Spevak: Subtle, significant contributions made

By John SpevakMarch 1, 2013 

Sometimes the impact a person makes on other people is subtle but significant.

Every so often it's good for a columnist to write about a person like this, so that his readers don't forget the importance of subtle, significant effects.

Such is the case with Evelyn Eagleton, a long-time resident of Merced County, including Los Banos for many years. Evelyn lives in Merced now, after retiring from years of work there for Merced County's Office of Education.

I remembered the impact Evelyn has had on others when I read a story the other day about Marta, one of the students she helped as director of Los Banos's Regional Occupation Program in the 1980's. Evelyn connected the young woman with Jim, a local accountant. He hired the student, and Marta stayed with the firm until retiring this year.

Evelyn has helped many other Los Banos residents in subtle but significant ways.

I first met Evelyn in the early 1970s, when her husband Bill enrolled as a student in an English class I taught at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College. I noticed her sitting in class one day, even though she wasn't registered.

When I asked her why she was in the class, she said she had come to take notes for her husband, a CHP officer taking college courses. She said Bill had been temporarily reassigned from the night shift to the day shift, so she was sitting in for him for a week or two.

As it turned out Evelyn enjoyed learning what I was teaching, the art and history of the short story, so much that she enrolled, too. She was, like Bill, among the best students in the class.

Over the years I came to know Evelyn in other venues. The Eagletons and the Spevaks both had children who swam on the Los Banos Tiger Sharks team. Evelyn had been an active member of the Tiger Sharks long before the Spevaks joined. She made it a point to help newcomers -- parents and kids, including the Spevaks -- feel comfortable as part of the team.

Later I worked with Evelyn as part of the group that staged musical comedies, joint productions of the local college campus and Los Banos High School. As the choreographer, she spent many hours behind the scenes patiently teaching young and old amateur performers the dance steps to complicated routines.

Evelyn and I also worked together in the development of a youth employment program one summer in Los Banos, in which the college and the county offered summer classes and found summer jobs for local high school students.

Later, when she worked in managerial positions with the county Regional Occupational Program in Merced, Evelyn continued to help Los Banos students by creating strong ROP programs at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College, at that time located on Mercey Springs Road.

In all of these cases Evelyn made subtle but significant impacts on people she helped. She was always behind the scenes and seldom in the spotlight, practically invisible but highly effective.

Now, retired after serving as the county's ROP director, Evelyn is spending more time with her family. She grieved the sudden death of her husband Bill two years ago but has continued to be a source of strength and joy for her children and grandchildren.

Every so often it's good for a columnist to reflect on people who have made subtle, significant impacts on others. Just writing about Evelyn brings a smile to my face -- and that is a good a reason as any other to write a column about a person like her.

In other matters, here are reminders about two enjoyable events taking place today. The Milliken Museum's Arbor Day Breakfast is being served from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Miller and Lux Building. Come support our local museum.

The city's 25th annual Arbor Day Celebration will take place at 4 p.m. in Meadowlands Basin Park, 2599 S. Creekside Dr., a few blocks east and south of Pacheco High School. Come celebrate trees.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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