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Obituaries

Sheila Evans, 83, fund-raiser and Smith College trustee

SHEILA EVANS

SHEILA EVANS

As a trustee at Smith College during the 1980s, Sheila Evans led a capital campaign that raised $163 million for her alma mater.

Her fund-raising was invaluable, said Mary Maples Dunn, a former president of Smith. “Sheila Evans was a splendid member of the Smith Board. She was hard-working and witty, very creative, tough-minded, and supportive.”

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Mrs. Evans, an uncommonly active volunteer who worked with a wide variety of organizations, died of ovarian cancer Dec. 15 at her home in Cohasset, where she had lived for more than 50 years.

She was 83.

In 1990, Smith presented her with the John M. Greene Award for her service to the college. She served as a trustee from 1983 to 1990.

Along with her work on Smith’s board, Mrs. Evans was a longtime trustee of the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, from which she graduated.

Long before becoming a Smith trustee, she was involved in many college activities, including chairing reunions and serving as president of the Smith College Club on the South Shore.

For more than four decades, Mrs. Evans served in leadership positions and on the board of trustees for the Paul Pratt Memorial Library in Cohasset. She chaired the trustees and led a committee that raised $1.7 million to convert a former elementary school into a new, 15,500-square-foot library building

“She was really active for a stay-at-home mother,” said her son, Daniel of Cohasset. “But she still put 100 percent into being a mom. She took us everywhere, went to all our recitals, games, everything.”

Her other volunteer work included leadership roles in the Junior League of Boston, serving on the board of overseers for WGBH, and working with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the 1960s.

“If something needed doing, Mom’s inclination was to do it, rather than talking about it,” her son said. “She was a great organizer.”

In a eulogy delivered at a service earlier this month, her daughter Elizabeth Bodner of Cohasset said Mrs. Evans loved her morning coffee, The New York Times, Brigham’s chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate jimmies, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, high tide, and her family.

“Despite her incredible self-discipline in so many situations, your Grummy loved you with complete abandon,” ­Bodner said, addressing her mother’s nine grandchildren.

And as for the grandchildren, Bodner said: “You gave her continual joy.”

Born Sheila Elizabeth Sweeney, she grew up in Gardner, where her father, George C. Sweeney, was mayor in the early 1930s.

Later, he was an assistant US attorney general and chief judge of the US District Court in Massachusetts.

After graduating from Dana Hall, Mrs. Evans enrolled at Smith, where she graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. For the next decade, she worked in statistical and economic research for several companies.

She met Donald Evans when they were paired by mutual friends at a doubles tennis match at a country club in West Newton. They married in 1954 and settled in Cohasset two years later.

Mrs. Evans always had “a plan for the day.” Bodner said.

“There was never a day when she decided to just stay in her PJs and watch TV or read,” she said. “Each day was something to be tackled, appreciated, and made the most of, and she did this in spades.”

In Cohasset, Mrs. Evans was involved with much more than just the library.

She served on the town’s facilities committee and on the search committee for a principal for ­Cohasset High School, even though her three children attended Milton Academy. She also was a director of the Cohasset Central Cemetery.

After she died, her son said, he was approached by many people who said she had gone out of her way to help acquaint them with Cohasset when they had just arrived in town.

“If she noticed that someone was new, she would figure they might need help, and so she would help them,” he said.

When her children were grown, Mrs. Evans intensified her volunteer work, traveling more often for organizations outside Cohasset.

In her work as an overseer for WGBH, she chaired capital campaigns and served on an advisory committee.

At a friend’s urging, she became involved in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston in 2008 and soon mobilized a group of Cohasset women who raised $150,000 to fund summer camperships for underserved children, said Josh Kraft, president and chief executive of the organization.

“She really helped give so many kids a great summer experience,” he said. “She was very committed and brought a great deal of insight into our fund-raising. But she brought more than insight; she brought passion and she brought compassion for the kids we serve.”

Kraft said he was surprised to learn of her age upon her death.

“I had no idea she was 83,” he said. “She was so energetic and always so full of life. And she never missed a meeting, leaving Cohasset to travel to Boston at 7 in the morning. The traffic never deterred her.”

An avid sportswoman, Mrs. Evan enjoyed golf, sailing, and tennis until recently, her son said, even after dual knee-replacement surgery. She also taught sailing to adults and children at the Cohasset Yacht Club.

“She was very active,” he said, “and she and my father were crazy avid about any sport they could do with the family.”

A service has been held for Mrs. Evans, who in addition to her husband, son, daughter, and nine grandchildren leaves another daughter, Martha Morris of Ridgefield, Conn., and a brother, George C. Sweeney of Spencer.

“She was very outgoing and very interested in people,” said her son, who noted that many described Mrs. Evans as “a force.”

“She had a very powerful personality,” he said, “and she was so accomplished.”

Kathleen McKenna can be reached at kmck66@comcast.net.

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