Irene Traphagan

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Irene (Pickrel) Traphagan

May 28, 1922 - Feb. 12, 2018

McCOOK, Neb. — Irene (Pickrel) Traphagan, age 95, of McCook, passed away at Community Hospital in McCook on Feb. 12, 2018.

Irene was born on the Pickrel family farm southwest of Moorefield, Neb., to Henry V. and Louise (Swanson) Pickrel.  Her father was a salesman for Standard Oil Corporation and during her childhood, the family lived in Imperial, Red Cloud, McCook and Wauneta, Neb. Irene was the 1939 Valedictorian of Wauneta’s graduating class. Since she was too young to begin her nursing program, she attended McCook Junior College for one year.  She then went on to the University of Nebraska’s School of Nursing and graduated with her R.N. degree in 1943.  Irene immediately went to work at St. Catherine’s Hospital in McCook.  Due to World War II and a nursing shortage, she frequently worked double shifts.

After WWII, Dr. E.F. Leininger, M.D. asked her to be his office nurse and this is when she met a cute red-headed railroader, Red Traphagan.  He asked her out on a date to a dance and three months later, they were married. 

When the polio epidemic came to McCook, Irene and her nursing friends organized the inoculation of McCook’s school children.  She continued to work part-time in the nursing field until she retired.    

Irene’s family was her first priority and she felt if she wasn’t at home she needed to be doing something purposeful.  She was a P.T.A. President at West Ward School; served on the Y.M.C.A. Board and fundraised for the Y.M.C.A.; developed a water therapy class to help people live pain-free lives; and taught water therapy classes, sometimes twice a day, for 30 years.  In 1985, Irene was awarded the “Agent of Change” award from the State American Association of the University of Nebraska Women.

Irene’s hobbies included reading, dancing, family get-togethers, fishing and winning a Master Angler Award, crewel embroidery, vacationing with her family and supporting all the Husker sports and professional baseball teams such as the Cardinals, Royals and Cubbies. 

Irene was preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Louise Pickrel; sister, Izetta Hardwick; and daughter-in-law, Kathy (Kotschwar) Traphagan.

She is survived by her husband of 71 years, Gerald Elwood (Red) Traphagan of McCook; daughter, Susan Yates of McCook; son, Jerry (Mary) Traphagan of Chadron, Neb; three grandchildren, Amy (Todd) Johnson, Ryan Traphagan and Lindsey (Glen) Cowie; four great-grandchildren, Trent and Ashlen Johnson and Liam and Iris Cowie; nieces, Beverly Brasel and Mary Lou (Gary) Bloomgren; and nephew, James (Janet) Hardwick.

Visitation will be one hour prior to the funeral service, beginning at 1 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Carpenter Breland Funeral Home, McCook.

A funeral service will be Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, 2 p.m., at Carpenter Breland Funeral Home Chapel, with Pastor Jeff Kelley officiating. 

Burial will be held in Memorial Park Cemetery, McCook, with a reception gathering to follow at the Cobblestone Hotel, McCook.

Memorial contributions may be made in Irene’s honor. 

Carpenter Breland Funeral Home has been entrusted with the arrangements.  Please visit our website at to leave your condolences for Irene’s family on her tribute wall.