Beloved Nedra Thorsrud Evenson, 99 years young, passed in her sleep on April 20, 2021 at Horizon House in Anchorage, Alaska. She was graceful to the end of her lively long life.
Nedra was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa on April 4, 1922 to parents C.S. and Marie Thorsrud. She grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa attending Cedar Falls High School and two years at Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa. She was an outstanding athlete. The US Olympic swimming team attempted to recruit her for the 1936 Olympics, however her family could not imagine moving to California for her to train.
Nedra married her high school beau Harland Riebe in 1941. While her husband was in the US Navy in the Mediterranean Sea on a destroyer, Nedra lived and worked first in Norfolk, Virginia in a hospital and then in NYC for several years at the Pathe News. She thoroughly enjoyed her work, dressed in style with seamed nylons and stylish hairdos, and on days off gathered with girlfriends on the beach. Following the war, the couple lived in Storm Lake, Iowa where son Thor was born in 1947. Later the family resided in Boulder, Colorado and Charleston, Illinois where Harland was a professor. When the couple divorced in 1952, Nedra and Thor moved to Des Moines, Iowa where she worked at the Register and Tribune. Nedra recognized young Thor's artistic talents and nurtured him with visits to museums.
Harland's mother Gladys Riebe suggested to Jim Evenson, her nephew and Harland's first cousin, that he visit Nedra. Romance bloomed and Jim and Nedra married August 19, 1954. After living in Mt. Vernon for a year, Nedra said to Jim, a voracious reader, about Alaska, "You are always reading and talking about it, let's go!" They did and a student from Alaska, Mary Joanne Thompson, rode along in May of 1955 to Kenai where her family lived. Jim, Nedra, and Thor lived in the Thompson's set net cabin on the beach below Kenai that summer. Jim observed the salmon drift fleet on the river and mused how he'd like to do that someday. So once again Nedra suggested, "Well, why don't you?" They bought a salmon drift boat in Seldovia in August. Nedra was the adventuresome and dynamic woman behind the successful man.
The family returned to Iowa for one more winter and then stayed in Alaska when they returned to fish in 1956. Jim taught school and the family fished together in the summers. In fall of 1956 Nedra flew back to Iowa to return with a load of family possessions to Alaska. She bought and outfitted a Chevy panel truck with extra tires and gas cans to drive the Alaska highway. Iowa locals were eager to assist and curious about this young woman on this solo adventure. On her trip Nedra slept in the truck nights.
A friend Les Vandeveer, a trapper and homesteader in N. Kenai, suggested a great homestead site on unclaimed land on Bishop Lake. The family snowshoed there with Les in February of 1957. Jim and Nedra loved the site between two lakes and filed in 1958. In 1959-60 a cabin was built on the isthmus and Nedra stayed there for 7 months; home is where the wife is according to homestead law. Meanwhile Jim taught 6th grade in Kenai and Jim and Thor traveled an 8 mile trail every weekend to be with Nedra and cut firewood. Alone on the homestead during the week, Nedra had a chore assigned for each day: Monday was for filling the oil lanterns, Tuesday for cleaning, Wednesday for laundry, Thursday for snowshoeing a distance to check on a pregnant friend alone in a cabin, and Friday for baking bread. Nedra enjoyed ice skating on the smaller lake that she named after her mother Marie.
After that winter, the family lived in town Kenai spending weekends at the homestead until the 1964 earthquake took down the cabin. In 1971, the Holt-Lamplight loop road was constructed and the family built a beautiful home on the same site and lived there until 2015 when health concerns led them to live at Providence Horizon House in Anchorage- Nedra desired to be near Thor and grandson Taylor.
Well-traveled Nedra brought the broader world to their Bishop Lake home and studio. Twice on her own, Nedra traveled to Africa on safari with a Methodist women's group. She was very interested in the arts, performing arts, and sports. She kept yearly records of all the waterfowl on the two lakes, their comings, goings and young. As a very active volunteer in Kenai for many years, Nedra was a shaker, mover, and an innovative force at the Kenai Community Library and wherever she worked. She gave many hours of service to the Kenai Art League, at the Kenai schools monitoring spelling bees, as an elections volunteer, and at the Methodist Church. Ultra-capable and intelligent, Nedra could have successfully run any business or organization. Nedra was Jim's right hand partner in his art studio assisting with the lithographic printing process, framing all the works, and keeping detailed records of each piece. She was in her own right a designer, an artist, and multi-skilled with her wonderful large hands. She was a superb cook, known for her mossberry pies, Limoncello, and huge feasts for an array of dinner guests. She had a great warmth toward people and her appreciative extended family. A gracious hostess, Nedra welcomed many locals and those from around the world into her home, serving many delicious meals, and giving many haircuts! Many people mention how kind she was to them.
Nedra was very involved in the community, enjoyed and loved so many so much. Right now, the F/V Nedra E named after a great lady and skippered by her adored and adoring grandson, is cruising Bristol Bay harvesting salmon. Nedra will be well-remembered and is greatly missed.
Nedra is survived by her son Thor Evenson and grandson Taylor Evenson of Anchorage; her nephew Chuck Thorsrud of Homer and his family; her nieces Teri Weiderman of Minnesota, Chris Williams of Utah, and Marie Wessely of Texas and their families. Nedra's husband Jim preceded her in death on September 19, 2020.
Friends and family, please join us for a celebration of Nedra and Jim's lives this summer on Sunday, August 22th at 1pm at the family homestead in Nikiski. Please PLEASE RSVP: 907-274-4242 or [email protected]
In lieu of flowers, the family requests any donations in Nedra's honor be made to the Kenai Community Library. Thank you!
Published by Peninsula Clarion on Jul. 7, 2021.