John and Ginny Evans
Step into the Evans’ yard any time during the growing season and you are treated to a visual feast. Potted plants bursting with color grace the deck and lead to a garden where hummingbirds have a full menu of blooms to visit. Tucked into an arbor behind John’s workshop is a vegetable garden where many varieties thrive. But gardening is not the only talent or interest of this talented, versatile couple. They juggle a busy schedule of volunteer work, travel, LIR, and family.
Both natives of Oshkosh, John and Ginny met in high school and married in 1954 after John graduated with a liberal arts degree from what was then Wisconsin State College at Oshkosh. Two months after they married, John was drafted.
Ginny remained in Oshkosh to complete her degree in primary education, then joined John at his post in Hawaii. Their apartment was just three blocks from the beach at Waikiki where they learned to play the ukulele from authentic “beach boys” (native Hawaiians) and picked coconuts from the lanai of their third-floor apartment. John wryly admits it was “not exactly a hardship posting.”
A civilian once again, John tested different careers. He was YMCA director in Milwaukee and East Lansing, Michigan.
In 1965 the couple returned to Oshkosh where John and his brother-in-law opened a clothing store on Main Street.
During this time Ginny worked as a private secretary until their children were born: Bill in 1960 and Ann in 1962. Along with the tasks as homemaker and mom, she typed term papers and theses.
John returned to what was now UW Oshkosh and, after receiving an MS in Guidance and Counseling, joined the staff of his alma mater in Academic Advising and Registration. He worked there for 22 years, giving him a connection to the school (as student or faculty) under every president or chancellor from Forest Polk through John Kerrigan. Ginny also took on a new career; after six years as a nursery school teacher, she became a licensor of early childhood programs for the state, a job she held until retirement.
During this time, Ginny also took up a hobby that combined her interest in gardening with her artistic talent. She grew and dried flowers that she turned into wreaths and arrangements for sale. Though the hobby could well have become a business, as retirement neared, she decided it was too time-consuming and most important, restricted their travel.
Travel has always been an important part of Evans’ lives. When they were first married they made their way west every summer, hiking and backpacking in the Rockies. When the children arrived they traded their backpacks for a camper and jaunts across the United States, eventually packing their children’s friends into the camper as well.
Since 1995, John and Ginny have visited 30 countries, often via Elderhostels (they were stranded in France at an Elderhostel on 9/11) and tours with the late Carl Stapel. But their first overseas adventure was on their own – a trip to Russia with a nephew and his wife to visit the family of the latter couple’s foreign exchange student. That story alone could fill an article. Their host, the student’s father, was a former KGB member who gave them the grand tour complete with interpreters and drivers.
John and Ginny’s activities are not confined to travel. Both are active members of the First Presbyterian Church in Oshkosh, holding administrative offices, but also taking on any tasks that need to be done. Meals served by the parish, including one for a teen night every week, find Ginny heading up the kitchen crew. “I like to cook for people,” she says and is not fazed if that number goes to 90 for special occasions. John’s skills as handyman and woodworker are welcomed at church as well as put to use on their farmhouse and four acres.
Both volunteer at the Paine where Ginny is presently head of the garden volunteers. John describes their gardening partnership this way: “Ginny plans and plants and I do the grunt work.” To help with his “grunt work,” he employs his
1948 Willy’s Jeep, an acquisition resulting from another of his many interests – sold military vehicles.
And, of course, they are active in LIR, having joined the second year of its existence. John is a member of the curriculum and finance committees; Ginny is the coordinator of the garden group. Both speak highly of the friends they have made and the wonderful opportunities for learning: “How can you not find something of interest in that wonderful list of options?”
With all their activities, it is clear that their main priority remains their family. John recalls Greece as a favorite trip, while Ginny praises the beauty of Norway and Switzerland. But for all their world travel, there are two favorite destinations: Fort Collins, Colorado and DePere, visiting children, children’s spouses and the two teenage grandsons in each location.