EVELYN CHRISTINE HAMILTON
December 15, 1932—January 29, 2017
Saint Agnes Church
March 4, 2017
by Charles McKelvy
Evelyn Hamilton, whose amazing organ music filled this church for so, so many years, often said: “If you practice, you can only get better.”
Evelyn was speaking of music, of course, but she was also speaking of living life on God’s terms, for that is exactly how Evelyn lived her life from the day she was born on December 15, 1932 to Joseph and Kathryn Kauzlarich in Rathbun, Iowa until the day she died at home in Harbert, Michigan on January 29, 2017.
What a life, and what a woman we have to celebrate today as we honor the student of Calumet High School on the South Side of Chicago who turned to Roy Hamilton in 1951 and told him she and her mother were desperate to find an affordable apartment to rent. Evelyn’s mother, Kathryn Kauzlarich, thought Roy was a bookie, but Evelyn saw the handsome fellow who had seen service as a Helmsman with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theatre during World War II as quite a bit more.
And to hear Roy tell it, it was Evelyn who moved things right along toward the altar, as she just happened to take him to a jewelry store at 79th and Halsted, to, well, to point out an appropriate ring for a wedding.
And that blessed event—what they both called a mixed marriage—she was a Croatian Catholic and he was a Scots-Irish Protestant—occurred on October 4, 1952 at Saint Kilian Catholic Church on 87th Street near Morgan. Roy says the priest who interviewed him before the wedding made him sit on the most uncomfortable chair in America, so on behalf of the Catholic Church, I would like to apologize to you, Roy. We hope your pew is a lot more comfortable than that chair you had to sit on back in 1952.
Evelyn and Roy honeymooned in the Smokies, and then they settled in on the South Side, and began working on their five Ds:
Diane in 1953, Debbie in 1955, Darlene in 1957, Danny in 1959, and Donny in 1965. Roy always said if they had one more kid he was going to name it “Damn It.”
Evelyn was famous for waving Roy’s belt and telling her children on those rare, rare occasions they misbehaved: “Just wait until your father gets home.”
And, of course, when Roy got home, he was too pooped from his real estate and construction work to do anything more than to tell them to obey their mother. They made a happy home at 73rd near Vincennes in Hamilton Park, and then Roy bought Evelyn the Cape Cod she always wanted, in Crestwood.
By the time Donny was born, the family had moved to Michigan where Evelyn worked for the phone company in New Buffalo for a spell because she had been reading in her women’s magazines that women should have independent incomes.
But Roy was making good money knocking on doors and selling garages, so he persuaded Evelyn to stay home and raise the kids and make music.
That’s right, Roy bought Evelyn an accordion when she was pregnant with Darlene, and when Evelyn taught herself to play the accordion, Roy bought her a keyboard, and Evelyn made quick work of becoming a self-taught organist. Evelyn became organist here at Saint Agnes when Mary Anderson passed away, and she played at Mass, weddings, and funerals until 1995 when she suffered a heart attack.
But retiring from the organ at Saint Agnes didn’t stop Evelyn from playing at home on a full-sized organ. She would play wedding marches for her three granddaughters: Katie, Kimberly, and Rebecca, and grandson, David, as they staged mock weddings in the Hamilton living room.
Evelyn and Roy were great dancers and would entertain their family with their ballroom dancing, in the Hamilton living room.
Evelyn learned tap dancing at the River Valley Senior Center after her kids were grown. She kept those shoes as mementoes of her toe-tapping fun long after she had to retire from the dance floor.
When Evelyn had her heart attack, she thought it might be the end, but then she said: “No, I can’t die. I’ve got to see David graduate and the kids all get married.”
Kim and Katie accompanied Roy and Evelyn on their trips in their 30-foot motor home. Roy usually took the wheel, while Evelyn cooked complete meals back in the galley. But Evelyn, was quite capable of commanding that motor home.
Evelyn loved to travel, having been to Europe in the ‘60s, so, of course, she and Diane and Debbie went to Romania in 2000 to witness the wedding of Kim and Mihai. And speaking of Kim and Mihai, Evelyn was their press agent when they were living at the Hamilton home in Harbert, and, yes, thanks to Evelyn there was a feature or two about them in the local papers.
Evelyn was proud of all her children and grandchildren, and she was thrilled beyond measure when they gave her and Roy five delightful great-grandchildren: Meadow, Kasania, and the triplets—Cora, Liam, and Philip.
Evelyn was a Catholic Christian to the core, not only as a lifelong member of Saint Agnes and as an officer in the Altar Society, but she was a model of faith and courage at her home chapel during Danny’s long battle with cancer. When Peggy Wagner and Shirley Gallo came to bring Evelyn communion on Sundays after Mass at Saint Agnes, Evelyn would want to know all the latest news at Saint Agnes, and then she would give a report on Danny’s condition and ask her friends to pray, pray, and pray some more for Danny and his doctors.
Evelyn did not want Danny to precede her in death, but when he did, she channeled all the strength and courage God could send her. Evelyn even had me learn Danny Boy on my clarinet, and she expected me to play it for her and Danny every time I came to see her.
And, yes, going to see Evelyn Hamilton was truly one of life’s pleasures.
She didn’t linger in the past or dread the future, and she certainly wasn’t afraid of death.
Trust in the Lord, she would say, and all will be well.
All is well, Evelyn.
All is well.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.