Evelyn Schroth died Sunday evening. Evelyn Schroth was a great woman.
I got to know Evelyn after coming to the church nine years ago. This means that everything that I know of her is once she was 80+ years old. Yes, I’ve sat in her living room a number of times with a plate piled high with homemade cookies while she told me about her younger years. But the details about the first eight decades of her life escape my mind. Maybe it’s because the richness of my memories of her last decade make the earlier years seem irrelevant.
Evelyn was a poet. Once she brought me a collection of her poems and hymns. As she handed them to me, she apologized for their quality and said she was embarrassed giving them to “such an accomplished writer.” I smiled knowing that her words were both an offering of respect and a light-hearted jab. As I read her writings over the next couple days I had the opportunity to see into the soul of this God-passionate woman. I so wish that I could remember some of what I read, so that I could share her words with you. Instead, all I’m left with are the memories of the emotions her words evoked – the joy, the hope, the wonder, the awe – all directed at her Lord and Savior. If you want just a glimpse of her written thoughts, look back at the comments section of most of my blogs. When she was feeling up to it, she rarely missed the chance to add some great insight.
Evelyn was a powerhouse. Dennis Robbins is one of the toughest and most intimidating guys I know (little insight – inside he has a heart made of marshmallow fluff, but you didn’t hear it from me). He and I have a running joke that we have no problem saying “no” to anyone on God’s green earth – except Evelyn. Even if we did somehow find the courage to say “no”, we knew that eventually we’d end up doing exactly what she wanted anyway. It’s not because Evelyn was a dictator or ruled with an iron fist. It’s because she was so much the opposite. It was her heart and passion and love and sacrificial example that ever-so-gently twisted our arms behind our backs until we said “yes” in between mouthfuls of peanut butter cookies. Evelyn led by character, not by dictate. People followed her out of love and loyalty, not out of obligation.
Evelyn was a servant. Her philosophy at the food bank was that she would never turn anyone away hungry. They needed food, she had access to food, they got food. I remember her telling me once that this sometimes meant stretching the area-wide food bank rules a bit. Every food bank had its sector. If they were not from her sector, she was supposed to direct them to the proper food bank. “I’m sorry for breaking the rules, but I just can’t send away hungry people.” And while her words may have said she was sorry, her mischievous grin and eye-twinkle told me that she kind of relished testing the pliability of the rules every now and then. Evelyn loved serving the patrons who came to the food bank. She also loved serving the volunteers. She gushed every time she spoke of all the people who gave of their time to serve at the food bank. In her heart, everyone who worked there was either her sibling, child, or grandkid. Her interest was much more in how they were than in how they worked. The food bank was family.
But as much as she loved serving the food bank patrons and the food bank volunteers (and her church family and her own family), the number one love in her life was her God. You could not understand who Evelyn was if you weren’t looking at her through God-colored lenses. Everything that she did came from a desire to love and honor and glorify her Lord. Her love came from Him. Her servant’s heart came from Him. Her willingness to drive down to the food bank at any hour in any weather just to make sure a family was fed for the week came from Him. And I’m pretty sure the recipe for those cookies with the Hershey’s Kisses stuck in the middle of them came from Him.
Evelyn Schroth was a great woman. Evelyn Schroth was a woman of God. Evelyn, you’ll be missed.