Evelyn Josephine (Heath) Hicks
Evelyn was born on Sept. 18, 1926 to James Oran Heath, Sr. and Florence Vera Taylor Heath. As delighted as her parents were to welcome this little angel they could never have dreamed what a gift she would be to countless others. Evelyn was a quiet unassuming person but "still waters run deep" is a good way to describe her. Thanks to her passion to gather the history of life; she left behind volumes of events, personal anecdotes, journal clippings, photographs and pictures … the sort of which are usually left to memories. And memories are fleeting.
So the following is an attempt to share some of the highlights from those very collections.
Her parents, Oran and Florence, were married on Dec. 23, 1923 and began their life together in the Irving Community. Oran was a farmer. Life was much different 97 years ago!! We can't begin to understand how hard life was back then. Those who chose farming were an exceptional breed.
Their first born was a girl on Oct. 23, 1924. Tragically she was stillborn. Florence said she was the prettiest baby. One of Florence's saddest memories was seeing Oran standing there crying, with little Valreece in his arms.
Life went on and the couple moved up to Carnegie, OK in fall of 1924. If you look on a map you will see it is 107.5 miles and it would take 2 hrs. 20 minutes to drive there. Now, imagine how long it to would take driving two wagons, pulled by mules and horses along with a borrowed school truck. It took them 4 or 5 days!! Stopping along the way…once in the yard of some kind people until the weather improved.
Evelyn was born there in 1926. The family lived there with Oran farming until the fall of 1929 when Florence's mother, Grandma Taylor, was diagnosed with breast cancer. They packed up and moved back to the Irving Community so Florence could help care for her mother.
It wasn't long until they moved to the little 80 acre farm just 1/2 mile west of the current Irving Baptist church. Oran and Florence worked extremely hard to finalize the purchase on this place by 1937 or 1938. This place is still owned and operated by the family. The family lived there, working hard to support themselves. Oran raised cotton as his main crop, had milk cows and hogs. Florence had a large garden, chickens, and in later years a re-upholstery business in a small shop beside the house. Oran often said if it weren't for the milk cows, chickens and garden they would have starved to death. James was born June 25, 1938. With his arrival the little family was complete.
Evelyn worked right alongside her mother even picking cotton in the hot, dry, dusty fields. The church was the foundation for the community. Their shared faith strengthened and supported everyone. This helped Evelyn to become the woman we knew. Evelyn's journals tell much about this life. Information includes how the hogs were butchered, other food obtained – including many fishing trips down on the Red River. She was a good student and enjoyed school. One journal contains numerous report cards that document this. One enjoyable story in her journals tells about dresses made for the school banquet. Money was short so the girls made gowns for it using crepe paper. They used old material for the body of the dresses and used the crepe paper for ruffles. They never had proms in those days because dancing was forbidden. My, my…how times have changed.
She attended Irving Consolidated School from first grade until she graduated in 1944. She promptly enrolled at Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha. Beginning on Sept. 11, 1944 and attended classes until the summer of 1946. Evelyn was a hard worker and immediately began teaching at Ryan. She taught Home Economics from 1946-1947.
It was about this time that her life changed. John W. Hicks, a U.S. Navy seaman on leave after serving with the Pacific fleet during WWII, came to the Irving community to visit his brother. I don't know how they met but it must have been love at first sight because they were married on May 3, 1947.
John had to leave immediately and report to the Naval Medical School in Bethesda, Maryland. Evelyn remained behind until she finished her teaching assignment then immediately joined her new husband arriving in Bethesda on May 27, 1947. Can you imagine how she must have felt?
John remained in the US Navy for 20 years, retiring in 1961. During that time the couple lived in Washington, D.C. three times, Oahu, Hawaii twice, and Bethesda, Maryland. A long way from Oklahoma. She did return to Oklahoma College for Women in 1955-1956 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956.
Upon John's retirement, they came to Waurika where they bought their home on Florida Street. They lived there until 2018. During that time Evelyn worked at the Dept. of Human Services. Her first day was Jan. 18, 1962 where she was a case worker. When she retired on April 11, 1986 she was the Social Services Supervisor. During the 24-plus years she had worked in almost all of the positions in the office.
Always a hard worker, Evelyn began volunteering at DHS until April 16, 1999. She was extremely active in her church, Waurika Baptist Church. A devoted faithful member, serving on various committees, preparing food, working anyplace she could. She and John were always generous with financial support, as well. She was active in the local Sorosis Club devoting her time and many talents wherever she could.
Immediately upon her return to Waurika in 1961, Evelyn became a huge support to her mother and father. She spent countless hours with them. She was a loving caring daughter for the remainder of their lives.
John and Evelyn did not have any children, so when her brother, James and his wife had a precious baby boy in 1963 she became more than just an aunt. Eric Heath was always deeply loved by Evelyn. And later that attachment spread to include Eric's wife, Becky, and their two daughters.
As the years went by, John and Evelyn needed to make some adjustments. So in 2018 they gave up their home on Florida Street and moved to Chisholm Trail Assisted Living residence in Duncan. They rented a very nice two bedroom apartment there. Life was easier there as good meals were prepared, housekeeping and laundry services provided, hairdresser on site and professional caregivers always on hand.
John's health rapidly declined and he passed away June 29, 2018. Evelyn adjusted to this loss well and continued on with her life. She was always so sweet and kind…all of the staff complimented her often. She seemed happy and content. But as often happens, when she fell and broke her hip in Jan. 2020 things changed for Evelyn. She was unable to recover from the fall and her overall health rapidly declined. So she passed away June 2, 2020 …after more than 93 years. Such a rich life. Full of love and devotion. What a blessing and a joy she was to so many.
Now, let us look at the mark Evelyn left behind. Sort of like fingerprints. We all touch others and leave lasting impressions. Evelyn did this. Everywhere she went, everyone she came in contact with was affected by her in some way. She left her loving "fingerprint" on those she knew. Her life was made up by the many countless "finger prints" she left behind through her words and actions.
Evelyn left behind her brother, James and his wife Susan, her nephew Dr. Eric Heath and his wife Becky of Winner, SD, her great nieces Emily Vino of Portland, OR and Kallista Kidd of Manhattan, NY.
Memorial services will be held Sept. 21, 2020 at 11 AM at Waurika Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the church.