Irving Penso

Born: Fri., May 24, 1946
Died: Thu., Jan. 24, 2019

Services are to be announced

Print Obituary   Home Page All Obituaries

Music by The Piano Brothers

A lover of life, an advocate for peace and justice, a lifelong volunteer and teacher, a devoted friend, father, grandfather and partner, Irving Samuel Penso has departed this Earth. Irving spent his last days at home, with his family, whom he loved dearly.

In his 72 years, Irving made an impact on all who knew him. He was a giver of whatever one needed, whenever one needed it. A poetic soul, he drew people in with his wisdom and his innate emotional intelligence. Over the course of his life, Irving filled the role of counselor, confidant, guide, listener and at times, father, to so many.

A native of Atlanta, Irving attended Morningside Elementary and then Grady High School. He went on to attend Georgia State University, where he studied English and planted the seeds of the future grammarian and bibliophile he would become.

In 1968, Irving joined the Peace Corps. He served in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, where he developed a deep love for different cultures and languages. Irving spoke fluent Portuguese, along with Spanish, bits of French and various words and phrases in Ladino, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Italian and Korean, among other languages.

Upon returning from Brazil, Irving spent a short time as a teacher at Anne E. West Elementary School. He was known there for his charisma, his caring nature and for his distinctive curly hair and full beard.

Eventually, Irving followed his passion for other cultures and for teaching to ELS Language Centers, in Atlanta. In his 37-year tenure at ELS, he served in both teaching and administrative positions, touching the lives of nearly 10,000 students from all over the world.   Irving often became an advisor for students and for his coworkers, who found comfort in his compassion.

ELS is also where Irving met his dear Jan. His voice carried the same passion and excitement no matter how many times he told the story of the first moment he met her.

Jan and Irving married on a hot day in June at Winn Park in Atlanta. Years later, they would continue to celebrate their anniversaries there, and the park would also become the site of family picnics and play outings once their daughters, Becca and Lillia, were born.

Irving’s passion for giving manifested itself through a long career of volunteerism. He was very politically active, lending his voice and presence to causes from voting rights to reproductive justice to immigrant rights and environmental protection. He also spent nearly a decade as a volunteer with Hospice Atlanta.

He was an avid learner and a voracious reader and began attending Georgia State University once again in his sixties as part of the GSU 62 program. He took his coursework very seriously and though he didn’t have to earn a grade, he insisted on doing so.

Above all else, Irving valued and loved his family, the most important entity in his life. He was devoted to making them happy, ensuring they were always well fed, that they were appreciated and that they were noticed. Irving never missed an opportunity to let them know how much he loved them, through both prolific spoken and written words.

Irving never sought the limelight, though he was often the reason things happened. He lived to make others happy and it was rare to see someone around him not smiling.

Irving is survived by his wife of 39 years, Jan Callum,  his daughters, Becca and Lillia Callum-Penso,  son-in-law Shannon McKamey,  grandchildren, Miles and Ella Penso-McKamey,  brother, Elliott Penso and sister-in-law, Pescha Penso, and a number of dear nieces and nephews.

He also leaves many many friends.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to any of the following:


El Refugio -


Atlanta Community Food Bank -

Georgia WAND -

Doctors Without Borders -

Click to send flowers using our local area florist
Direct website to florist ordering, saving on wire fees
View/Sign the Condolence Book
Your Name:
Your Email:
  Allows family to respond to your message.Emails are not published at this web site.
Message of condolence:
Please note: messages are subject to review before being posted at this web site
 Add Condolence     Cancel

Please note: messages are subject to review before being posted at this web site

Image: dan /

Copyright © 2021 Phoenix Funeral Services, Inc.. All Rights Reserved.    | Website by CFS |

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use