For awhile now, anytime I heard the word “neighbor,” I thought of the Mister Rogers show and the song, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
But recently, when I learned of the passing of my longtime neighbor, Evelyn, I think of her. She had been my neighbor since 1959. At that time, she and her husband and their three growing boys (Bob, Kenny and Gary) lived right next door. A row of hedges is the only thing that separated our driveways.
When we were seeing about buying the house next door to her, and because George and I worked every day, we needed someone to unlock the house for the inspector from the bank to go inside to examine it, to see if they could loan us the money we needed to buy it.
So, I knocked on her door and asked if she would do that as a favor for us, and she said she would be glad to. We got to know her family and she got to know ours. She talked me into joining her bowling league. She also baked us beautiful birthday cakes as well as sharing vegetables from her garden.
I remember after I got home from taking our older daughter for her first day of kindergarten, my house felt too empty. So, I went over to Evelyn’s, and I ended up staying there all afternoon until school was out.
Evelyn spent her later years in a nursing home, and her house sat empty during that whole period of time. When we sold our house recently, and it was being torn down by the new owner, he asked me what I always called that house next door. I told him “Evelyn’s house.” So, he said that he would call it Evelyn’s house, too.
While at the funeral service for Evelyn, I was asked to tell some of my memories of her. I was honored to be asked, especially because all three of her adult sons were there, I wanted them to know how good it was for us to have been a part of their growing up years. I remember going with Evelyn when she took Gary to the airport when he had to leave for the Army. Also, we attended the wedding when Bob married Nancy. We remember the times they went water skiing with us. And I didn’t want them to forget the summers when we all used plastic holey balls to play a homemade version of miniature golf, out in our own back yard.
A while back, when her youngest son, Gary, came back one last time to see the house he had grown up in, we saw him there, so went over. I hope he and his two older brothers remember some of the good times they had when they grew up next door. And we want them to know what a joy it was for us to have had them for our neighbors.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.