Evelyn was born Saturday June 13, 1914 in Orange, Texas to Bertie May Lacey Harris Miller and John Nicholas Miller. She passed peacefully with her family on Wednesday March 22, 2017, at home surrounded by love and God’s grace, at 102 years 9 months and 9 days old. Preceded in death by husband John Lawrence “Jack” Welch, her daughter Patricia Sybil “Patty” Welch Marshall, son-in-law Donald D. “Donnie” Marshall, her grandsons John Joseph Castagne and Reed Lawrence Welch, and eight out of 10 of her siblings, may they be resting in peace. Her last living sibling, Norman Miller, currently resides in Kansas.
She will be greatly missed by her family: Daughter Mary Jane Welch Castagne and her husband Jean Joseph Castagne. Daughter Patty and her husband Donnie’s children Alyson Jane Marshall and Shannon Lee Marshall Ludlow, her husband Nate Ludlow and their five children: Saval Patricia De Witt Eaton, her husband Jared Eaton and their son Jack James Eaton, Ciera Grace De Witt Judd, her husband Drake Judd and their son Maclenn Marshall Judd, Rhet James De Witt, Rhys John Ludlow, and Maryn Jayne Ludlow. Son Joseph “Joe” William Welch and his children Rodney Joseph Welch and Rachel Joslyn Welch. Daughter Lacey Catharine Welch and David Zwald, her daughter Lauren Noble, her husband Ken Noble and their children Johnny Ranger Noble and Isla Marie Noble. All of her family and countless friends will surely carry Evelyn in their hearts forever.
Evelyn truly lived a long and iconic life, filled with adventures and stories that she loved to share with her family and friends. Here are a few we would like to share with you. In her own words, “I was eleven years old as our Dodge Touring carried us to California in 1925 in the month of June.” On this trip she and her family of twelve came to the west from Louisiana, where she started and grew her own family. Her great-grandchildren so fondly remember the story of how she met our first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in Yosemite Valley in the late 1930’s, when she was waitressing during a summer break. She said that she served her biscuits and tea and was surprised by how “normal” she was. People were always fascinated to know about her time as the double for Ingrid Bergman for the riding scenes in the movie For Whom the Bell Tolls that was filmed at Dardanelles in 1941.
Evelyn and Jack, along with a few of their closest friends, formed the La Grange Rodeo association in 1948. She and her good friend Barbra Painter later wrote a book on the history of the rodeo. This is a proud legacy that our family continues to be involved in. Another feat of Evelyn’s was being one of the founding members of the San Joaquin-Stanislaus Cowbelles, and later the President. She continued to support the association’s effort to promote the cattle industry.
One of the hobbies that she was very passionate about was collecting granite-wear, which she became nationally recognized for, and later became a published author of two books on the subject. Maybe some of her greatest contributions were her involvement in preserving the history of Central California and the Foothills. She worked at the McHenry Museum the 70’s as a docent, and later became an instrumental force in founding the La Grange Museum. She also helped in the same way at the Oakdale Cowboy Museum, who recognized her as a “cowgirl icon of the region” at the local Cowgirl Luncheon. Because of her involvement in the preservation of local history, in 1987 Evelyn was honored by the Stanislaus Historical Association. Most recently her passions turned to her family.
She loved to interact with her great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. Evelyn was always reading and sharing her knowledge with them, and encouraging them to be avid reader themselves. We are sure her love of reading, the daily jumble and crossword puzzle are what kept her so sharp! Her playful side came out the most with the babies, who she would sing songs to and play peek-a-boo with. Her interactions with the littlest ones, Jack and Maclenn, brought her so much joy in her final years, and she was always sure to show off pictures of sweet babies Johnny and Isla any chance she got. We were all so fortunate to enjoy the clarity and wisdom of her mind as she shared the vast history and stories of her life. We wish there was a book to capture all of these memories, as there are too many to share in one sitting. Being an author and historian, we were surprised to not find her own hand written obituary, although in her final weeks she did verbally make her instructions clear to us, all the while still being the sassy cowgirl that we all knew and loved. We did however find an adaptation of a poem that she wrote in one of her little notebooks that we would like to share:
“Wild flowers deck her resting, no marbles mark the spot
But nature loves the children, this child is not forgot
Oft times she rocks the cradle that hangs at the rivers brink,
And the river sings a lullaby when the cattle come to drink
The sun comes up in the early morn and makes its golden light
And the moon and its children watch over her all night.”
The Oakdale (Calif.) Leader
April 5, 2017