Verena Evans died on Monday, April 29, 2019, just shy of her 97th birthday. Born in 1922 in Howard Lake, Minnesota, Verena Ann Horstmann was the fifth of nine children in a devoutly Catholic farm family. She always retained fond memories of her childhood and loving home - how they grew, preserved and fixed everything themselves - or did without. Her father drove them and the neighboring children to school by horse and sleigh in the Minnesota winters, and he was among the earliest adopters in the area of electricity and a telephone. Her four brothers remained farmers, and her four sisters entered the School Sisters of Saint Francis, occupied with nursing and teaching. Seeking to spread her wings, Verena chose an education at the College of Saint Teresa in Winona. She was a freshman at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, and soon transferred to Saint Mary’s School of Nursing at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Following her graduation in 1944, she joined the Army Nurse Corps. It was in the Army that she met John Evans of Bridgeport, CT, who after his service returned to the University of Michigan. After a long-distance courtship they were married in 1946, and Verena joined him while he worked to complete his undergraduate degree followed by law school at Cornell. From Ithaca they moved in 1950 to Trumbull, CT, and eventually John opened his own law office. In Trumbull she was president of the Women's Democratic Organization. She served for two years as a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, where she worked nearly full time as a contact person arranging meetings and speakers, traveling to Hartford a couple of times a month. Later she served as secretary of the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee for seven years before moving to Easton in 1967. Daughter Charlotte remembers the Trumbull house as Democratic headquarters for several elections, and in between, constant meetings with people "smoking, drinking and climbing all over the furniture.” She remembers as a child seeing the long voter lists, and when there was a name she thought was funny, Verena chided her never to make fun of peoples’ names. In addition to caring for four children and helping with her husband’s growing law practice, Verena volunteered for various organizations in town, including St. Catherine’s Guild, Head Start, special education, school library and hot lunch programs. She was active in the local Nichols PTA and served a term as its president. The move to a big house and 3 acres in Easton was a dream, and she threw herself into fixing up the old place. She tinkered with antique doorknobs and stripped paint from encrusted woodwork, regraded the back yard and oversaw a stream of contractors. The family raised and sold Christmas trees for many years. She laughed at John’s attempts at gardening, meanwhile growing, canning and preserving a huge array of produce each season. She was a great cook, and Laura remembers with fondness her Mom’s delicious pies with whatever fruit was in season; rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches and apples; most often picked herself. She and John hosted a Fresh Air Fund child for several summers and grew close to his family. In 1972, after a 17-year absence she went back to nursing, not long before John, then Chief Prosecuter of the Circuit Court for the State of Connecticut, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 50. After taking refresher courses, she worked in extended care and occupational health, eventually retiring from the RemGrit Corporation. With two teenage children remaining at home after her husband died, she decided to take in a family fleeing South Vietnam in the aftermath of the war. Looking initially for a single person or perhaps a couple, she agreed to take in a 26-year-old mother of four. It was more than challenging at times, but she loved her surrogate grandchildren, and was happy to provide what stability and education she could for the year they lived with her. Verena continued and broadened her many volunteer activities in retirement. Beginning in 1978 she was an EMT with Easton Ambulance, then treasurer and board member until 2005. She was a health-history volunteer with the Red Cross from 1985-2002; served on the Easton Democratic Town Committee, and helped knitters with their projects at the Jewish Home and Easton Senior Center. Beginning in 1999 she began volunteering as a tutor and reader at Read School in Bridgeport through the School Volunteer Association, and continued until late 2018. Her son Paul remembers her calming, steadying presence, always sympathetic, never interfering or judgmental. She had strong views but did not make disagreements personal and was respected by those around her. She was hard-working, careful, exacting and frugal, but generous of time and spirit with those who needed it. After more than 50 years in her Easton farmhouse, she came to Southbury to be better cared for in a cozy room at the Villa. She enjoyed reading, especially her New York Times, and watching the birds until a bear decided to take her feeder. She enjoyed visits with friends and family, being doted on by the staff, and was liberal with her hugs. She is survived by her daughter Charlotte Evans, son Paul Evans and his wife Cristina, daughter Laura Evans and her husband Robert Pawlikowski, grandson Brian Evans and his wife Julia, and great grandsons Sebastian and Ian. Her son John died in 1981. Verena had a generous heart, a warm effusive laugh and ready smile. She will be greatly missed. A memorial service for Verena will take place Friday June 28, at 11:00AM Notre Dame of Easton Church 655 Morehouse Rd, Easton, CT In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the School Volunteer Association, which for over 50 years has provided countless children with books, mentors, readers and tutors. For Verena, it provided great joy. School Volunteer Association 280 Tesiny Avenue Bridgeport, CT 0660
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