Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Laurel L Evelyn 1913-1967



I first met Laurel L Evelyn, when I was about fourteen. My mom and David and I lived in a basement apartment in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and David had become friends with Danny Daniels, who lived down the alley from us. Consequently, Mom had become friends with Bud and Betty Daniels. Laurel Evelyn was an old friend of theirs and they introduced Mom and Laurel.

I liked him from the first time I met him, because he was funny, joked a lot, and was easy to be around. Probably the best thing I liked about him was that I sensed that he liked me and David. When he came into our lives it got easier for my mom and that made life easier for us kids. It was a natural fit for us to become a family, and that is what we were. Mom and Laurel were married 21 December 1950 in Oshkosh, Garden County, Nebraska.

Laurel died 07 May 1967 at the age of 54 in Rapid City, Pennington County, South Dakota. He died in his sleep, from a heart attack. It was a shock for me, as I couldn’t imagine him not being in my life. He had been a father to me and saw me through so many of life’s experiences. There was one thing I could always count on, and that was his loyalty and love. It was definitely an honor to know him and to be loved by him.

Laurel Lyndon Evelyn was born 24 Apr 1913 in Minatare, Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska. He was the son of Edward C. and Agnes Fletcher Evelyn, both born in England. About 1930 he married Ruth Dixon of Gering, Nebraska and they had one son, Ronald. Ruth and Laurel later divorced. In 1960, my first husband and, I bought the old Dixon house at 1240 M Street, in Gering, Nebraska from Ruth’s father.

Laurel’s occupation was as a feed salesman, and I can testify that he was a great salesman. Once when I was about fourteen, I was home from school sick, and he asked if I would like to ride with him when he went out to a ranch north of Scottsbluff on a sales call. When we arrived at the ranch, the owner was in a belligerent mood, and he was not very cordial. He was very adamant about the fact that he did NOT want to buy any cattle feed!! I was sitting in the car listening, and I wondered when Laurel was going to get out of there. It made me very nervous to hear the rancher’s negative conversation. As I sat there, listening, I heard a change of tone in the rancher’s voice, and soon he was signing an order for many tons of cattle feed. It was a very skillful demonstration of perseverance and salesmanship. By the time we drove away, the rancher was in an entirely different mood than when we drove up to his barn. He became one of Laurel’s best repeat customers for several years to come.

Laurel had a way of helping me overcome my inferiority complex. When we moved into a larger apartment he told me to go to Demaranville’s Furniture Store and pick out what kind of bed and dresser I wanted in my room. I felt like a very special girl, and that was a new sensation. One day he gave me $20.00 and said I should go to Cheatum’s Dress Shop and buy something, anything I could with that much money. It was a first for me, that’s for sure and it made me very proud that someone thought that much of me. I bought a dark green skirt and a mint green sweater. It was beautiful!! I doubt $20.00 would even cover the sweater today, but this was 1950/1951. I felt very important as I walked home with my purchase.

He taught me how to drive in 1951 in his 1950 Ford. We were living on Avenue A in Scottsbluff and he had me practice clutching and shifting with the car not started. Eventually he let me do it with the car running. He was generous in letting me use his car when I needed (or wanted) it. He trusted me.

As a young woman I had a phobia about getting out on the dance floor. I was convinced that I could NOT dance. I would stiffen up and become very awkward and clumsy and I felt like a regular dunce. One evening when we were all eating at the Saddle Club in Scottsbluff, Laurel asked me to dance. He could sense my awkwardness, and he said “Just close your eyes, lean on my shoulder, and relax.” In a matter of minutes I was gliding around, perfectly at ease. He was a very good dancer, and made it easy for me to be one too.

Laurel battled one demon that was a very strong adversary. When I first met him he was in recovery from alcohlism and I never saw him drink until many years later. It was a battle he fought over and over in his life, and it was a lesson to me of how devastating this disease is. There could be no middle ground for him. It was sad to see such a fine person be a victim of this. Through it all, though, I never thought any less of him, because I knew what a fine man he was and that he loved me and my brother and my mother.

It is hard to express how much he meant to my life, and to my brother, also. He was the dad we needed at a very important time in our lives. Through the teenage years and when I was a young married woman, he was always there to help me through problems. He was generous and giving. When my two daughters were born, he assumed the role of “Grandaddy” to both of them. He loved to buy them frilly little dresses for their birthdays.

I remember the day he brought home two little Manchester Terrier/Chihuaha puppies. He put them in the big chair in their living room and told Cindy to pick which one she wanted. I can still see her standing there and studying the two wiggling and playful little puppies. After some serious thought she picked the black and white one, and that was Trixie. Trixie was in our family until after Cindy was grown and married.

When my brother David married, Laurel gave him a gift of an old panel truck to transport their belongings to their first job in Los Angeles. He was our father in every sense of the word.

I named my youngest daughter Laurel Ann, and it was in honor of him. Many folks called him Larry but I always called him Laurel, even though I wanted to call him “Dad”. I already had a dad in name, but Laurel was the real thing, and I don’t want to have him be forgotten. That, to me is the final end to a life, when you are forgotten. He and mom are both physically gone, but not gone from my memory. This blog allows me to share about them and for you to remember them as well, if only for a moment.

1 comment:

Apple said...

A wonderful tribute to Laurel! I think you were lucky to have him in your life but also that he was equally lucky to have found you and your family.

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