Evelyn Redemeyer Foote was born at the family home at Vichy Springs on August 26, 1902, to Martha and John Augustus Redemeyer. Her father managed the Vichy Springs resort when she was a child. In 1995, when she was 93, Mrs. Foote attributed her longevity to drinking mineral water from Vichy Springs throughout her life.
Mrs. Foote was the granddaughter of Augustus F. Redemeyer, who settled in Ukiah in the mid-1800's, and was the founder of the Savings Bank of Mendocino County.
According to a family history published in 1991, “when Evelyn reached school age, John Redemeyer moved his family to a home at 400 E. Perkins St., 'so the children no longer had to ford the river to get to school.' John continued to manage Vichy Springs resort during those early years, and the children have many fond memories of the time they spent there.”
Evelyn married Russell Foote in 1946, after the death of his first wife, Dorothy Holland Foote in 1945. Russell was Mendocino County's agricultural commissioner for many years. When the couple were not living in Australia or San Francisco, they made their home at West Standley and South Barnes streets, where Mrs. Foote loved to garden.
Russell died July 30, 1975, and Mrs. Foote entered the Ukiah Convalescent Hospital shortly thereafter. At that time, a conservator was appointed by the court to manage her financial affairs. After a few years, Esther Clark, a legal secretary, was approached by attorney Burgess Williams, and asked to take over as the conservator for Mrs. Foote. According to Mrs. Clark, “At that time, Mrs. Foote had become estranged from her family and most of her friends. Although she had a lot of money, she was 'living poor' in the convalescent home. I talked to people I knew in the legal field, and they all encouraged me to become Mrs. Foote's conservator, so I agreed to do it. I got her the best care that was available. I paid a very kind young woman minimum wage to be her caregiver: to go in and read to her, do her nails, mend her clothes, things like that. Sometimes the caregiver and I would take her for drives to the Coast, and other places. We brightened her life.
“I kept a careful record of the expenses, as I was accountable to the court. One of the judges actually honored me for my service to Mrs. Foote. I was very surprised. I just tried to treat her the way I would want to be treated if I were in her circumstances, but it meant a lot to me to be acknowledged like that.”
In 1990, Mrs. Foote moved to a facility in Auburn to be near a dear friend. Ms. Clark continued to serve as her conservator. “I spoke to Evelyn about her wishes for her estate. She was not close to her family, and she did not know what to do with her money, so I was looking for worthy causes she might be interested in funding. I was taking classes at the newly established Mendocino College, and I suggested the College as a possible recipient of her estate. Although childless, Evelyn always cared very much about schools and education. She liked the idea of funding scholarships for needy college students, so I contacted the College, and that is how the Evelyn Foote Scholarships came to be.”
Foote gave $200,000 to the Mendocino College Foundation in 1992, and another $300,000 after her death. Her gifts continue to provide 20 or more scholarships, of $1,500 each, to needy students every year, depending on the financial performance of the endowment. Twenty seven (27) Evelyn Foote Scholarships will be awarded by the Mendocino College Foundation in May, 2016.
In addition to Mendocino College, Mrs. Foote gave an equal amount of money to Ukiah Unified School District. Charley Myers, now president of the Mendocino College Foundation, was the Ukiah Unified superintendent in August 1992, when Mrs. Foote's gifts were announced. “This is wonderful news... I hope I can express my appreciation to her on the district's behalf,” Myers said, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat at the time.
Although estranged from her own family, Evelyn Redemeyer Foote's scholarships give students from many other families a boost toward reaching their educational goals. Their collective gratitude shines a perpetual light on her memory.
For more information about the Mendocino College Foundation or to donate towards any of their programs, call them at 707-467-1018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Esther Clark for a telephone interview in March, 2016, and to Paul Poulos and other volunteers at the Held-Poage Museum in Ukiah, for additional information used in this article.