"Fortitude in the face of tough times could well have been Evelyn's motto"
Evelyn Felker was not going to let snow get in her way. Born and bred in Wyoming, she was used to enduring the elements. With four of her five kids piled into the Mercury Monarch her husband Dix had bought her, several inches of unplowed snow and one very large hill stood between Evelyn and Sunday church. Cursing and coaxing as the car slid and swerved, the car finally made it up the hill. Fortitude in the face of tough times could well have been Evelyn's motto.
As a mother of five, she was always the one who got dinner on the table, clothing darned, the house cleaned and everyone organized and squared away. Hard work was in her blood. Her father, Michael Spillane, emigrated from County Cork, Ireland at the end of the 19th Century at the age of 16. He worked for three years so he could afford to bring over his fiancée, Ellen. The family settled out west and Evelyn and her twin Evan were youngest of the brood-the fourth and fifth kids-born three days before Christmas in 1932 in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
Her childhood wasn't easy. Her mother died when she was 10, which left her sheepherder, brick layer father and older sister, Margaret, to raise the twins and middle child Jack. Her oldest brother Mike was killed in World War II. Evelyn remembers freezing cold Wyoming winters where her mother made her wear miserably itchy wool stockings to school. Still, she loved Natrona County High and remained close with the friends she made there, holding regular lunches with them for the next 60 years.
Raising a Family, and Dogs in Wyoming
Evelyn was an introvert, the reserved sister. Her twin, Evan, was more outgoing. It was through Evan that she met her future husband, Dix Felker from Utah, who was also a gregarious extrovert. Evelyn was 21 and Dix was 24 when they got married on July 7, 1953.
The couple honeymooned in Jackson Hole. Dix was a salesman, harnessing his sociable strengths, and later he worked construction. But that also meant he traveled a lot from Casper, Wyoming, where the young couple settled. That left Evelyn home with their five kids, Lisa, Leslie, Eve Anne (in part to honor her sister), Dix and Celia. Dix would come home and take the kids camping and fishing, but it was Evelyn who stayed up late managing their sometimes meager budgets, figuring out which bills could wait and which needed to be paid right away.
Evelyn liked to cook and her kids appreciated her simple but comforting meals such as veal pot pie, lasagna and some gooey chicken dish that involved cans of Campbell's soup. She also served up Dix's hunting kills, though truth be told she'd probably have preferred simple ground meat from the store.
The family always had pets. First a cocker spaniel named Mikey, whom Evelyn adored. Then a wild Dalmatian named buddy that Evelyn disliked after he wrapped his chain around her leg and gave her a nasty cut. They had two cats, Marbles and Freckles. Then there was Dix's golden retriever Geronimo, whom everyone called Mo, and Evelyn's favorite dog, Molly, a Yorkie they adopted from the humane society. She now has a little Shih Tzu named Paddy, as he was a gift from her kids on St. Patrick's Day. Paddy is the light of her life and she frets over him constantly.
A Family that Loved the Outdoors
The Catholic Church has always played an big role in Evelyn's life, as did her Irish heritage. In the 1970's, Evelyn, Dix and her sister Margaret traveled to Ireland and met some of their relatives-a trip that was one of the highlights of her life.
Other big trips brought Evelyn and Dix to Washington DC and Hawaii, but the truth was she wasn't much of a traveler. She liked to stick close to home. In the 1970's, Dix bought a camper trailer for the family. Though Evelyn had grown up imbued to nature, she never loved it and always preferred the comfort of home. But she was a trooper, accompanying her husband and kids all over the West. The kids and Dix would fish and hunt and Evelyn would mostly stick to the camper.
Evelyn was fairly no nonsense-she often deemed toys and extracurricular activities frivolous. She wasn't so much into the PTA, but she did volunteer for Meals on Wheels. And she did get her kids where they needed to be, whether it was baseball or softball practice, Boy Scouts, swimming lessons or Catechism. She preferred reading over television, though her preference for murder mysteries surprised her family. In her later years, after Dix passed in June of 2000, she loved to listen to NPR, particularly Prairie Home Companion, keeping her company at home. And, when the weather allowed it, she loved to take walks.
Evelyn Cherishes her Big Family
After Dix passed, Evelyn briefly dated one of her high school classmates. He wanted to get married, but she decided her family was big enough: five kids, 16 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and counting. She loves to chat with her daughters over a cup of Lipton tea about simple things: life and love, kids and hobbies and, of course, Paddy.