Nancy Bell Evans was memorialized today at Benayora Hall. This renown civic and community leader passed from this earth in late January, at home surrounded by her husband, Gov. Daniel J. Evans and much of their family.

Mrs. Evans had been battling complications of breast cancer which had returned for the fourth time.

“It’s a difficult period for her family – her loving husband Dan, her sons, daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren, and her many nieces and nephews. Despite many visits to see her doctors, the tests, and the medications she needs to take, she navigated the past few weeks with unwavering courage,” a post on Caring Bridge said.

Outside my office window there is a special rhododendron plant  named for her.  A friend bought it for me more than a decade ago. But it was named and introduced in the 1970s and has proven  resilient and popular, as well as beautiful. Sounds like the woman herself, doesn’t it??

“ From orange-red flower buds, the spring blossoms of this lovely evergreen rhododendron cultivar become amber-yellow with a golden yellow throat and splashes of orange on the outside of the petals,” says the website ‘Great Plant Picks. ‘

Year after year the spunky plant comes back, indomitable, like the spirit of the woman for which it was named.

Nancy Evans  brought a brightness, an energy and grace to every organization or project she took on.

She was founder and chair of Friends of Cancer Lifeline; national chair of the First Ladies’ Mental Health Month; founding trustee of Planned Parenthood of Olympia; and founder of the Governor’s Mansion Foundation.

She loved the arts and cofounded the Governor’s Festival of the Arts as well as serving on its board. She was a trustee of Seattle Symphony Orchestra for more than three decades. And she served as trustee of the Washington State Capitol Museum, and Patrons of South Sound Cultural Activities.

This fiercely tireless champion had also served on the boards of Benaroya Hall Music Center; KCTS Public Television; and the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation.

Her commitment to higher education was reflected in her work in that field not only  as a member of University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance advisory board; but as honorary co-chair of The Evans School’s campaign at UW;  as well as that university’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

Anyone who served on a board with her, as I have, learned much from her strength in leadership. When she spoke, people listened.

“Nancy has been a steadfast presence for the university in good and difficult times. She really is someone to bring people together in very polarizing situations. With her intelligence, combined with her huge heart, she could make almost anything happen. She will be deeply missed,” said University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce.

She leaves behind her wonderful husband, former Governor and US Senator Daniel Evans; and their three sons Dan Evans Jr.; Bruce Evans; and Mark Evans, and their wives and families.

I love you, Nancy Evans. So many people love you. I trust you can feel that love, as you watch us and try to guide us from where you are.