Evelyn Deal Rhodes - In Memoriam
This page is devoted to a wonderful lady who was singly responsible for preserving the historical records of Catawba County. Evelyn Rhodes spent her entire life serving the public, providing the assistance that would make her forever remembered by all those who had the priviledge of coming in contact with her. She always had the time to assist anyone seeking information. Never did anyone leave her presence without knowing that she had provided every scrap of information that was possible to discover.
Her entire life was spent serving the public. Never tiring of trying to discover additional clues to patron queries, she would often spent her off-hours trying to find the missing clues to family relationships. During her official hours, she would seek out books and publications that were of the most help to library patrons. It is little wonder that the Catawba County Library in Newton gained the reputation as the finest repository of Catawba Valley for historical and genealogical information.
Beloved county librarian honored on her retirement
After 41 years of helping people at the Catawba County Library, ninety-year-old Evelyn Rhodes got to sit down Friday on her last day of work and listen to what folks think about her.
Among the words people used: "remarkable," "angel," a great example," and "tremendous help."
Rhodes sat in an armchair beside a vase of two dozen red roses given by her children, and was presented a watch and a garden angel statue and many well wishes from friends, family and coworkers.
"Evelyn Rhodes you are a remarkable woman," said Library Director Karen Foss. "..."I don't think that I know of anyone who has more enthusiasm for their job than you do."
Rhodes has been a fixture at the library, establishing the genealogy collection which is housed in the Evelyn Deal Rhodes Genealogy Room.
"You have touched many families by helping them discover their family origins," Foss said.
David Hardin, the county's public information officer, said he's been in four states looking for family information and has never encountered a better researcher.
"I've never seen anyone who could work so quickly and efficiently to tell you about your family history," he said. "All you have to do is tell her a surname and she starts stacking books and records in front of you and the next thing you know you're in a different world."
Joe Momier, of the Catawba County Sheriff's Department, is one of the family researches who sought assistance from Rhodes.
"She was a tremendous help to me," he said, telling a story about how Rhodes' loaned him one of her personal books.
"She's one of my favorite people and I love you to death," he told her. "If there's anything we can ever do, give us a holler."
Derick Hartshorn, a historian who lives in Conover, said he's spent many happy hours doing research at the library with Rhodes' help.
"Some of the highlights of my life took place either visiting her or working with her or just being around her," he said. "She will go the second or third mile to help somebody."
Library cataloger Judy Foster remembered how Rhodes hired her 21 years ago and talked about how much she'd learned from her.
"Mrs. Rhodes has unselfishly dedicated her life to this library," she said. "We can never thank you enough for all you have accomplished."
Last month, the library staff had a 90th birthday party with cake and balloons for their favorite genealogical researcher who happens to be one of the oldest librarians in the nation.
Her children, Patricia Rhodes and Tim Rhodes, watched during Friday's celebration as County Manager Tom Lundy gave their mother a retirement watch.
"I think you've been a great example to all of us," Lundy said, "staying active, enjoying what you're doing and helping others."
He talked about how she's said she might work at the library some as a volunteer, and extended an open invitation to un-retire.
"My guess is that if you change your mind at any point we'll welcome you back with open arms."
Rhodes has said she plans to work in her yard, and that was part of the reason her friends and co-workers got her a garden statue.
The significance of the shape was explained by library director Foss.
"You are an angel," she said.
[Feature Article, Observer News-Enterprise, Monte Mitchell, Monday July 3, 2000
Friends fondly remember Mrs.
She built library's nationally acclaimed genealogy collection
When Evelyn Deal Rhodes began clipping newspaper articles and compiling photographs as a librarian nearly a century ago, she was saving more than scrapbook items.
She was building a genealogy collection that today is known throughout North Carolina and even the United States.
"She saw it as a mission," said Judy Foster, who worked with Rhodes at Catawba County's Main Library in Newton. "She was a native of Catawba County and truly loved its people and history."
Soon after graduating from Lenoir-Rhyne College with a degree in English and history, Rhodes began her career at the Hickory Public Library.
Twelve years later, she was hired as a cataloger at Catawba County's Main Library in Newwton where she got to work on her genealogy collection as a side project.
"Her love of family history was a true calling," Foster said. "She built the genealogy department to be what it is. It was her first love."
Rhodes began buying books and other resources to help her patrons research their "family trees," as she personally grew a collection that started out as three small shelves and would later encompass the Rhodes Genealogy Room, named in her honor at the Main Library in Newton.
In 1994, Rhodes was named Catawba County Employee of the Year. That same year, the N.C. Society of Historians recognized her as Historian of the Year for Western North Carolina.
Rhodes continued working at the Main Library for 32 hours a week until she retired at 90. She died Aug. 14  at age 96.
Her co-workers and friends said they will remember her in many ways - as a walking-talking encyclopedia, a true historian and a sweet, dear lady. Even more fondly, they will remember her as "Mrs. Rhodes."
The Rhodes Genealogy Room, will continue to drawl visitors, not only as a testament to Rhodes' lifelong work andl love of history, but as a boon to I local historians and aspiring genealogists.
[Catawba Valley People, Observer-News-Enterprise, Katherine Creel, Monday, September 1, 2006]
Obituary of Evelyn Deal Rhodes
Evelyn Deal Rhodes, 96, of Conover, and member of Beth Eden Lutheran Church of Newton, died Aug. 14, 2006, after a long and healthy life. Daughter of Harriet L. Deal and Albert L. Deal, she studied English and history at Lenoir-Rhyne College, graduating in 1931. Ms. Rhodes was employed by the Catawba County Library for nearly 50 years, retiring in 2000 at the age of 90. Evelyn enjoyed a restful retirement, assisted by her children. Ms. Rhodes was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Jacob Caldwell Rhodes; two brothers, Albert Jr. and Robert Deal, Robert's wife, Marianna Mull Deal, and Robert and Marianna's daughter, Diane Deal Mitchell. Evelyn is survived by her daughter, Patricia Lynn Rhodes and her husband, John W. Lowe; her son, Timothy Leonard Rhodes and his wife, Connie Reinhart Rhodes, and their son, her grandson, Shawn Michael Rhodes; her sister-in-law, Alvena Hunsucker Deal; her niece, Rebecca Deal Burgess and her husband, Arthur Burgess; and her nieces and nephews and their families. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006, in Oakwood Cemetery. The Revs. Dr. Jane Mitcham and Ronnie Church will officiate. The family will receive friends tonight, Wednesday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Drum Funeral Home in Conover. Memorials may be made to Beth Eden Lutheran Church, 400 N. Main Ave., Newton, N.C. 28658. The Rhodes family has entrusted funeral arrangements to Drum Funeral Home and Cremations in Conover.
[Published in the Hickory Daily Record on 8/16/2006]
Recollections from a fellow library employee and one who deeply loved this remarkable woman.
When I was first hired by the Catawba County Library as a Genealogical Librarian to assist Mrs. Rhodes, I was immediately awed by her reputation and the aura of her presence. I knew that I would gain a great deal by absorbing as much of her wisdom and enlightenment I was able. I never expected that I would benefit from her knowledge and work ethic as much as I did. She was like a mother to me and encouraged me to reach beyond my New England limitations for the greater good of genealogy. The most valuable lessons she taught me was to provide whatever assistance I could to those seeking knowledge of their ancestors. Back then, the Internet was new but she recognized it as a tool to assist patrons, wherever they might reside. During the time I worked with Mrs. Rhodes, I used library resources to assist folks across the country to help folks make familial connections. Mrs. Rhodes was 100% behind this technological revolution. I suggested books and resources that would benefit the expanding population of Catawba County and she instantly supported this effort.. Many folks from outside of North Carolina had few local resources in which to discover their heritage. Mrs. Rhodes was instrumental in reaching out to provide those resources. Some patrons misinterpreted our verbal exchanges as disrespect. Far from it, we enjoyed a sense of humor that has forever blessed my soul. Mrs. Rhodes was one of the most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege to be associated with. When the Lord finally calls me home, I know that will have the opportunity to have her introduce me to all the folks she tried to tell me about back here on earth.
Few folks recognize that Evelyn Deal graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College and was the Home Coming Queen in her Senior year. Her husband-to-be, Jacob Rhodes, was the Home Coming King. Their romance and subsequent marriage was a story-book ending to the precious times they shared. The following pictures are from HAKAWA, the yearbook of Lenoir-Rhyne College:
Please join me in recognizing Evelyn Deal Rhodes as a person who
made Catawba County County a much better place by her presence.
--Derick S. Hartshorn
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