To Evelyn: A Memorial Letter from Bill

To Evelyn:

I first met Evelyn in 1938 at the University of Oregon. She had been at USC but didn’t like it because it didn’t have her idea of a campus. She and her mother had driven from LA to Wenatchee to visit her brother Sal, and on the way back went through Eugene and got a good look at the campus. It met her idea, and she promptly decided to transfer.

She lived in Susan Campbell Hall, whose residents ate their meals in John Straub Hall, where I resided. Her roommate went with a boy in my dorm, so I had some idea of who she was. The next year she brought her car up, a 1938 Dodge. It happened that I had bought an old 1922 Dodge touring car for $10 from a junkyard, so I jokingly suggested she take a ride in a “good” car for a change.

That’s how it all got started.

That fall, a bunch of us decided to take the old Dodge to Stanford for a football game. But the old car couldn’t make it and burned out the bearings going over the Siskiyous. We had to leave it beside the road and hitchhiked to Stanford. We pooled our resources and took a Dollar Line bus back to Eugene. I then bought a 1928 Chevy from a farmer. It had been out in the rain too much and was a bit spoiled inside. Evelyn and a friend bought some khaki cloth and put it over the upholstery, and it was fine.

By this time we were going “steady” and I’ll never forget how we got engaged. We had been to a movie in downtown Eugene and were walking up the street when she stopped in front of a jewelry store. She pointed to an engagement ring and said, “When are you going to get me one of those?” It didn’t have any stone in it, and I said I could probably afford the ring (at $8), but I couldn’t afford a diamond. She said, “I just happen to have one,” and that was it.

She graduated in 1939, and I had another year to go. Evelyn told her folks she wanted to take some graduate courses so she could teach, and she came back up to Eugene for the year. She and her two roommates took a small apartment in a house nearby, and we all had a fun year, during which she informed me she had picked the date of September 2 for the wedding.

I had been given a fellowship in the Journalism School ($500 a year), so after a brief honeymoon at the Miramar in Santa Barbara and a stop at Crater Lake, we rented a little house in Eugene for $25 a month and started housekeeping. We bought a black cocker spaniel we named Smoky and a little Fox terrier to keep him company.

When the year was over, we moved to Portland and rented a house there. Our first baby came along the week before Pearl Harbor. We moved many more times while I was in the Navy, and through it all, Evelyn brought the two little boys along and never complained about anything.

In Salem, our life took a turn that lasted more than 50 years. Shortly after I joined the Salem Country Club, Evelyn complained that I was gone every weekend while she was stuck at home with the kids. So I told her to offer Rose, the lady across the street, a deal—Evelyn would take care of Rose’s kids one day a week if she would reciprocate. Needless to say, Rose jumped at it—and Evelyn found herself on the golf course.

Partners on the links and in life, we celebrated our 65th anniversary last year. This February was Evelyn’s 90th birthday.

I miss you—



2006 August 19

Infinity Symbol