LOGAN — Private graveside services for Evelyn McCleary will be held Monday, June 1, at Mount Vernon Memorial Gardens, Mount Vernon. A celebration of her life is planned for Aug. 15 at 11 a.m. at the Dawes Arboretum in Jacksontown.
Evelyn, affectionately known as “Mam” to her husband and children, died at Hocking Valley Community Hospital on Wednesday, May 27. She was born in Calais, Ohio, on May 12, 1921, to Clifford and Pearl (Stephen) Carpenter. She was the oldest girl of 13 children. They were a poor family raised in rural southeastern Ohio, and she learned to hunt and fish with her brothers and live without electricity, gas, indoor plumbing, or any modern conveniences. She remembered how sad they were when three of her siblings died because they could not get a doctor. She loved to tell stories of turtle hunting with her brothers who made her carry a burlap bag of snapping turtles. She quit school in the eighth grade to work in a sewing factory to help support her family. Evelyn said it was a hard life but in many ways a happy life.
She was proud of her family and believed the Depression caused them to be independent and self-sufficient. The example she used was that when the Army was looking for men with those qualities to serve in the first Special Services Force, they selected her brother, Virgil.
There was no money for entertainment, and when they were young, they would get together with neighbors on Saturday nights, pull back the rug in the parlor, and play music and sing and dance. She and her husband, Jason “Jake” McCleary of Barnesville, met at a square dance when she was 15, where he was the caller and played all the string instruments. Married at 17, they moved to Mount Vernon after the birth of their first child. Eventually each of her brothers and sisters moved to Mount Vernon and they remained close throughout the years, spending many weekends together, singing and playing “hillbilly” music, and enjoying each other’s company. After her father’s death, her mother moved from the farm to Mount Vernon where she became a cook in the hospital. After Evelyn and Jake moved to Newark, and eventually to Chicago and St. Louis, they often traveled back to Mount Vernon, guitar and fiddle in tow.
When Jake joined the Navy during World War II, she was 22 years old and had three daughters, ages 1, 2 and 3. She worked at Cooper-Bessemer, a factory in Mount Vernon that made machine parts for vehicles and airplanes, where she learned how to read blueprints and run a machine that made tools. She and her sister Viola worked different shifts so that one of them could babysit her girls. It was a difficult time with her four brothers and Viola’s husband Tommy fighting in Europe. Jake’s brother Mac was in the Navy and his brother Don’s plane was shot down over Holland.
Evelyn led a spirited and colorful life. She enjoyed bowling and collected over 30 trophies throughout the years. Euchre and poker were favorite games she played competitively with her family. She loved selling Avon, although Jake kidded that she bought more Avon than she ever sold. She loved her gardens of both flowers and vegetables, but she always wore her bathing suit to garden, much to the embarrassment of her teenage daughters. She remained a Cleveland Indians fan when she lived in St. Louis, and Jake threatened to leave her at the ballpark after she stood up and booed Stan Musial at a Cardinals game. With daughters living in Ohio, Kansas, and California, her long-distance telephone bills were so large that Jake threw away all the telephones and had a pay phone installed in their dining room. Her favorite pastime while in the autumn on the Lake Health Care Center in Thornville was listening to singing and guitar music recorded in 1975 by Jake and son-in-law Dave, with daughter Janet on the banjo.
She is survived by daughters, Joanne (Rod) Kiefus and Jean (Tim) Weisert; 14 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; brother, Neil; sister, Judy Clevenger; sisters-in-law, Gerry, Juanita, Mary and Nora, and “Aunt Ruth” McCleary.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Jake; daughters, Joyce Shaffar and Janet Sheldon; brothers, Elmer, Virgil, Edward, Irvin, and Bob; and sisters, Viola Robinson and Marianne Davis.
The Newark Chapel of Henderson-Van Atta-Stickle Funeral & Cremation Service is assisting the family with arrangements.
Please visit www.hendersonvanatta.com to view an online memorial and to leave a message of condolence for the McCleary family.