Irene Rock Zindel was born in 1917 in Dixon, Iowa, the only child of Hilda and Albert Rock. She grew up on the family farm and attended a one-room country school until the age of fourteen. She continued her education by boarding in Davenport, Iowa, and graduated from high school in 1935. She was a member of the Tri Mu 4-H Club of Scott County, Iowa, in the 1930s. She won a trip to the national 4-H Congress in Chicago where she participated in a national cherry pie baking contest. In 1939 she married Ralph Zindel and the couple raised two children. Irene Zindel was a 4-H leader, Sunday school teacher, and served on the Home Extension Council. She also held several different offices in the Scott County Farm Bureau and twice attended national Farm Bureau women's conferences.