Photography

Irwin Krigsman

July 22, 1936 ~ April 30, 2021 (age 84)

Obituary

The roots run deep and the forest lives on. 


It is with profound sadness that we share the news that Irwin Krigsman z”l of Bremerton 
(Ilahee), WA passed on, last Friday, April 30, 2021, after a long, healthy and generous 
life.
 
Brooklyn Boy 
Irwin was born and raised along with his two older brothers, Nathan z"l and Ruben 
Krigsman z"l. in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, by his parents Louis z”l 
and Anna z”l, Louis was from Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Poland, near Warsaw and the 
family entered the US through Ellis Island, settling initially in New York’s Lower East 
Side. From his parents Irwin learned the values of hard work, compassion for others, 
and commitment to family and community. He learned to laugh heartily and to greet 
others with a confident, caring smile. 

Irwin’s father, Louis, supported his family as a master plumber, a family trade, later 
working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. His painstaking investment of his earnings into 
rental apartments allowed him to provide for his wife Anna even after his early death. 
Anna travelled to Israel frequently and supported the women’s Zionist organization 
Hadassah. The family spoke Yiddish, Polish, French, Hebrew and English inside the 
home and politics was hotly debated on the stoop downstairs. They shared their home 
with two cousins, Jacque z"l and Flore Krigsman z"l, survivors of the Shoah who were 
rescued by Irwin’s uncle Benny and supported through The Krigsman Family Circle, 
created to support survivors. The whole family later moved to Seagate, a gated 
community at the end of the Coney Island Boardwalk. Irwin and his brothers slept in 
the same bed; the bond thus formed persisted into adulthood and made them lifelong 
friends. They say “you can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can never take 
Brooklyn out of the boy”: later in life, Irwin delighted to find a great corned beef 
sandwich and to reminisce about the joys of a childhood trip with his father to Katz’s 
Deli on the Lower East Side; he loved the memory of raising pigeons on their rooftop 
coops (some of which were employed by the US Military during the war) and the magic 
of egg creams. Irwin attended Abraham Lincoln High School, spent countless hours at 
the New York Public Library, and luxuriated in the lavish Moorish architecture and 
blinking lights of the Loew’s Pitkin Theater. He attended Brooklyn College, thanks to 
the ROTC, before enlisting in the US Air Force. 

Lifelong Marriage 

Irwin served in the US Air Force for four years. He received basic training in Brownsville, 
TX and eventually rose to the rank of captain. Reassigned to McCord Air Force Base in 
Tacoma, WA, he arrived driving a white 1957 Ford Fairline convertible. There, he 
caught the eye of Airman Third Class Judith Gaye Phelps. Later Irwin learned that it 
wasn’t just his good looks and his white convertible that got Judy’s attention. Since she 
was in charge of the officers’ records, Judy had already identified Irwin – the only 
officer whose religion was listed as “Jewish” – as a potential suitor. They were married 
in Tacoma in a civil ceremony six months later, with a traditional Jewish wedding in 
Brooklyn to follow. They soon learned, however, that marriage between an officer and 
an airman was against military regulations and thus decided to leave the Air Force. 

Young Educator

A dedicated educator who stood for excellence, Irwin loved to serve, teaching children 
and helping them evolve into adults. Irwin earned a master’s degree in Education at 
San Jose State College and late furthered his training at Pacific Lutheran University. 
Irwin then returned with Judy to the Pacific Northwest with the intention of living closer 
to family. They rented an apartment in Lakewood, WA but were evicted after the 
landlord learned that they had snuck in a dog (a puppy named Figaro) in violation of 
their lease. The couple then purchased their first home in Tacoma near Fircrest, in 
order to be close to Temple Beth El. Irwin taught at McKinley before his promotion to 
Principal of Larchmont and Geiger Elementary Schools, Mcilvaigh Junior High, and 
Henry Foss High and Wilson High Schools. Irwin even moonlighted as a driving 
instructor to earn extra income for his family. 

World Traveler 

When Irwin learned about a teaching opportunity through the Tacoma Public Schools 
at Nigeria’s American International School in Lagos, he leapt at the opportunity to 
present a new experience to his family. Arriving in Nigeria in 1968 with two children, 
Scott and Trudy, Irwin and Judy soon adopted a new child, Mary Tawakalitu Mamuni 
Yakini, whose mother had died in childbirth at a compound consisting of a school and 
maternity managed by the Catholic Church. Judy had helped run the compound. 
Irwin passionately explored Nigeria along with much of West Africa, including 
Dahomey, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, and Sierra Leone. He joined the Nigerian Field 
Society, collected West African art, took photographs, and sparked friendships with 
Nigerian people. In 1970, while trying to leave the country, Irwin and Judy 
encountered difficulty in completing the adoption of their youngest daughter. After 
engaging the help of Senator Javits of New York, they succeeded at last. Before 
returning to the US, Irwin toured his family through the Canary Islands before renting a 
VW Camper in Heidelberg, Germany in order to explore Europe affordably: the family 
visited many countries, including Yugoslavia, Germany, Italy, and then Morocco. He 
used this an opportunity to connect with family in Brussels, scattered survivors of the 
Shoah. 

Henry Foss High School 

As Principal of Henry Foss High School, Irwin expanded his reputation for leaving his 
office to mingle with teachers and students, whether in classrooms, lunchrooms, 
hallways, athletic fields – or even at evening dances, to which he occasionally brought 
his youngest son, Louie. Irwin led Tacoma Public Schools’ desegregation campaign through 1972, creating the 
exemplary Magnet School Program, which served as a model for other school districts 
across the US. He also identified and mentored teachers who possessed exceptional 
leadership qualities, coaxing them to take on larger roles in order to maximize their 
positive impact on children. A member of the National Association for the 
Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP), Irwin worked tirelessly for greater racial 
equality and diversity within the educational system. Irwin also shared his teaching gifts 
at Temple Beth El, where he was a member for many years so that his children could 
grow up connected to Jewish observance and tradition. 

Family Man 

A committed educator by vocation, Irwin’s pleasures centered on family and home life. 
He spent hours sharing the wonders of coastal tidepools with his children when they 
were young. Summer with Irwin meant hiking and camping trips throughout 
Washington State, including the White River Campground at Mount Rainier National 
Park, as well as learning about birds and nature as members of the Tahoma Audubon 
Society. Irwin read voraciously. As a child, he had collected the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs; 
this early love of reading extended throughout his life. He always loved The New York 
Times and most recently was excited about reading The Code Breaker by Walter 
Isaachson. Irwin was a natural artist as well; his lovely penmanship graced hundreds of 
birthday and thank-you cards, often with his signature cartoon face. Photography was a 
lifelong pursuit and his documentary images won awards. He enjoyed diverse musical 
genres, as represented by Johnny Cash, Gilbert & Sullivan Operettas, Karen Carpenter, 
Gene Autry, Leonard Cohen, and most classical music, especially Mozart. Irwin also 
taught himself to restore and create stained-glass windows within the comfort of his 
basement workshop at home. Another hobby, which he shared with his children when 
they were young as an opportunity to teach history and geography, was stampcollecting 
(Nigerian, Israeli and American). As his four children matured, so did Irwin’s wise guidance and advice; he taught them 
to drive a car and maintain the engine and tires. This instilled in them the values of 
hard work and commitment, saving for the future, and taking care of one another. Irwin 
earned his early retirement as a result of his lifelong commitment to living within his 
means plus his disciplined long-term investing. His “retirement” would soon turn into 
nearly three decades of service in a new setting – a historic 1900s homestead with 
acreage and a salmon creek in Bremerton, WA. Irwin and Judith relocated there from 
North Tacoma in 1990 and Irwin ended his educational career as Executive Director of 
the Central Kitsap School District. In partnership with Judy, Irwin restored the 
abandoned Illahee homestead and, at age 58, retired from educational service. 

Environmental Steward 

Putting down deep roots in Ilahee, Irwin became a steward of the green spaces that 
surrounded his new home. Harking back to his youth in New York, Irwin ardently 
supported what he called the “forested Central Park and wildlife preserve” located 
within Bremerton’s urban boundary. As a charter member of the Ilahee Forest Preserve 
non-profit board, Irwin guided the Preserve to acquire and conserve land slated for 
development, creating what is now known as the Ilahee Forest Preserve, a Kitsap 
County Heritage Park. It includes five miles of community trails and 570 acres of 
watershed, trees and wildlife. Until the very end of Irwin’s life, Irwin and Judy, often in 
the company of their beloved dog Charlie, daily maintained the Park’s “mutt mitts” 
station, a task they enjoyed very much. 
Healthy for nearly his entire life, Irwin never suffered a hospital stay. At the end of his 
life, with courage and grace, Irwin lost the fight against compounded medical issues, 
including Parkinson’s Disease and lymphoma. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, 
and friend, Irwin made weekly ferry trips to Seattle to enjoy the company of his 
grandson “Avi,” spending nearly every Sunday playing, building “tents,” horsing 
around and laughing. Irwin did this until his body and the pandemic made such a trip 
too difficult. Until the last days of his life, Irwin maintained family connections; now 
through a weekly Krigsman Family Circle via Zoom, reconstituted to honor the 
organization that decades earlier had rescued cousins Flore and Jacque. These Zoom 
sessions allowed Irwin extended time with family, including his brother Ruben, while 
maintaining the physical distancing imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. As the 
family’s time together grew short, their bond strengthened. 
Irwin is preceded in death by his daughter, Karen Gaye, z”l. He is survived by his 
beloved wife and life-partner of 62 years, Judith, and their devoted children Edward 
(Brooke Pinkham), Trudy (Tom Casey), Mary Tawa, and Louie, as well three 
grandchildren, Eleanor, Abraham and Joachim. 

The roots run deep and the forest lives on. 

If you wish to join us in honoring the life and legacy of Irwin Krigsman, consider supporting any 
of the following organizations in honor of the life and legacy of Irwin Krigsman. 

Ilahee Forest Preserve

Jim Aho, Board President, 5940 Ilahee Road NE, Bremerton, WA 
98311, Email: jimaho@gmail.com, www.illaheepreserve.org/ 

Henry Foss High School 
2112 South Tyler Street, Tacoma, WA 98405, 253-571-7300 

Northwest Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association 
www.apdaparkinson.org/community 

Plant a Tree in Israel 
It is a modern tradition to plant a tree in Israel during a lifecycle event through The Jewish 
National Fund: https://usa.jnf.org/jnf-tree-planting-center/ 

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Irwin Krigsman, please visit our floral store.


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