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Bristol bar bids farewell to a devoted music fan

BRISTOL — Irene Lawrence acquired a few nicknames during her 33 years in Bristol.

To the town residents she greeted from her porch — or from out front of the Corner Store or Main Street Diner — she was known as the “Bench Hugger.”

So strong were the 87-year-old’s spirit and will to live that her doctor called her the “bounce-back kid.”

Her grandchildren called her “Nana.”

But for a few sweet minutes toward the end of every Friday night at Hatch 31 on Main Street she was just “Irene.”

“Good night, Irene,” Hatch’s Friday bluegrass band sang to her just before she went home for the evening. “Irene, good night.”

“The Hatch was her community, and we always loved her and cared for her,” said Lonny Edwards, who plays bass with the Friday night band. “She loved the band and she loved it when we sang ‘Goodnight, Irene.’ It was very special for her.”

So special, in fact, that on Irene’s very last Friday night, Jan. 3, as she lay quietly in a bed at Porter Medical Center, the folks at Hatch found a way to bring the music to her.


Toward the end of her life, Irene Lawrence was known for her devotion to Hatch 31’s live music scene.

“One of the fondest memories I have is when Irene attended one of my blues trio shows last year,” said local musician Tom Caswell. “Her eyes were fixed on the band all night and the music was flowing through her. She just loved music and Hatch 31. It was a joy to play for her.”

Irene especially loved country and bluegrass music, said her granddaughter Michelle Kilbreth.

Sometimes, though, Irene would discover new favorites through her grandchildren.

“One day I was listening to (musician) Kid Rock in the car and she was getting into it, clapping her hands on

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