Irma Lee Westrell

Obituary of Irma Lee Westrell

Irma Lee was born in Paducah, KY in 1920. In high school, she participated in the debate team. They traveled to compete with other schools in their region, including nearby states, and she and her partner never lost a debate.  

She moved to Washington DC just before World War II and worked for the US Navy. Her intelligence and abilities were recognized as essential to the war efforts, and she was promoted to greater and greater responsibilities. No mere typist or secretary, they were a bit embarrassed to ask her to type a weather report, however, she was the only one with a high enough security clearance to see it. It was the meteorological forecast for D-Day. 

At war’s end, a former Navy boss recruited her to work with the team developing the Marshall Plan. She worked there until 1948, when she married Harlan Axel Westrell (Wes). He had returned from the war in Japan and started working for the fledgling CIA. They had 3 kids in rapid succession: Nancy, Kirk, and Karen Westrell.  

When the family returned from a 3-year CIA tour of duty in Frankfurt, Germany, she went back to work-- first for the First Baptist Church in Washington, then back to the US Navy working with a research team. She finished her career working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, having regained the Federal rank she’d given up upon getting married.  

She lived in the family home bought in 1962 in Bethesda, MD, for 58 years. After her husband’s death in 2003, she continued to be independent and active there. She moved to Oregon to be with her kids, renting an apartment in an independent living facility, when she was 98. At the same time, she gave up driving.  

She had a stroke in May of 2022, and moved to a new assisted living home, Miracle Heights in Happy Valley, OR. She recovered well from the stroke and continued to stay on top of the news and the lives of her family and friends. She died there on March 24, peacefully in her sleep, with family by her side. She is survived by her 3 children, Karen Westrell (Bill Rosser), Kirk Westrell, and Nancy Westrell; grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and many friends.  

In Lieu of flowers, to honor Irma Lee, the family requests that you live your life with confidence and empathy for others. If you still wish to make a memorial donation, you may do so to the Oregon Food Bank or Planned Parenthood.

Share Your Memory of
Irma Lee