MARQUETTE - Evelyn Le Claire has never been afraid of a challenge.
She survived childhood tragedy. She moved around the Midwest. And she even traveled all across America all alone to celebrate her retirement.
So while some are intimidated by new technology, at age 90, Le Claire went out and bought herself a computer.
Evelyn Le Claire poses with the first computer she has ever owned in her 90 years. She bought the device in order to e-mail with family members and has her own Facebook page. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"It has Windows 7," she said of her brand-new laptop. Le Claire had never owned a computer but at the urging of her nieces and nephews, who live all over the Midwest, she shopped for one and has become familiar with it.
"I even have a Facebook page," Le Claire said.
Le Claire, who has lived in Marquette for 42 years, has met a number of challenges head on during the course of her life.
Born Marie Evelyn Le Claire on Oct. 11, 1920, she was the third child of Alexander and Anna (Linn) Le Claire. The family lived in Duluth, Minn., when Evelyn was born.
When she was 1, Le Claire's mother went into labor and because there was no doctor or nurse available, her father delivered her baby brother, James. Sadly, the baby's umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he never fully recovered, dying at age 5 in 1927.
That, of course, affected the other children, Evelyn, Clarence and Mildred. Evelyn remembers becoming extremely independent during her family's grief.
"My mother was hanging clothes and I came down the steps carrying a loaf of bread... and a butcher knife," Le Claire recalled. "My father would rock me to sleep in his grief. I didn't like to be rocked."
The family moved to Milwaukee. Evelyn was quiet... most of the time.
"A teacher asked us what we were giving up for Lent and when one of the shy girls spoke, the teacher said 'Is that all?'," Le Claire remembered. "When it was my turn, I stood and glared at the teacher and said 'Nothing.'"
School days were different in her era than they are now.
"Back then, there was no trouble with drugs or with drinking," Le Claire said. "People took school seriously."
In her youth, Le Claire found ways to earn money.
"I would babysit for a quarter a night," she said. "Then I would go to the movies for 15 cents and that included a snack."
She didn't have a favorite genre, but does recall: "Irene Dunne had a movie called 'Theodora Goes Wild' and I saw that five times."
The Le Claire family didn't have a car during Evelyn's younger years, so the kids walked to school and took the streetcar at times.
"I didn't have a car until I was 26," she said.
Unsure of what she wanted to do in the work world, Le Claire attended nursing school for a time, but decided that career wasn't for her. She found her niche in accounting and bookkeeping.
When Alexander Le Claire died in 1945, Evelyn moved with her mother to the Upper Peninsula's Copper Country.
"My mother's foster mother lived alone up there at age 75 and my mother felt it was her duty to take care of her, so we moved to Lake Linden," Le Claire said. It took some time to adjust to her new surroundings.
"I worked in Calumet and would wait on the corner to take the bus there," she remembered. "I would say hello to people and they would say 'who are you?' back to me. We were strangers, I guess."
Le Claire took a job at MIchigan Tech University, working with all the funds except unions and dorms.
"In nine years, it went from 21 accounts to 250," she said.
She took on another challenge when she bought a house that had been abandoned for 20 years.
"I fixed it up and we enjoyed it for many years," she said.
Next, Evelyn took a job in Wausau, Wis., as an audit reviewer, but her mother was lonely for the U.P., so Evelyn applied for a job at Northern Michigan University and was hired there.
"College life was great so that's why I applied at Northern," she said.
After spending seven years in NMU's student aid office, Le Claire took a job at the Marquette Federal Credit Union, where she stayed until she retired in 1983, at age 62.
Le Claire's mother had passed on in 1977, so upon retirement, Le Claire decided to take on the challenge of travel, something she'd longed to do her entire life.
All alone, she packed up her car with camping supplies and with a whistle around her neck and Mace on her keyring, she set out after a January 1983 blizzard in Marquette to see the country. She'd never traveled alone and never had camped either, but Le Claire enjoyed the challenge.
"I had made a promise to myself in high school that some day I would see Yosemite," she said.
Le Claire sent postcards to her former coworkers at the credit union from her stops around the country. Some 19,500 miles and 26 state capitols later, she returned to Marquette in October 1983.
But she did not stay idle.
Le Claire was treasurer of the St. Christopher's Women's Club for 21 years, helping with the church's pasty sales for years. She still volunteers with the Messiah Lutheran Quilting group and the Bishop Baraga Association. She's an active member of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.
In 1998, Le Claire was honored as a Super Senior by the Bresnan Awards. She earned her first President's Award for volunteer service in 2002 for putting in more than 4,000 hours of volunteering. She picked up a second President's Award in 2008.
And she's learning her way around on the computer as well.
"I found a woman on Dana Lane who I think is the daughter of my father's cousin," she said. "It's amazing."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.