Obituary: Evelyn Michell, 88, served her family and community

Published: Monday, Mar. 3, 2014 - 7:26 pm

Evelyn W. Michell, a woman of many talents who found reward as a homemaker, community agency worker, artist and traveler, died Feb. 22 of surgery complications, her family said. She was 88.

At a time when few wives worked outside the home, Mrs. Michell balanced her love of family with professional aspirations. After earning a degree in psychology and sociology from Miami University in Ohio, she returned to her native New York and was a social worker in Harlem. In 1949, she packed up and drove across the country to California with her husband and their young daughter for his job as a teacher in Tulare.

She remained a stay-at-home mom after settling in Sacramento in 1955. While her husband taught psychology at California State University, Sacramento, she supported her family as a thrifty homemaker, an excellent cook and a devoted mother who encouraged her children to pursue their dreams. She also opened her home to a Malaysian exchange student.

“She was always there for us,” said her son Doug. “Housekeeping certainly wasn’t something she valued, but the family was something she valued above all.”

After her children became independent, Mrs. Michell returned to her vocation helping others. She earned a master’s degree in government from CSU Sacramento, and spent 16 years at the Community Services Planning Council. Among other duties, she evaluated and wrote reports on nonprofit agencies receiving funding from United Way.

“She pulled together community people and professionals to sit down and discuss how those groups were performing,” former coworker Charlotte Filipelli said. “She was very professional and very successful at it.”

Mrs. Michell retired in 1992 as manager of senior nutrition programs for the Area 4 Agency on Aging. She continued to volunteer for a time on the board of HARPS, the Home Assistance and Repair Program for Seniors.

The daughter of a telephone cable worker and a homemaker, Evelyn Wiseman was born May 18, 1925, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Raised in Freeport on Long Island, she was an excellent student who skipped two grades in elementary school.

She met Douglas A. Michell in seventh grade and married him in 1943. In 1965, they moved their family for a year to Malaysia, where her husband taught on a Ford Foundation grant.

The overseas adventure spurred Mrs. Michell’s desire to see the world. She enjoyed trips to many countries in Africa, Asia and Europe with her husband. After his death in 1992, she traveled with friends to Italy, France, Vietnam, Indonesia and Hawaii.

She also took up painting. She studied with friend Robert Else, a prominent landscape artist at CSUS, and took classes at American River College. She donated works to the KVIE Art Auction and earned honors at the California State Fair.

Although modest about her achievements, Mrs. Michell was an outgoing woman who “loved the best martini in the world and made the best apple pie,” Filipelli said. She met and painted with a group of friends every Tuesday and Thursday until her recent surgery.

“In a lot of ways, she was someone who kind of did a lot of things that supported my father’s dreams,” said her daughter, Kathy Van Dyne. “After my dad died, as much as she loved her family, she needed something to channel her creative energies, and she did some wonderful artwork.

“In the last week of her life, she told us she’d had a very good life.”

Mrs. Michell also is survived by another son, Keith; two sisters, Mary Wiseman and Alice Vaught; a brother, Robert Wiseman; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A private service is planned.


Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.

Read more articles by Robert D. Dávila



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