Irja Severy Kangas of Houston was born July 18, 1919, in Zim, Minn. She is the 12th of 14 children.
Her parents, Charles and Siiri Hakulinen Kangas, immigrated from Finland separately to the U.S. in the early 1900s, and later meeting in Michigan and marrying. They homesteaded wilderness land in Zim, Minn., in 1915. Due to the harsh wilderness life, her parents separated.
Her mother moved the family into Eveleth where the state’s social services deemed her unable to properly care for the eight children that remained with her. After many attempts to seize them, they were eventually caught leaving school and the five youngest were sent to the state orphanage at Owatonna, Minn.
Her mother, Siiri, had always told them to run and hide when the social services workers were near to evade being caught. This worked while on the homestead with forest cover but not in town. Irja was 10 years old when she was sent to the orphanage and lived a very regimented life with the hundreds of children that lived there at that time. She was not allowed to live in the same cottages with her siblings but did get to see them on Sundays.
From age 15 through 17 she became an indentured worker on farms as a house maid in the southwest part of the state. She worked for several families during this time and would have to return to the orphanage between placement. It was at the last farm she worked at that she met Harry Miles who was a hired hand on the same farm. Harry had come a few years earlier to Minnesota from his home state of Illinois to work with the traveling combine crews and decided to remain in the area.
Harry and Irja were married on June 17, 1937, at Lynn, Minn., they shared 63 years of marriage before his passing. They resided in a rented farm near the same area where they met.
Irja was a hard-working mother and farmer’s wife. They later purchase a farm outside of Russell where they spent 20 years farming. Irja loved this community and made many long-life friends there. She took a few temporary jobs at couple of restaurants, and tried her hand as a cosmetic sales lady arranging for parties to sell her wares. They had all their nine children in this same area before moving to Clearbrook, Minn., in 1963, and then to Salem, Mo., in 1966. They purchased a farm at Gladden and lrja during this time did work as a nurse’s aide at Salem Care and then at Salem Memorial Hospital when it first opened.
As a young woman she and her husband Harry were confirmed in the Lutheran Church at Lynn, Minn. She re-committed her life to Christ in 1980 at the First Assembly of God in Salem, Mo. When she moved to Houston in February of 2005 where she attended Faith Fellowship Church until her hearing began to diminish. Irja has always been a very active, hard working wife and mother.
She was always willing to help her children and grandchildren in any way she could. If she ever found out that you needed or was looking for some item you couldn’t find she would begin the search for it until she found it shopping local stores or flea markets.
Her family was very important to her and she made every effort to stay in contact with them through letters, cards, phone calls and traveling to visit. She had a wealth of life experiences and wisdom that she was always passing on to those who would listen. She enjoyed reading and always learning of current events and interesting life stories and history. She loved shopping at flea markets, attending her grandchildren’s school programs, historical parks and community events. She continued to raise chickens, ducks and geese if possible until she had to move into an apartment.
Irja is survived by her children, Charles William Miles, and wife Pim, of Thailand, Harry Eugene Miles of Springfield, Co., James Owen Miles, of Blackhawk, S.D., Lester LeRoy Miles, of Rapid City, S.D., David Lee Miles, and wife Kathy, of Estes Park, Co., Deryl Leon Miles, of St. Helena, Neb., Janet Akers, and husband Dave, of Houston, Mo., JoAnn Petty, and husband Paul, of Salem, Mo., and Mary Ann Miles, of Willow Springs, Mo.; 31 grandchildren, 64 great-grandchildren and 32 great-great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband, parents, 13 siblings, five granddaughters, and one great-granddaughter.
lrja is loved by her family and friends and will be greatly missed and always remembered, as she was one of a kind.
Funeral service for Irja Miles were Tuesday, April 7, 2020, with a graveside at North Lawn Cemetery at 1 p.m., with Pastor Bill Villapiano officiating.
Visitation was at North Lawn Cemetery before the service from noon until service time.