Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Obituary for Evalee R. O’Toole-Johansen

Obituary for Evalee R. O’Toole-Johansen
6/15/1928 – 9/5/2014

Evalee R. O’Toole-Johansen, 86, of Belmond, Iowa, passed away on September 5th, 2014 at the Muse Norris Hospice Inpatient Unit in Mason City, Iowa.  In lieu of a funeral, a celebration of her life will be planned, when interment of ashes will be at West Denmark Lutheran Church cemetery in Luck, Wisconsin.

Ev was born on June 15th, 1928, in Watertown, South Dakota to John Haney & Ruth (Griffith) Haney.  She graduated from Watertown High School in 1946.  Ev was married to Richard O’Toole and moved to Garner, Iowa in 1961.  Together they managed the Avery Theater and raised their four children.  After the theater closed, Ev worked for Dr. W.J. Mack for over 31 years.  Her prior experience as a surgery scrub tech while living in South Dakota came in handy in assisting Dr. Mack.  Ev and Dick were married close to 25 years before he passed away.

In 1988, on August 27th, she married Valdemar “Wally” Johansen.  After almost 10 years of courting, they celebrated their wedding at West Denmark Lutheran Church near Luck, Wisconsin, where Wally had been born & raised.  They became the famous duo of Wally & Ev and now it seems hard to imagine that they have danced their last dance and laughed their last laugh as a couple.

Over the 26 years of their marriage, Ev became well acquainted in the West Denmark community.  Her Irish roots mixing with the Danish customs, but always the Irish holding a special place in her heart.  A shamrock was slyly positioned on the back of her wedding bouquet on the day she married Wally in the Danish church. 

Wally had a cabinet making business.  After they were married, it was not unusual for Ev to find herself in conversation with local women who were raving about having a ‘Johansen kitchen’ in their home.  She delighted in reminding them all, “That’s fine, you have a Johansen kitchen, but I have Johansen!”  She admired Wally’s skills in building and fixing, one of her favorite phrases “My ‘Vally’ can do anything!” was playfully said with a Danish accent.

Ev sang bass in the Sweet Adelines choral group for several years, made many close friends and traveled around the state & country singing with the group.  She was a good seamstress and had a knack for creating a costume out of not much.

For many years, Wally and Ev cross country skied around Iowa and up in Northern Wisconsin too.  The annual Johansen family ‘Cabin Christmas’ over New Year’s in Wisconsin soon became a weekend for cross country skiing for all.  They also skied in some of the parks around Iowa, they found groomed trails in some to enjoy.

Two things Ev loved most in this world, Wally and ballroom dancing.  Ev was an accomplished ballroom dancer and she dearly loved music.  Just by hearing a few bars of a song, she could ‘name that tune’ out of the 40’s, and the artists who made them popular.  She and Wally were known to go to dances at many ballrooms around the countryside, never missing Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights, and always loving to hear a good Glenn Miller song.  Their favorite place to dance was The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA, but they would dance almost anywhere if there was good music and a flat surface.  Her skill at the sewing machine and her imagination helped her craft special dance attire for her and Wally to wear for New Year’s Eve or other special dance nights.  In recent years, they never missed an episode of Dancing with the Stars, keeping their own scores and hashing over the various dance styles together.  While big band music was her favorite, a very recent trip to see The Temptations, at The Surf Ballroom, was great fun for her too.   Even as she lay resting in the hospice bed, her hand moved to a beat only she could hear, perhaps keeping time to a favorite Glenn Miller dance tune.

Not only did Ev remember the music of the 1940s, she also had a great memory of the pop culture of that day.  Living through the depression years as a kid instilled in her the need to be frugal and wise with spending.  In current days, she was the consummate recycler.  Nothing went to waste that could be recycled in one way or another.

Following retirement, Ev and Wally spent summers in Wisconsin and Iowa & winters in Arkansas and Texas.  They traveled around with a camper trailer and enjoyed missing the snow and seeing the sun shine.  For several years they worked as National Forest Camp Hosts in Charlton, Arkansas.  In later years, they traveled further south and stayed winters in Rockport, TX, where they became close friends with other snow-birds.

Ev and Wally went on many trips together& they often revisited their memories of some of their fun travels together; remembering destinations including Denmark, Alaska, Washington, DC, the West Coast, and Mt. Rushmore, the Southwest, Las Vegas, a few Amtrak trips and even a cruise.   Her love for travel was still strong & she had hoped for more. 

Ev was talented as an artist and enjoyed painting in acrylics, or using pastels, as well as other medium.  Although she created conventional artwork, often times her creative side was displayed through fun costumes and silly pranks.  She loved to be in on a surprise and helped plan and pull off several parties and jokes.  She loved a good chuckle and it is easy to find family photographs of her in laughter. 

Ev was proud that she was able to manage the ‘smart phone’ and found that she loved Facebook.  She enjoyed be able follow friends and relatives, as well as keep up on our changing world.  In her 80s she learned to use the internet, text & email, something that many younger folks may not care to tackle.  Her grandkids thought it was cool that Grandma OJ was on the Facebook.

Ev was truly Wally’s Seabee Mate.  Over the course of their lives together, she always was at Wally’s side at his Navy Seabee Reunions.  Wally & Ev eventually became the group’s stewards.  Together they arranged the details for many of the reunions for this group.  She became a beloved friend of the other Seabees and their families.  Her patriotic streak ran deep; she loved veterans and was intensely proud of Wally’s military service & the service of other family members and friends.

Ev was a devoted and loving wife, mother, step-mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great-great grandmother, aunt & friend.  She was loved by all who knew her.

Left to cherish her memory:  
her husband, Valdemar “Wally” Johansen of Belmond, IA; brother, Elwood Haney of Omaha, NE;  her children: Rick (Pat) O’Toole of Cedar Rapids, IA; Teri (Al) Jenniges of Garner, IA; Larry (Diane) O’Toole of Forest City, IA; Jeff (Pat) O’Toole of Fertile, IA.  Step-children:  Ralph (Lois) Johansen of Luck, WI; Glenn (Kathy) Johansen of Spring Valley, WI; Wanda Johansen of Rice Lake, WI; Laila Johansen of Aurora, CO; and she was Grandma OJ to many O’Toole & Johansen grandchildren, great grandchildren & even great-great grandchildren, all of whom she loved so well.

Memorials may be directed to Hospice of Northern Iowa.   Ev was cared for by these fine folks for 5 days and they made her passing a peaceful transition.  For this, the family is forever grateful.
Mercy Medical Center Foundation - North Iowa
Attn:  Jill Dean
1000 4th St SW
Mason City IA 50401

1 comment:

sherri said...

Very heartfelt posts, Wanda. The obit was a wonderful tribute to a great lady.


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