WEST, Texas (KWTX) Funeral services have been scheduled for Mimi Montgomery Irwin, 74, a beloved businesswoman who owned the oldest Czech bakery in Texas, the Village Bakery in West.
(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
Irwin died unexpectedly Monday.
Visitation is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Aderhold Funeral Home Chapel at 808 South Reagan St. in West.
A memorial Mass is at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of the Assumption at 301 South Harrison St.
Burial will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Irwin was a West native whose parents started the Village Bakery in 1952.
She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with honors, started a retail merchandising career at Foley’s in Houston and rose to an executive post.
From there she moved to New York, where she spent 25 years as a vice president of what is now Macy’s Inc., but in 2003 she returned to West to take over the bakery after her father’s death.
"I don't think I know of anybody that didn't know Mimi Montgomery Irwin," said West Mayor Tommy Muska.
"That's what's so tragic about it was she worked so hard for all these years and to hear this - it was a shock."
Family and friends said Mimi was driving back to West from Waco when she started feeling sick; she pulled off the interstate in Elm Mott, then died a short time later.
"I think that was part of her downfall is she kept too busy, and when she got to feeling sick she wouldn't let her body have time," said Heidi Hills, a Village Bakery employee. "She'd always have to 'take care, take care' (of everybody else)."
Mimi belonged to countless charities and clubs, especially in her hometown of West where she graduated from high school before studying fashion at the University of Texas.
After college, she worked and traveled around the world but would always come home to West, eventually taking over the family business.
"She was so proud that it was the oldest Czech bakery in Texas," said Wilburn Willis.
A former Waco police officer and plumber whose stepson, Darryl Barton, is the Chief of Police in West, Willis first met Mimi when he took a post-retirement job driving for Waco Streak, an airport shuttle service between Waco and Dallas.
"She loved to travel, she was planning a trip to Africa next year," said Willis. "Mimi knew people all over, not only the United States, but in England and places like that, from the fashion world."
He learned his wife went to West HS with Mimi, and later became her personal driver when she'd travel around the state.
"I was blessed, I wasn't kin or anything, but she was part of the family," said Willis.
He was one of the last ones to talk to Mimi: she called him Monday morning to ask if he'd take her to the airport next week for a trip to Mexico.
"I told her I said 'Mimi, you sound so good,' and she said 'oh I'm feeling good Wilbur,' and that's why it was such a shock," he said about their conversation.
Employees were also caught off guard by her death.
"I'm kind of in shock and numb, I know it's true, but it's hard to say the words," said Hills.
Hills has worked for Mimi at the bakery since 2011.
"My goal and hope and prayer: I just want to keep the Village Bakery open for Mimi and for Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery, because I know this was their baby," said Hills.
The future of the bakery is unknown; on Tuesday there was a sign on the door that read "closed until further notice."
Mimi was an only child and didn't have any children, but she had a large extended family, many members of which live in Houston and were making their way to West Tuesday night to make funeral arrangements and handle her affairs.
"I still can't believe it, we lost a huge part of our community, she was so proud of her Czech heritage and family history as business leaders in West community," said Muska. "She was a delightful person, a very unique person, good sense of humor, and I don't know if that woman every turned down anyone's request for some extra kolaches, and so she had a servant's heart, and she will be sorely missed."
Hills said her boss would always reach out to others to help them in their time of need.
"What sticks out in my mind is if people passed away, she would send buchtas to the family members, and I'm confused as to what Mimi's going to get," Hills cried. "She always tried to help, she helped me and my family tremendously, she was an angel who got taken too soon."
She had a message for the woman she looked up to on earth who, she says, she'll now be looking up at in Heaven.
"Mimi I love you, and I just always want to make you proud of me," said Hills.