Evalyn Poff of Olympia, Washington was beloved in community and Democratic circles.
Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and one of ten children, Evalyn paid her way through college, earning two master's degrees, as a high-flying trapeze artist for traveling circuses. She taught in a one-room school, spent 20 years as an international buyer for Frederick & Nelson, and finished her career years working as an accountant at The Evergreen State College until 1988. However, she would continue to work legislative sessions for the Washington House.
Evalyn was always involved in community activities, something that only increased after her "retirement."
In an Oct. 5, 2003 Sunday feature on Evalyn in The Olympian, John Dodge related that, at age 84, she was "a current campaign finance director for 10 Olympia City Council candidates, state elected officials and political action committees" -- was giving "music lessons freely to the kids in her northeast Olympia neighborhood" -- and had "just got done painting her house by herself."
Of her circus work in the 1930s, including for the Jay Gould Million Dollar Spectacle, Dodge noted that Evalyn "literally learned the nuances of trapeze work on the fly, 60 feet above ground." She "also rode an elephant in the grand parade that was a feature of every circus stop." On the train between summer shows, which were as far away from her South Dakota home as Guatemala City, Evalyn would read her textbooks for fall classes.
Evalyn received many awards for her activism: Honorary Doctor of Arts and Humanities for promoting appreciation for the arts; Thurston County Citizen of the Year in 1995; and the 2000 Warren Magnuson Award at a Washington State Democratic Party event attended by then-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton. Other tributes included recognition from Olympia's mayor and City Council for her contributions as a member of the Human Services Review Council. In her 85th year, in 2005, a Washington House Resolution was passed honoring her.
To have "Evalyn Poff, Treasurer" on one's campaign literature or remittance envelopes spoke volumes. Her volunteerism on campaigns was indefatigable. Following her passing in March 2006, scholarships in her name were awarded by the Thurston County Democrats. However, this practice lapsed. It's time to restore it. Toward this end, one of the many candidates she assisted, former Rep. Brendan Williams has pledged no less than $1,000 annually in her name to assist a learner at South Puget Sound Community College. Other contributions are welcome, and can be made by clicking here.
"To understand the living present, and the promise of the future, it is necessary to remember the past."
-- Rachel Carson