Evelyn Burtchell

Evelyn W. Burtchell

Sunday, November 11th, 1923 - Saturday, November 7th, 2020
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It rained God’s tears as our family matriarch, Evelyn W. Burtchell, left this earth on Saturday, November 7, 2020.

Evelyn passed away peacefully at home in East Palatka surrounded by family just 4 days before what would have been her 97th birthday.

She was born Evelyn W. Jepson on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1923 in Pittsburgh, PA. She grew up with her sister, Alice, during the Great Depression and lived with their Aunt Mary Jepson in Little Valley, NY while their parents traveled around looking for jobs and sending money home.

Evelyn was a brilliant, shy child who played First Chair trumpet in Band, won the Cattaraugus County Spelling Bee, and was valedictorian of her graduating class. She went on to secretarial school where she became proficient at typing and shorthand.

She met her husband, John Burtchell (1917-2000), on a blind date. John was in the Navy with Joe Elwell who was engaged to Alice at the time. Joe invited John to come meet Evelyn on a double date and afterward John proclaimed, “I bet I marry Evelyn before you marry Alice!” – and he did. They were married in 1946 in Norman, Oklahoma.

They moved first to Camden NJ to live with Evelyn’s parents for a bit, where they had their first child, Steve. Then they moved to Philadelphia where they had two more children, Dave and Lorraine. Then they moved to Wellsville, a small town in western New York, where they had their fourth child, Jeri, and would finally settle there.

John and Evelyn published a weekly shopper called the Pennysaver from their two-car garage.

While living in Wellsville, John and Evelyn joined a flying club and bought ¼ share in a Cessna 172. Although Evelyn wasn’t as keen on flying as John, she did take flying lessons and earned her pilot’s licensed “just in case” something was to happen when she and John were up in the sky.

In the early 70’s John began yearning for the sea again and asked Evelyn if she had any objection to him building a sailboat in the driveway – one big enough to eventually live aboard. Evelyn was confident John would lose interest and agreed to support his dream.

By 1972, John had only partially finished the hull, and as Evelyn predicted, he’d started losing steam when Hurricane Agnes came barreling into the state and caused widespread flooding. With much of their home damaged and the business underwater, John made the executive decision to abandon building the boat and instead just buy one.

They sold the business and the house and bought a sailboat in Miles, VA that was built by a famous boat builder and featured in Time Magazine. They moved with their children, Dave and Jeri, aboard “Schooner Gazelle.”

While living aboard, Evelyn learned Morse Code and earned her Ham Radio Operator’s license. They traveled up and down the East Coast exploring and having adventures.

When friends of theirs moved to Putnam County, John and Evelyn followed along and purchased land on the river in East Palatka right down the street from their friends.

They sold the boat and John built Evelyn a beautiful home where they both lived out the remainder of their lives. Evelyn worked in the Medical Records department of Putnam Community Hospital for 16 years and John was retired.

John passed away in 2000, and their daughter Jeri moved in to be Evelyn’s companion and caregiver for the remainder of her life. Evelyn loved her family and is survived by all of her children, Steve Burtchell of Jacksonville, FL; Dave Burtchell (Mary) of Odenton, MD; Lorraine Cook (Steve) of Interlachen, FL; and Jeri Burtchell of East Palatka, FL.

She was also blessed with 4 grandchildren, Tod Burtchell (Laura) of Webster, NY; Micah Burtchell of West Milford, NJ; Mark Shaffer (Cecilia) of Jacksonville, FL; and Alix Dungey of East Palatka, FL. Evelyn had a very special place in her heart for her great-grandchildren, Amelia Shaffer of East Palatka, FL; and Maxwell and Fiona Shaffer of Jacksonville, FL.

Evelyn never met a stranger, wanted so badly to fix things that brought people sadness, loved and forgave unconditionally and lived her life by the very definition of Christianity. She was an amazing mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and beloved by all.

There will be no local service per her wishes. Instead, her ashes will go to Arlington National Cemetery to be with her husband, a retired Navy veteran. Arlington will perform a small ceremony and Evelyn’s four children will go on a road trip next spring or summer to attend.

The family would like to thank Haven Hospice and Dr. John Gaines and staff for their compassion and care of our mother during her final months to help ease her passing. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Evelyn’s honor to Haven Hospice.

Memories and condolences may be expressed to the family at Evelyn’s Book of Memories page at .

Arrangements are entrusted to Johnson-Overturf Funeral Home in Palatka.
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