Eva Lee “Evie” <I>Nelson</I> Hufford

Eva Lee “Evie” Nelson Hufford

Hutchinson, Reno County, Kansas, USA
Death 11 Oct 2002 (aged 72)
Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend, Specifically: Ashes kept by her family.
Memorial ID 49545759 · View Source
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It was a beautiful fall evening. We gathered together—people similar in many ways, yet influenced by diverse backgrounds, lifestyles, worldviews, and life goals. That evening, our differences were minimized by our emotional togetherness, as we reflected upon "a life well-lived." Many of us would discover, create—or perhaps recapture—personal life meanings during this "Celebration of Life and Love." The performance hall of a small, Midwestern university was, for a brief, spinning moment in time, the setting for a "love fest." Love was in the room, even as each person gave individualized definition and expression to the word's evocative emotional power. There were students in the hall who remembered the classroom advice of Evie, whose life we were celebrating: "If you love someone, tell them. Do it now, don't wait."

We met to commemorate both a life and the love it exemplified. It was a celebration that did not deny the reality of sorrow and sadness, or the bittersweet power of memories to give birth to both smiles and tears. There were hugs and kisses and tears and shared expressions of love and affection. There were memories. It was as if the lyricism of the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran permeated the atmosphere: "When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." Intuitively, we knew that the sorrow we were experiencing was possible only because of the joys that had once been. At such times, we summon the past to illuminate the present. We celebrate what has been, even as we mourn what will never be.

That evening, there was a communal embrace of life as a paradox of differing realities and possibilities. Some of us believed that our continuing questions about life and love—and death—would be answered only within our lived responses to who we are becoming. We will have to live into our personal answers. And a shared remembering, appreciation for, and honoring of one well-lived life may help us reframe our questions, review our answers, and renew the personal quest. The evening was a waystop on the journey of life.

The memorial service conducted that evening was for a lovely lady, my wife, Evie. It was a deliberately planned, humanist-oriented reflection upon one person's lived definition of a meaningful, caring life. She was a beautiful woman, still questioning and living into her answers, when breast cancer cut short her adventurous journey. There would be no traditional funeral, no "viewing" at a funeral home or place of worship, no line of cars processing to a cemetery. There would be only one event: a simple but artistically expressive tribute to the creative potential of the human spirit. An announcement in the local newspaper noted that "the celebration has been planned as an opportunity for friends to say good-bye to Evie, to consider the meaning of what she has shared with others, and to uplift and inspire those who continue on Life's journey." We would remember how she always reminded her students that "There is beauty in everyone, sometimes you just have to look for it."

In grateful recognition of Evie's cheerful, optimistic, life-affirming attitude, this was a time to say "Yes!" to life. After all, the final piece of advice that the dying Evie had shared with family members gathered around her bedside was: "Don't limit yourselves. You've got to keep on growing." She knew that we each had a personal quest to define and pursue; perhaps not to finalize but to enthusiastically engage in as a life-altering adventure. Life for Evie had been an adventure, and the celebration recognized the quality of her adventurous journey. Evie taught and lived her credo: "Not what I have but what I enjoy constitutes my abundance." In a final, labored conversation with a friend, she said: "I'm the richest person I know." The reference was not to being rich in "things" but to the enjoyment she found in the life she had lived.

The setting on the stage of the performance hall set a tone for the evening. There was a beautiful, cobalt-blue, hand-blown-glass urn, surrounded by flowers of varied colors. There were two hand-painted chairs, artistically designed by Evie's daughter. There was a piano and a set of bongo drums. The thespian in Evie—she performed in local community theater and university productions—would have approved of the minimalist stage setting as a backdrop for the evening's "performance."

The evening was more than a celebration, more than a memorial service. It was a bridging of worldviews: a metaphor Evie would have responded to with open-minded appreciation. Each individual in the performance hall that evening interpreted personal meaning from the celebratory expressions embedded in the setting, the words, and the music. What you interpreted was what you got; this was important. Participants in the celebration represented a wide spectrum of religious, political, and cultural lifestyles. There were conservatives and "flaming" liberals, Pentecostalists and agnostics, moral absolutists and situation ethicists, Unitarians and Catholics, Episcopalians and Southern Baptists, at least one Muslim, one Jew, and one Hindu, and humanists of varying philosophical hues. Evie would have appreciated the unspoken dialectic in the room.

The diversity in belief systems was obvious. An example: the celebration was conducted in the performance hall of a Catholic university where Evie had taught for nine years. Those in attendance included the university president and a former president, the provost, and several nuns. In counterpoint, the primary leader of the celebration was a divorced, freethinking Protestant minister known for his social activism. He was a spiritual counselor for an abortion clinic, a militant advocate for gay rights, and a strong champion of a "woman's right to choose." He was frequently at odds with stated positions of the Catholic Church, and with many of the individuals in attendance. He was not appreciated by the Protestant religious right. And yet, in remembering Evie, he reached out to the humanity in everyone. He embraced the religious and the nonreligious with words, emotions, and memories that wrapped everyone warmly within the meanings of the moment.

There was no traditional "funeral" music, nothing overtly religious. No hymns, no musical visions of an afterlife. There were vocals first made popular by Nat King Cole, Louie Armstrong, and Judy Garland performed by an interracial couple, that provided reflective opportunities for listeners to consider the whys and hows of life and love. Each listener was alone with his or her memories and meanings, as interspersed throughout the evening were the words from "The Very Thought of You," "Unforgettable," "What a Wonderful World," and "Somewhere over the Rainbow." Also, Evie's swan figurine collection was given musical life in her son's violin rendition of Saint-Saën's The Swan. The view outside Evie's bedroom window, a haven for birds, was brought alive by her grandson's original piano composition titled "The Dove."

Spoken remembrances gave voice to human possibilities. A former student: "We learned valuable lessons from her; how to live and love life; how to cherish what you have." A colleague: "She saw her students' personal potential and personal worth. Their dignity and worth were nonnegotiable rights to be addressed and respected." Her husband: "You taught me to love; not by telling me how, but by showing me—by being love." Her son: "One of my mother's principal philosophies was to enjoy the small things, to find happiness within yourself." The leader of the celebration: "She was unrepeatable."

Even with its inherent sadness, the evening was a celebration—of love and life. At the close, in spite of the evening's lack of religious references, one of the nuns remarked: "I didn't want it to end." A letter written two weeks later indicated: "I am still hearing from people who describe the celebration with such words as wonderful, inspiring, beautiful, meaningful." Perhaps a letter written to the vocalists best expresses how people of differing worldviews could be impacted by the evening: "Your music and voices infused such profound meaning into the celebration. You helped us all to think of Evie as that unforgettable person who wanted us all to continue to seek the meaning and beauty to be discovered in a wonderful world."

And so, in that hall, there was a sense of oneness—a onnectedness that bridged individual definitions of life, and love . . . and death.

Don Hufford
Wichita, Kansas

Wichita Eagle, The (KS) - Tuesday, October 15, 2002:

Hufford, Eva Lee "Evie," 72, died in her home on Friday, Oct. 11, 2002. Memorial celebration pending and to be announced at a later date.

Evie's smiling, radiant, optimistic personality never dimmed during her six year struggle with metastasized breast cancer. Her sense of humor was contagious. Until the very end she continued to inspire those whose lives she touched to seek intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth. "Celebrate the small things, and don't wait to tell those you love that you love them. Do it now." Evie Hufford.

For 25 years she gave of herself in teaching special education students in a variety of elementary, middle school and secondary settings. Her teaching career then culminated in May, 2002, after nine years as a faculty member in the School of Education at Newman University. During this time she was active in local community theater productions.

Evie expressed a special happiness in living to celebrate a joyous 50th anniversary celebration on Sept. 7, 2002 with family and friends. This event marked a marital milestone in an adventure which began at Baker University. The journey culminated in Wichita after academic and professional stops in Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois and Kansas.

Evie was especially proud of her three children and their families. At the time of her death, she was surrounded by her family, by enormous love and by future possibilities built upon her example and inspirations.

Survivors: husband, Don; daughter, Tara Walker, her husband, Mark and sons, Adam and Alex of Wichita; sons, Scott, his wife, Beth and daughter, Amanda of Beverly, Mass.; Brian, his wife, Wendy and children, Ashley, Austen, Axel, Alec, Andrew, Allison and Amber of Rye, N.Y.; brother, Clifford Nelson of Claremore, Okla.; sisters, Lois Monsees of Excelsior Springs, Mo., Muriel Foster of Galveston, Texas. Memorial established with Newman University School of Education, 3100 W. McCormick, Wichita, 67213. Downing and Lahey Mortuary West.

Wichita Eagle, The (KS) - Friday, October 18, 2002

Hufford, Eva Lee "Evie," 72, died in her home on Friday, Oct. 11, 2002. A "Celebration of Love and Life" in honor of Evie will be held 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, 2002. We will join together in the Performance Hall of DeMattias Hall at Newman University, 3100 McCormick Ave., Wichita. The celebration has been planned as an opportunity for friends to honor a life well-lived, and to uplift and inspire those who continue Life's journey. A memorial fund has been established to benefit the School of Education at Newman University. Please call 942-4291, Ext. 415, for information regarding memorial giving.

Family Members


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  • Created by: dscott
  • Added: 11 Mar 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 49545759
  • dscott
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Eva Lee “Evie” Nelson Hufford (13 Dec 1929–11 Oct 2002), Find a Grave Memorial no. 49545759, ; Maintained by dscott (contributor 47242970) Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend, who reports a Ashes kept by her family..