a proclamation acknowledging her achievements naming Feb. 16 as a day of remembrance for Miss Irene.
The proclamation states, “Miss Irene initiated efforts to rename 6th Avenue after Dr. King in 2003 and 2004 which resulted in the street’s dual naming and recognition of the contributions of the African American community to Zephyrhills and the United States.
“The influence of Miss Irene opened doors and led to greater understanding and interaction among residents, with her serving as the conscience of the community.”
Everyone she meets, she takes the time to get to know them. She wants to know where they live and all about their families. She quick to ask how many “crumb crushers” (children) they have. She is all about family and she adopted everyone in the Quarters community.
“Miss Irene has been the community leader since before I was a kid,” said Jimmy Campbell, at last year’s Quarters Reunion. “She is the Queen of the Quarters. When nobody was attending the city meeting in our community, she went and pushed for roads to be paved in our neighborhood. She pushed to have 6th Avenue renamed to Martin Luther King Avenue.
“She stood up for all of us.”
Dobson’s courage and determination has set an example for everyone in the Quarters community and will live on.
“She inspired me and the others you see here,” Campbell said. “That’s why we do this. The reunion keeps everyone together and shows the strength of the community. We have people to come behind her to keep pushing for change.”