Edith Irvine, co-founder of Black Angus Steakhouses, dies of coronavirus at the age of 100

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Edith Irvine was the person at a dinner party everyone wanted to sit next to.

“She knew how to make people feel special,” says Irvine’s niece, Linda Butterfield.

She was known to co-start the Black Angus line of steakhouses with Stuart Anderson (third of Mrs. Irvine’s five husbands), but that was just one high point of her long, colorful life.

Ms. Irvine was born in December 1919 during the Spanish flu and died on April 29 at the age of 100 from complications from the coronavirus.

Ms. Irvine moved her family from Spokane to Seattle when she was 3 and lived an incredibly rich life: living in a Quonset cabin in Alaska, going on safari in Africa, and floating down the Amazon.

She graduated from West Seattle High School, followed by Edison Technical School. She mastered the comptometer – a complicated accounting device in front of the computer – and worked as an accountant for Safeway, Boeing and Arco.

Ms. Irvine has been married five times in her 100 years, but as Butterfield says, “This is not the story of her life, really.”

For Butterfield, her aunt Edie was the one who always took the time to ask how you were doing. She had a sense of adventure and enjoyed traveling, camping, and sailing. She once sent Butterfield and her sister Nancy, a coconut from Hawaii.

“She just wrote our address right on it and mailed it out,” says Butterfield with a laugh. “She never missed a birthday or holiday, cards arrived in the mail and still smelled of her perfume. She loved getting dressed and going to lunch, loved art shows and a good gin and tonic. “Edie was always ready for fun.”

Mrs. Irvine and husband Stuart Anderson lived in two rooms at the Caledonia Hotel in downtown Seattle on the corner of Union Street and Seventh Avenue. Anderson owned the hotel and operated the Ringside Room, which later became the French Quarter.

In 1964, the couple opened the first Black Angus Steakhouse and served a full steak dinner for $ 2.95. Ms. Irvine made the tablecloths and uniforms for the cocktail waitresses and helped design the iconic square cow logo while doing the bookkeeping.

Once a cocktail waitress didn’t show up for a shift and Ms. Irvine was right there serving drinks.

“It was invested. She said Stu had a dream and she wanted to help him see that dream, ”says Butterfield.

In Anderson’s 1997 memoir, “Here’s the Beef, My Story of Beef,” there is a photo of Anderson and Mrs. Irvine in full evening gown, seated at a table with a white tablecloth and surrounded by cattle. The restaurant grew quickly, adding a dozen websites and starting a trend in western-themed restaurants. The couple sold the chain to Saga in 1972.

Anderson and Ms. Irvine were members of the Seattle Yacht Club, something Ms. Irvine held onto after her divorce in 1976.

“Originally they did not allow women to be members alone, but she argued that she had the same right to be members as men. Then it became the standard practice, ”says Butterfield.

Mrs. Irvine owned a 30-foot sailboat – which she did not operate herself – Butterfield’s father Walter often served as her captain. The club was the location for Ms. Irvine’s 100th birthday party, where friends shared stories about how they used to pull up their heels with Ms. Irvine at Vito’s on Capitol Hill.

Butterfield says that although Ms. Irvine was legally blind and had some memory problems towards the end of her life, “she loved being with people until the end”. She liked to drive past the houses she’d lived in, go out to lunch, and talk to everyone she met.

“For me, she was just the special person in my life. Very generous, very loving, ”says Butterfield.

Jackie Varriano
covers the food scene in the Seattle neighborhoods. She loves engaging with stories that discuss why we eat the things we do – and when – in our region and beyond. Her very first article was a gossip column for her YMCA summer camp in 1990. You can reach her at [email protected] On Twitter: @JackieVarriano.

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