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Evie: A Life to Celebrate
Nicholas Johnson

Note:  This is a text of remarks prepared for a memorial service for Evelyn Margaret Sherman Chapman, who lived from May 28, 1908, to February 3, 1998.  There are plans, indefinite at this point, for the preparation of a "memorial Web page" for her, with pictures and other material.  First name references throughout are to family members present on the occasion.  The service was held at the Cedar Memorial Chapel, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, February 7, 1998.

For well over half a century Evie has been a major influence in my life:  a source of encouragement, a loyal and supporting friend through it all, a role model of the best of human values, and, not incidentally, simply a great delight.

In my early years she was my second mother.  In my middle years she was my mother-in-law.  And in my later years she was to play that role once again.

She made me feel a part of this family.

As a young boy, our beloved Karen was my classmate.  Jocelyn was my good friend as well, and went to our school.

Andi was relatively well behaved at that time.  She had not yet learned how to crawl out of her crib.

How far she has come!

Indeed, in recent months -- when it has been Evie who has had to spend much of her time in bed -- we are all indebted to Andi for the hours and hours of loving care she and Joe have provided Evie, in hundreds of ways, on behalf of all of us.

And then Craig was born.  We were in high school.  Evie's life hung in the balance that night.  I will never forget the tears I shed then out of fear we might lose her.  She came through; she had another half of her life to live.  And her love and gratitude for Craig could not have been greater.

As the years went by, there were grandchildren to increase her joy:  Jocie and Ken's Jeff and Flint, Craig and Sherry's Abe, Cara and Anna, and the blessings Karen provided me in Julie, Sherman and Gregory.

Then there were great grandchildren: Tyler, Aaron and  Sean, Laura and Sara, and Greg and Val's Jordan and Lexie.

And two days ago a great great grandchild was born:  Laura's Nia.

Along the way the partners of all were welcomed by Evie into this growing, extended family.

Paul Carter and I -- in turn -- were each blessed with times in which Evie lived in our homes, times we both treasure in our friendship today.

Evie valued education.  She earned a college degree from a top quality college at a time in this century when not many women did so.  She remained well-read and well-informed.  She worked as a journalist.  And she brought a good writer's eye to all about her:  not only observing every detail but, seemingly, never forgetting one.

Coupled with her energy, optimistic outlook, ready smile, civility -- and, yes, class -- her memory and mastery of the language made her the model of the oral tradition, a story teller without peer.

And her stories were always kindly, flattering and  encouraging of others.

Often they were about us.

She told me of the day she came to visit Karen's classroom at the University Elementary school and picked me out as a potential son-in-law.  I so enjoyed the story that I never pushed her as to its truth.  I didn't care.  It was a good story.

Because I did, ultimately, become a son-in-law and, as my good luck would have it, son-in-law for life.

After I had been living alone for nearly 20 years, Evie decided that the time had come for me to get married again, and told me so.  This was not a casual thought on her part.  Having selected my first wife, she had now selected my second -- one of her best friends, the Mary Vasey from whom you have just heard.

I cannot recall during my lifetime, ever, having heard anyone say a critical thing about Evelyn Chapman.  And she returned the judgment of those she met along the way.

We do not, we cannot, always live up to her standards, her values.  But we are better for having been exposed to them.

And because we give to each other at least a measure of her good will for all, this wonderful extended family continues to grow -- indeed, we never seem to reject anyone! -- with Mary's first husband, Bill Grubbe, and their son Jason, the talented actor who read the poetry for us a moment ago.  Jason, Joel and Karl also grew up with Evie's influence.  Mary's brother, Dan, is with us today, Uncle Bob, Kim and Felix, and many more of Evie's wide, wide circle of family and friends.

It is Evie who made this family possible.  It is we who maintain it, grateful for what she has brought to our lives.  We can continue to honor her by the quality of the lives we live.  I think she would like that.

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