Evelyn Paxton was born on June 24, 1928 and died on January 4, 2020. Evelyn was part of what the writer Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation”. She grew up in a small town in southern Virginia. She was the youngest child of a very large family. Her mother died when she was nine years old and her older sisters, Minnie and Sally took on a large share of the responsibility of raising Evelyn. She moved in with her sister Minnie shortly after Minnie married. Minnie was more like a mother to her than an elder sister. Evelyn was the last of her siblings to pass.
In 1949, Evelyn married Lawrence Paxton. He had been in the Army and part of the D-Day invasion force; she worked at Merck producing antibiotics for the wounded. Evelyn and Lawrence had three sons and those sons had children and some of those children have had children themselves.
She was of the generation of women that grew up when women were not expected to have careers of their own; she supported her husband as he moved to follow the changes in the electronics industry from Virginia to Florida to California and finally back to Florida. All along that journey she made friends, held down part time jobs, and worked as a volunteer. In one particular year, she was recognized as Woman Volunteer of the Year for Santa Clara, California. At that time the population of Santa Clara was approximately 150,000. As she said when interviewed by the newspaper, “My friends are thanks enough”. Those that knew her know that this was no manufactured sentiment – that was Evelyn at her core. She also was very active at the schools that her sons attended.
While in West Palm Beach, Evelyn took a course to become a certified nurse’s aide. She volunteered at the local hospitals in West Palm Beach. In Rockledge, she volunteered at “the old folks’ home” as she called it, helping out, reading, and chatting until she was in her 80s. One of her favorite volunteer activities was the AWANA program at her local church as a “Cubbie” leader. She would help the young children learn bible verses, help them make crafts, and read bible stories to them.
She lived on her own, managing her household and affairs independently, until the very end. She liked to get things done and taken care of – everything had to be in its place. Up until a few months prior to her passing, she would take care of weeding her own flower beds. Evelyn had a green thumb and usually had at least one of her orchids in bloom. She also would rearrange her furniture, moving recliners and other furniture by herself. She kept herself busy keeping her house clean and tidy. She never complained about her pain and didn’t let her increasing frailty stop her from getting things done – she was tough.
She didn’t like to travel. She was happiest at home in Rockledge. She would always comment about how beautiful the pond, how colorful the sunset or how marvelous the day was. She took joy in what, we are told by so many, are the small things: being with people she cared about, taking care of them, helping others and her dogs, Buster and lastly Lucky. Lucky was her constant companion. She loved Lucky and would talk to Lucky all day and he would “listen” to her every word. She would walk Lucky around the pond almost every day until Lucky passed in August of 2017.
She was of a generation that prized the value of in-person connections over social media. Until recently, she would walk around the neighborhood pond every morning and stop to say hello to people. She deeply cared about the people she knew. Her neighbors were great. Many of them watched out for her and helped her to remain independent. Neighbors frequently gathered at her home to view launches, celebrate birthdays, and hand out Halloween candy.
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