FRANCES--Evan, Our Mom, Evan Frances (Agnew), passed away on June 30th, just shy of her 96th birthday. She came from a small town in Michigan, an only child from a poor family. She never knew her father, for the most part she was raised by aunts and uncles. She was Jewish. The odds were stacked against her from the beginning. She overcame them, and then some. She was born four years before women won the right to vote, two years after WWI began, 48 years before the Civil Rights Act became the law of this land. She lived to see 17 presidents elected, and witnessed her country enter into seven wars, during which more than six-hundred thousand American soldiers and six million innocent Jews lost their lives. She was an unusually bright child and diligent student, received a scholarship to attend the University of Chicago, continued her graduate studies at New York University. The war swept American men to foreign shores, jobs that were not previously available to women suddenly were. She filled one, as a reporter for a New York newspaper. The troops came home, she met our father, Alec, they started a family. Her journalism career blossomed along with her children, Andy, Jimmy and Scott. Her award-filled career as a magazine editor began at Family Weekly, continued at Family Circle and Ladies Home Journal, culminated as editor-in-chief of 1,001 Decorating Ideas. She was a member of The Society of the Silurians and the American Society of Interior Designers. Evan, that is what everyone called her, even her children, was passionate about the world around her. She was an iron lady, righteous and unbending, perhaps to a fault. She stood in Union Square for Ethel Rosenberg's vigil, fought McCarthyism, walked the lines for civil rights, brought us to Washington to protest the war in Vietnam. She instilled in her children the spirit to stand unwavering for one's principles. In turn, we have passed this virtue on to ours. To her end, she could quote verse from Shelley and Yeats. Her greatest gift was her ability to write, she was obsessive about the English language. She never spared us when it came to misusage or misspelling of a word, or proper structuring of a sentence. We are grateful and better for these and all of her lessons. She is survived by us, Andy, Jim and Scott, her grandchildren, Sam, Alec, Sophie and David, and her daughters-in-law, Jane, Cynthia and Patti. Until this weekend we called her Evan. From now on we will call her mom. A memorial will be held on August 22nd at 11am, at The Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist, 40 East 35th St., NYC.
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Published in The New York Times on July 8, 2012