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Winifred Louise Evans Van Cleave

May 14, 2017

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Memorial Service
July 6, 2018

4:00 PM
First United Methodist Church
207 N. Halagueno
Carlsbad, NM 88220

Winifred Louise Evans Van Cleave transitioned peacefully from this life on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017, at Brookdale The Heights, a senior assisted living and Alzheimer’s care facility in Houston, Texas. She is survived by her three children: Kent (Fran), Kathy V.C. Parris (Dan), and Lorna V.C. Joyce (Mark); her sister Katharine Evans Smith; her two grandchildren: Evan Joyce and Athena Van Cleave; numerous nieces and nephews and their families; and her beloved adopted family of care-takers at Brookdale The Heights. She was preceded by her husband, Philip F. Van Cleave (Chief Naturalist and Acting Superintendent at Carlsbad Caverns National Park); her two brothers, Arthur C. Evans, Jr., and F. Bowen Evans; her grandson Daniel Lane Van Cleave; her niece Elizabeth Dutton Smith; and her dear friend Jay Nolan Murphy.

Win requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made through the Carlsbad Community Foundation ( to either the Win Van Cleave Scholarship Fund, a college scholarship fund for Carlsbad High School students utilizing the services for teen parents and meeting qualifying criteria, or the Phil Van Cleave Natural Sciences Fund, a grants program to benefit The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park.  A memorial service is scheduled for 4:00 PM Friday, July 6, 2018, at First United Methodist Church of Carlsbad with Rev. Dan Boyd officiating.

Win came to Carlsbad in 1964 as a Park Service wife, but she left as a pillar of the community in her own right. When her children were old enough for her to resume her career, she became a school nurse with the Carlsbad Municipal Schools for six years. She left that job in 1983 to become the Director of the AWARE Program she created to help young mothers complete high school, serving on the AWARE board for three years. Win also served on the boards of the Hacienda Group Home for Boys and the Guadalupe Medical Center – eight years and four years, respectively.

The University of New Mexico School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics added Win to the editorial board of its journal Healthwise in 1979, and the following year she authored a special issue of Healthwise on her own program for Carlsbad girls, “Scoliosis Screening: The Carlsbad Program.” Other journal contributions included “School Nurses DO Make a Difference,” Healthwise, 1983; and “Carlsbad AWARE Program,” The Pilot Log, 1984.

In 1986 Win joined the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Adolescent Pregnancy for the Legislative Study Committee, New Mexico House Memorial 30. Then, in rapid succession, came appointments to the Governor’s Taskforce on Adolescent Pregnancy; the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Adolescent Pregnancy; the Advisory Committee to NM House Memorial 6; New Mexico’s First State Health Policy Commission; Co-Chair, HPC Task Force on Health Promotion and Education; and HPC Representative to House Memorial 12, Acute Care for Out of State Children.

As remarkable as these accomplishments would be under the best of circumstances, Win was also the sole care-giver for her husband Phil, from the early onset of Alzheimer’s in the early-to-mid 1980s until the burden became too great for any one person to handle. Small wonder her family thought of her as “SuperMom.”

Folks in Carlsbad found ways to show their appreciation. Win was a winner of (1986) and twice runner-up for (1982 and 1985) the A.J. Crawford Award for Humanitarian Service. She received the Carlsbad Foundation’s “Community Organization of the Year” Award for AWARE in 1991. And she received the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award in 1992.

Win was born in Paulina, Iowa, to Arthur C. Evans (a Presbyterian minister) and Grace Bowen Evans. She was the youngest of their four children, who grew up in Texas towns such as Terrell, Cross Plains, Prosper, and Jacksboro. Her nursing education produced an R.N. degree from Dallas Methodist Hospital School of Nursing; a B.S. in Nursing and P.H.N. certificate from the University of Colorado in Boulder; and an M.S. in Health Education from the Columbia University School of Public Health. Her early career included jobs in nursing, health education, and health administration in Denver, Colorado. 

During her time in Boulder she made a fortuitous visit to Mesa Verde National Park, where she met and fell in love with a young Park Archaeologist named Phil Van Cleave. They were married in May 1950 on the canyon rim overlooking Cliff Palace. In 1957, the family moved to Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona, where Win took on numerous children’s programs, including Cub Scouts, Brownie Scouts, 4H, and creating a home away from home for the children residing at the Navajo dormitory throughout the school year, before moving on to Carlsbad.

The Carlsbad years ended in 1994 when Win began thinking about retirement. She wanted to scale down to an apartment with full meal service and an available transition to assisted living. She chose Broadway Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, conveniently near daughter Kathy, and “snuck away” from Carlsbad, too emotional about leaving her dear friends to say goodbye directly.  After several very contented years making numerous close friends, in 2003 she moved to Brookdale in Houston to be near her “baby” Lorna and grandson Evan. Several years later, as Alzheimer’s overtook her, she was telling people, “This is Lorna. She used to be my baby, but now she’s my Momma!”

Within just months of the end, Win was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy place. She spread cheer, humor, and affection liberally – and especially song. She loved to sing her favorite hymns, nonsense songs from the ‘40s, and children’s songs in particular. Her repertoire shrank as time went on, and she shared only a precious few songs with her visitors. But one of those last standbys still rings in the air. She always sang it with her best childish enthusiasm: “We’re all in our places, with sunshiny faces!”

Yes, little Winnie. You are.


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