Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Special to The Oakland Press

Irene Gauthier, the founder of Irene’s Myomassology Institute of Southfield, who took a holistic approach to massage therapy, died Monday at the age of 90.

Holistic health was a tradition of Gauthier’s, and she gained knowledge passed down from her father and grandfather.

She is survived by four children, Kathy Gauthier, the executive director of the Irene’s Myomassology Institute, Yvonne Gauthier, Lynn Gauthier and William Gauthier.

“She’s been a legend in the massage world,” said Eric Crytzer, administrative director of Irene’s Myomassology Institute. “She’s been teaching since 1975 in the U.S. and traveled all over the world.”

She started a beauty shop in the 1950s, where she began massaging clients while in the chairs. Crytzer said people would come in more for her massages.

After selling the beauty shop, she began taking massage courses and developed myomassology as a comprehensive healing art. Myomassology includes therapeutic methods of Swedish massage, craniosacral therapy, which relieves tension by gentle manipulations of the skull, reflexology and body mechanics.

She traveled around the country and internationally to learn about massage therapy.

“She was so enamored with techniques she learned, and she wrote her own textbook,” Crytzer said.

Gauthier founded the Myomassology Institute in 1987 when she acquired a commercial state license for her massage school.

And since then, she has shared her knowledge with students and has taught thousands of therapists in her life. At the age of 90, she continued to visit and work with students and clients.

In June, for her 90th birthday party, current and former students met at the Myomassology Institute on Franklin Road in Southfield and attempted to break a Guinness record for the world’s longest shoulder massage chain.

She was devoted to ecology and the green movement and was an animal rights activist and vegetarian.

She was very much behind making the school great and bought green appliances and Energy Star-rated equipment, Crytzer said.

“Irene has for years and years sponsored children through Plan USA,” he said. Instead of flowers, she requested donations in her name to Plan USA, he said.

A public service will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at Shriners Auditorium at 24350 Southfield Road in Southfield.

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