seeing the harder side of life, from early on
You can say Irene Perbal-Boylson’s life has been filed with excitement, happy and sad times, but never dull ones.
It began with a drama that might easily have been scripted by Francis Ford Coppola, but was instead up close and tragically personal. Six-years-old, Irene lived with her family in Amsterdam when the Nazis invaded Holland. The Perbals, staunch patriots, took an active part in the resistance. Irene’s father hid a Jewish family in the house and was discovered. The child saw her father hauled away by German soldiers. He never came back.
When the war ended, Irene’s mother married a Belgian and the family moved to the Congo.
“I was 14,” Boylson recalled. “It was a grand adventure. Africa was a beautiful country then. People were happy and friendly, the wild life was plentiful. I loved everything, though going to a new school was a challenge – I didn’t speak a work of French.”
She learned very well. Four years later Irene returned to Belgium speaking five languages – French, Dutch, English and two African dialects.
“I’d discovered by then that I really liked language,” she said. “I wanted to train to become a translator.”
The only problem was Irene’s sweetheart back in the Congo. Not too surprisingly, she returned to Africa. The couple was married and bought a tea plantation in the hills. Once again, a movie script life, only this time a romance, filled with elephants, buffaloes and three children. It was a busy life – Irene taught hygiene and first aid to employees and nearby families – but an idyllic one until the Congo received its independence.
“Suddenly things got scary,” Boylson said. “Several of our friends were murdered. All around us people were running for heir lives. It was a sad time for me. I loved Africa. My husband, certain that things would get better, insisted it was only a matter of time before I could return. Instead it was he who joined me in Belgium.”
What to do next?
“My husband hated Europe,” she recalled. “When we were approached about an agricultural co-op in Brazil, it looked awfully good.”
For Irene it meant learning another language – Portuguese – but by this time she was good at it. So good that she began working as a translator at the Netherlands Embassy in Brasilia.
Irene went on to translate at the Treaty of the Amazon countries in 1980 and founded a cultural institute.
“It was a wonderful, exciting time,” she said. “I worked with heads of state, members of royal families, and all kinds of movers and shakers.”
Irene’s life in Brazil ended with her marriage.
“My daughter, Magali McGreevy, was living in Glencoe with her husband, Patrick. Moving to the Gold Rush country seemed like one more adventure.”
Irene moved to Jackson, California in 2000 and started an alternative medicine business and remarried. She remarried. Sadly, in April, 2003, after only eight months of marriage, Irene’s husband died.
“I believe that somehow we were meant to meet, so that I could help him through that time.” Irene said.
While Irene was moving to Glencoe, Michael Boylson and his family had moved to Manton, near Redding, where he became involved in alternative energy. Eventually he helped to write California’s laws, rules and regulations for energy-tax credits under Governor Jerry Brown.
In 1985 when a serious health problem prevented his traveling, Boylson took on a stay-at-home project, becoming the technology coordinator for the Manton Joint Union Elementary School District. “What that meant,” he explains “is that I was their computer guy.”
Boylson badgered companies into donating old computers, then went out and wrote grants to obtain new ones. As a result of his efforts, every child in Manton Joint Union Elementary School District now has a new computer and a CD with 120 programs.
He, also, suffered a tragic loss. Michael’s wife died August 2003. Having experienced a near-death experience himself, he was determined to live whatever life was left him as fully as possible. It was his that prompted him to join the music lover’s exchange, where he happened across a woman named Irene.
A love story
The following November – on Veterans Day – Irene and Michale Boylson, who had already connected online through the classical music exchange, met in person.
“Neither of us has to be reticent about discussing our previous spouses or the grieving process. We each understood perfectly,” she says. “Besides we had so much in common.”
It looked like a match for both of them – until Irene revealed she had to return to Brazil in December 2004 to take care of business.
“You can’t leave now. We just met” Michael protested. Then he considered, “I’d always wanted to go to Brazil.” So the next month he followed her there.
The two toured Brazil together for a month, came back home, as married in April
Just one more adventure for the both of them.
The solar cookers
Michael and Irene returned to Brazil in November 2005. This trip was mainly for visiting family and friends, do some prospecting for merchandise to be sold in our Mokelumne Hill store, and also for tourism and sightseeing.
But since they were always looking for a way to make our life meaningful, Michael and Irene decided to take a dozen of Solar Cookers to Brazil and demonstrate how to use and how to make them, in order to help low income people, who have to buy expensive bottled gas, with means to use the abundant and free solar energy for their cooking.
To their surprise 2 TV channels wanted to make a program with the demonstrations. They ended up doing more than 52 demonstrations during their3 month stay.
Irene’s friends from the Rotary Club in Brasilia invited Irene and Michael to one of their meetings, and put them in touch with several local establishment, among them the Boy Scouts.
They met with a great diversity of people and organizations including the Sustainable Regional Development Plan of the Banco.
“When we started our trip we could not expect to become part of something far bigger than imagined,” said Irene. “The profound interaction between people, ecology and social welfare was a lesson in humanity. We didn’t know that bringing home objects for the gallery in Mokelumne Hill would have such an impact on the social issues of several needy Brazilian communities. But we are proud of being able to offer some help!”
“After I had some home I saw a write up in the Rotary newsletter about how during our solar cooker demonstrations, we called the attention to the fact that with the solar cooker it is possible to pasteurize contaminated water and make it safe for drinking. Solar Cookers International had invented the “WAPI”, a very simple and cheap device for monitoring when the water reacheds the pasteurizing point. We felt that this, and the cookers, should be readily available in times of disaster like earthquakes, tsunamis, in refugee camps and so on.”
“Sustainability requires courage” said a journalist in Brazil, “because we are talking about a new culture, new politics and a new model or management.”