Tribute to Dor Evans

PUBLISHED: 14:48 22 April 2009 | UPDATED: 23:24 15 June 2010

THE late Dor Evans, formerly of Colyton.

THE late Dor Evans, formerly of Colyton.

The 250 plus who crowded into Seaton Methodist Church for the recent funeral of Dor Evans were only a sample of those who mourn the sudden death of one of the most energetic, hospitable and generous pillars of Colyton community life. After a working li

The 250 plus who crowded into Seaton Methodist Church for the recent funeral of 'Dor' Evans were only a sample of those who mourn the sudden death of one of the most energetic, hospitable and generous pillars of Colyton community life.

After a working life as an inspirational grammar school teacher in London and Surrey, she settled in the Axe Valley at retirement age 20 years ago. Unlike other in-coming contemporaries more content to sit out declining years, 'Dor' entered enthusiastically into supportive activities becoming loved in East Devon as elsewhere.

She brought with her strong opinions on world affairs, but put dedication to practical, local matters foremost without ever losing her sense of fun.

Her constant activity was the more remarkable as severe osteoporosis had reduced her bone structure, taking six inches off her height as a young woman. Even in their eighties, she and her husband David were to be seen by astonished fellow Colytonians cycling along local lanes undaunted by the surrounding Devon hills.

Dor Evans' last sunny spring weekend was, with hindsight, just what her family and friends might have expected. With David, two of their children and the eldest of four grand-daughters, she cycled 20 miles on Saturday and 12 more on Sunday before cooking them an early roast dinner and seeing them off on the train from Axminster. Only that night did she complain of pain from the small intestine, bad enough to be taken next day for tests at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. There, with her family around her and still concerned about their welfare rather than her own, she died early next morning.

Born in 1927 as Constance Doreen Martin, her London youth was interrupted by character building evacuation to Canada between 1941 and 1944. The hospitality and care for others she found there greatly influenced her adult attitudes. She wanted a career as a newspaper writer and her life-long stream of excellent letters suggest she would have succeeded. Against this, her recently widowed mother insisted she train as a teacher to ensure an assured income. A first job at her local Hendon Grammar School followed, as did her marriage, when they were both 21, to fellow Methodist and environmentally friendly builder David Evans. It was a marriage that endured in love up to and beyond its 60th anniversary.

The main part of Mrs Evans' life was spent teaching English, enlightening theatre visits a speciality, at Sir William Perkins grammar school for girls in Chertsey, Surrey. She loved the life and the riverside retreat David built for them on an inherited plot in the Thames Valley - known affectionately as Bag End. But David was busy building houses in Colyton at Govers Meadow and Burnards Field and they moved there in 1991.

Once in Devon, Dor returned to serious study gaining an MA in women's studies at Exeter University with some notably penetrating and readable essays. Now aged 64, she offered her services to Colyton Grammar School and was turned down. That school's loss was the gain of two local primary schools, in Colyton and nearby Musbury, where she took delight in hearing the children read and reading to them.

It was natural for Dor to become an enthusiastic founder member of a friendly book club which attracted women members from all around. A feature was an annual visit to whatever Shakespeare play was chosen for the outdoor summer production by the Northcott Company in Exeter. At the club's pre-performance picnic, Dor offered the group an introduction to the play ensuring they were at least among the best-informed members of the audience.

In Colyton she ensured good times for fellow supporters of her chosen charities and she and David continued the welcoming hospitality to strangers the need for which had so impressed her in Canada. Alongside daughter Jacky and sons Jonny and Martin, the couple had become informal adopted parents to Cephas and all bring their children and friends to stay.

In her early days in Colyton, Dor helped deliver Meals on Wheels when the objective was as much to provide friendly conversation to lonely singles as to feed them. She was a willing and reliable driver for Link, Colyton's own transport service providing less mobile residents with "taxis" to hospital and other medical facilities. She worked tirelessly for Amnesty International as a mainstay for the local branch annual fund-raising dinner for 120 at Branscombe and joining groups writing morale boosting cards and campaigning messages for prisoners of conscience throughout the world. At home she did all she could for her other favourite charity, Christian Aid, organising concerts using local talent and that of her musical grand-daughters.

Beyond home she and David regularly led their family on CND marches and demonstrations demanding nuclear disarmament.

Nobody cared more for the environment and Dor Evans is rightly buried off the road to Colyton in the green section of Seaton Cemetery in a coffin made from Somerset withies.

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