FAIRY TALES CAN COME TRUE
. . .WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG
When Mike Boylson signed up for an internet dating service he was looking for a woman who shared his love of classical music. “I wanted to find someone to go to a concert with me once in awhile,” he explains. “I hoped she might have international interests. It would help, too, if she could read without moving her lips.
Irene Perbal’s desires were more direct. She wanted to find a husband.
They both got lucky, but that’s getting ahead of the story.
You can say Irene’s life has been filled with excitement. Happy and sad times, but never dull ones.
It began with a drama that could have been scripted by Coppola. Six-years-old, Irene lived in Amsterdam when the Nazis invaded Holland. Her family, staunch patriots, took 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.
Mike’s childhood, though not as dramatic, was also tragic. He, too, lost a parent, then lived an erratic, pillar to post life, attending 12 schools in 12 years. At 17, Mike served as a combat crewman in the air wing of the Navy. “I loved being a bell bottomed sailor in WWII,” he says in retrospect. “The life was exciting, but also offered the first security, the first sense of family, I’d ever had.”
When the war ended, Irene’s mother moved the family to what was then the Belgian Congo. “I was 14,” Irene remembers. “It was a grand adventure. Africa was beautiful then. People were happy and friendly, the wild life was plentiful. It was wonderful.”
Mike continued to thrive in the Navy. At twenty, he married his sweetheart on her 18th birthday. The two spent the early months of their marriage on a small island in Micronesia. Later he was selected for the Seaman to Admiral program and was graduated
from officers candidate school. The couple had two daughters.
Meanwhile, Irene had grown up, married and was living on a tea plantation in the hills. Once again, it was a movie script life. Elephants, buffaloes and three children. It was a busy life—Irene taught hygiene and first aid to employees—but an idyllic one until the Congo received its independence.
“Suddenly things got scary,” Irene recalls. “Several of our friends were murdered. We ran for their lives. We went back to Europe but my husband hated it. What to do next? Suddenly an agricultural co-op in Brazil looked awfully good.”
It meant learning another language—Portuguese—but by this time Irene was good at that. So good that she began working as a translator at the Netherlands Embassy in Brasilia. She went on to translate at the Treaty of the Amazon Countries and founded a cultural institute. “It was a fabulous experience,” she recalls. “I worked with heads of state, members of royal families, all kinds of movers and shakers.”
During this same time period, while serving as an admiral’s attaché, Mike, too, met a fair share of the world’s high rollers. By 1964, he had completed twenty years of military service. Thirteen days after his retirement, Mike enrolled as a freshman in the first undergraduate class of UCSD. “By then I knew lots about technology so I majored in philosophy with a minor in literature,” he remembers.
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 just one more adventure. Of course it meant having to learn new language, but what was English after Swahili?”
Irene moved to Jackson four years ago, started an alternative medicine business and remarried. After only eight months of marriage, her husband died. “I believe that somehow we were meant to meet so that I could help
him through that time,” she says today. He died in April 2003.
Meanwhile, Mike and his family had moved to Manton where he became involved in alternative energy. Eventually Mike wrote the laws, rules and regulations for energy tax credits to California under Governor Jerry Brown.
In 1985 when a serious health problem prevented his traveling, Mike took on a stay at home project. He became the technology coordinator for the area’s school system. “What that meant,” he explains, “is that I was their computer guy.” Mike was concerned that local kids were growing up with no knowledge of computers.
In an attempt to remedy that lack, he badgered companies into donating old computers. Then went out and wrote grants to obtain news 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.
In August 2003 Mike’s wife died. Having survived a near death experience himself, he was determined to live whatever life was left him as fully as possible. It was this that prompted him to join the music lovers exchange. In November—on Armistice Day—Mike met Irene.
“Neither of us has to be reticent about discussing our previous spouses or the grieving process. We each understand perfectly,” she says, “besides we have so much in common.”
It looked like a bingo for both of them except that Irene had to return to Brazil in December to take care of business. “You can’t leave now. We just met!” Mike protested. Then he considered, “I’d always wanted to go to Brazil.” The next month he followed her there.
The two toured Brazil together for a month, came back home, and married in April 2004. Irene and Mike Bolyson live now in a charming hilltop cottage in Mokelumne Hill. Just one more adventure for both of them.
Oh, yes, they’re both very active in Mother Lode Friends of Music.