Frances Evans

Planting the Seeds of Knowledge


Stop by Frances Evans's house and odds are you'll find her out in the garden. Weeding, watering, or working magic with flowers, she has a green thumb and a knack for making things flourish. But her passion for nature is rooted in a deeper appreciation for learning of all kinds. A lover of nature and knowledge, it's no wonder she suggests "planting seeds in your mind" and letting ideas and solutions incubate. This advice characterizes Frances's life in itself; blessed with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, she continues to blossom as she finds the time and confidence to explore her varied interests.

 "I just have a sense of wonder about things," she marveled. Case in point: she and her husband, Don, are involved in an owl study right in their own backyard. The trees in their Charlotte yard have been the home to a barred owl couple for the past four years. Mr. and Mrs. Percy, the taloned twosome, each wears a radio pack, trackable by scientists. The box in which the owls live has a camera inside, so the ornithologists linked Frances and Don's television to the video feed as well, allowing them to see the baby owlets hatch each year.

 Frances's involvement with the great outdoors manifests itself in another way too- athletics. She tackled tennis in her early 30s, after her daughters were in school, and found a lifelong love. Then she gave golf a shot about ten years ago, in her early 60s, and though she humbly calls herself a duffer, she is an accomplished and successful player. She plays nearly daily, in either Hilton Head or Charlotte, NC, with Don, friends, and all ten family members. Always eager for more, Frances organized a tap dance class on a whim a few years ago at a local dance studio for her and some of her friends. all grandmothers! She laughed that the group jokingly threatened their husbands with putting on a recital, complete with leotards and tutus.

 Though tap dancing may be recreational, Frances continues to bolster her academic repertoire as well. With strong beginnings as an alumna of Queens University in Charlotte, NC and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frances taught middle-school English at her alma mater. Ever engaged in academia, not only is Frances on the board of trustees for Queens University, she audits classes for the sheer sake of learning and growing intellectually. To name a few, she has taken philosophy, astronomy, and sculpture. Sculpture sparked a creative fire, and Frances has made busts of each of her four grandchildren. She has plans to sculpt her two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three granddogs.

 Frances clearly seeks to stimulate a love of learning in others too, evidenced by her words and deeds. Her grandchildren update her on what they're learning in school, from fourth-grade science to college-level art history. Frances and her oldest granddaughter recently discovered they have the same favorite poem, "The Daffodils" by William Wordsworth. They can recite it in unison, memorable for both grandmother and granddaughter- confirmed because I am this granddaughter. Frances is my grandmother, and we discovered this poetic coincidence last year (she and I had both memorized the poem in a middle school English class, so I'm impressed either of us remembered it). 

 Frances, or DeDe as we grandchildren call her, has shared some advice with me, meant for a college girl like me, but universally applicable. She says to enjoy youth, while your mind is eager and able to learn and retain knowledge. She urges developing relationships and forming new ones. Don't carry grudges, because they're immaterial and unimportant in the long run. She advocates a positive outlook on life, remembering that nothing is ever as bad as it seems. And she reassures me that "things" in life work out just the way they're supposed to. Have faith, and what's fated will happen.  Just plant solid seeds and let them grow.

Up Close

Most influential book: 8th Day of Creation: Discovering Your Gifts by Elizabeth O'Connor. This work sparked her creative energy the most, but it was hard for her to decide because she has read so many books!

Surprising fact: Can't cook! "My daughter, when she was about four years old, volunteered to help make breakfast, and made a bargain, 'Mommy, you butter the toast before we put it in the oven and I'll scrape the black off after.' She thought that's how toast was always made!"

Life philosophy: Keep a sense of wonder in all things

Family: Husband, Don, of almost 50 years;  Two daughters, Ashley and Kathy, and their husbands Charlie and Stephen; Grandchildren, Katy, Caroline, James, and Donnie