LONG ISLAND – Renowned for her creative salad making, Irene “Honey” Honey probably has salad bowls scattered among many homes on Long Island.

“Everyone who invited her to dinner always knew to ask Honey to bring a salad,” said her friend of 31 years, Mary Jane McCalmon, a former superintendent of Portland schools.

She often teased Mrs. Honey about how she put every nut or sprig she could find into any salad, but she said everything her friend made was delicious.

Mrs. Honey, a resident of Long Island, died Saturday after falling into the water from a dock on the island. She was 63.

Born a twin in Boston, Mrs. Honey got her nickname “Honey” long before she met her husband, Tim Honey, Portland’s former city manager.

Her parents were surprised by the twin birth, and before they could name her, the nurses called her “Honey” and her brother “Joe,” her husband said.

Her brother was later named Joseph, but her own given name of Irene never stuck.

In the late 1960s, she met Tim Honey while studying for her master’s degree in higher education administration at Syracuse University, where his father was a vice president. The night they met, he joked with her about her nickname and his last name.

“We fell in love very quickly,” he said. “She was the love of my life.”

The couple married in 1971, sold all of their possessions and used the money for a 4½-month backpacking trip in Africa. They came to love the continent, and returned at least two dozen times.

With her zest for life, Mrs. Honey enjoyed working with youths. She had a successful career in student development and career counseling for students at many universities.

The couple moved to Maine in 1977, when Tim Honey accepted a position as assistant city manager in Portland. He was later appointed city manager.

During that time, Mrs. Honey was dean of students in the University of Southern Maine’s College of Education. She later moved to the career counseling office.

“She had a huge insight into people. She always urged people to find their passions and their dreams,” her husband said.

While they moved often throughout their marriage, Mrs. Honey and her husband went to Long Island whenever they could.

“As we traveled, that was our anchor,” he said. The couple moved there in 2007.

About 15 years ago, Mrs. Honey and her husband took their passion for Africa and her passion for helping youths and adopted a small primary school in Soweto, a township in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“We decided we could do a small thing,” he said. “We stopped giving Christmas presents and we took the money that we would have spent to do a project at the school every year.”

Over the years, they installed showers and bathrooms for the children, created playgrounds for two age groups, rebuilt the school’s library, and brought computer systems and training to the school.

Through their efforts, Mrs. Honey and her husband got their entire family and many friends involved.

Mrs. Honey enjoyed creating and appreciating works of art. She was known to paint landscapes of the sun setting over Casco Bay and of the family’s garden.

Her husband said she also painted Mount Kilimanjaro during a trip to Africa with their family in celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary.

On the night before her death, Mrs. Honey and her husband walked the streets of Portland for the First Friday Art Walk.

“Portland was just thriving, and she was just beaming,” he said. “She was saying, ‘What a wonderful city.’“

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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