Johnnie Evelyn Omey Shannon was born in Harjo, Pottawatamie County, Oklahoma, on 18 May 1934, and passed from this life to the next on 11 November 2022, peacefully at home, where she has lived for twelve years with daughter Terry Shannon Escobar and her husband Rufino. She raised three children, in spite of ‘knowing nothing about raising kids’ – Terry (Rufino), Danny (Alice), and Tim. Her grandchildren are Ivan, (Amie – deceased), Briana, Ross, Amanda, Candice, and Wes Shannon, great-grandchildren Carter Fraire, Evie Lynn Baca, Payton McAfee, and Zaiden and Armony Ramirez. Terry didn’t have kids, but married a man with seven wonderful sons – Joseph (Debbie), Frank, Anthony (Trish), Michael (Norma), Eddie, Isaac (Michelle), and Daniel (Angie) Escobar. They, and all their kids and grandkids, loved ‘Grandma’.
Evelyn was born to Rena Mickey Omey and Dock Spiro Omey, the youngest of six children. Her daddy was in road construction, and in following the work, they lived in tents in road camps and trailer parks in several Texas and New Mexico towns, including El Paso, where she flunked first grade (only because she ‘missed out on too much because of moving so much’).
Evelyn went to a dance in Roswell, New Mexico back in 1951. The band’s bass and guitar player was cute, but seemed to be a bit of a smart aleck and stuck on himself, she thought. After a few dates, she realized he wasn’t really a smart aleck, he was just very witty and loved to make people laugh. So she married him three months later and became Mrs. Freddie Ray Shannon. All three of their kids were born in Roswell, then the traveling started as Fred followed the road jobs.
Evelyn began playing the piano at a young age, and with her husband playing the guitar, and their combined great singing voices, they made beautiful music together – country western songs and a few hymns. They hauled that piano in the back of the pickup truck all over New Mexico, entertaining the masses. They also jitterbugged like crazy when someone else was entertaining.
In spite of the financial stress of moving often with three kids, their children never suspected the strain they were under; (1) because they were clueless kids and (2) they were too busy having fun exploring all these new places. At one point, their trailer home was repossessed right out from under them, and a few days later, their car and pickup. Rough and sad times, and their mama cried. They then moved from Kingston to Deming, New Mexico.
Evelyn saved all the little love notes that Fred would write on whatever was available as he ate the lunch she had packed for him that day. A few of the “G” rated notes: “Once I thought of you highly, like the stars and the moon. Now it’s too bad you got grounded – you forgot my spoon.” And “Flowers will wilt, chocolates will melt. Saying “I Love You” will always be felt.” And “Loving you is fun, it’s mushy and mellow. But if you want some more poems, bake me some jello!” Evelyn tried her hand at poetry one time by including this note in his lunch: “Darling, Even though this lunch Ain’t much to munch. Just make the most of it Cause you’re a good kid.”
They began entertaining at The Thunderbird Lounge every Saturday night for 20+ years, and always packed the place. They even entertained at The Inn of the Mountain Gods when it first opened.
In 1967, they traded their trailer home for a house. They added onto that tiny house over the next 25 years; every weekend was a building project and entertaining on Saturday night. Evelyn began working at First New Mexico Bank in Deming as a bookkeeper, the job from which she would eventually retire.
She grew up in the Depression Era and was very frugal, never wanting to waste or throw anything away – boxes of all sizes, packing materials, empty tin cans, worn-out garments, plastic jugs, you name it. Her daughter would find any number of those items up in her closet or under her bed. She even found a KFC bucket with lid, crumbs and all, in her closet.
Driving by the cemetery one day, Evelyn noticed that winds had blown some decorations from the graves onto the chain link fence. Upon closer inspection, she saw that people had been throwing away perfectly good artificial flowers that weren’t even all that faded! So she combed the fence line for flowers, and at the dumpster, pulled out the flowers she could reach. She went home with these ‘new’ flowers, tickled that she had a good supply for her next trip to leave flowers on Fred’s grave.
She graduated to taking grandkids Candice and Wes with her, so they could get down into the dumpster and get the ones that were out of reach. Pretty soon her front, back, and side yards were decorated with these “only slightly faded” flowers, with plenty left over for her next trip to visit Fred. The kids started calling her their “Dumpster Diving Mama.”
Daughter Terry gave her mom some lightweight thermal underwear, top and bottom. Evelyn was wearing them one night, and wanted to ask her daughter if it was the set she had given her. Evelyn intended to lift the bottom of her sweatshirt to expose the waistband of the underwear and the bottom of the thermal shirt. But she mistakenly, unknowingly, also lifted the thermal shirt with the sweatshirt, she wasn't wearing a bra, and her “girls” were on full display. She said, “Are these yours?” Terry didn’t bat an eye and said, “No, those are yours; I have my own.” Evelyn then realized she had just flashed her daughter. They laughed so hysterically that they had to stumble into the living room and collapse on the couch, trying to catch their breath. It never took much to entertain mother and daughter. And “Are these yours?” became a catchphrase with them.
Terry and Rufino moved Evelyn in with them when her vision started deteriorating. Other ‘joys of getting older’ took over – severe, crippling arthritis, loss of hearing, eventual total blindness, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Most of the time, she was able to keep her wonderful sense of humor, and was always making her family laugh with the crazy, funny, things she said. She died peacefully, after 18 days under the loving care of Hospice El Paso. It was what she wanted – to be free of suffering, and to see her Freddie again. She was the best mom ever!
Services will be at 11:00 a.m., Monday, 21 Nov, at Sunset Funeral Home, 4631 Hondo Pass, El Paso, TX 79904.