Monthly Archives: July 2011
Evelyn and I met when we were both barely thirteen. We were on the train riding to our boarding school in the Swiss Alps for the first time. Each of us was coming from another country: Evelyn from the States; I from Venezuela where my parents were living at the time. We immediately became best friends.
We loved animals and nature and together explored the beautiful surroundings. The school stood near meadows, forests and mountains. We went hiking and mountain climbing. We swam in an ice cold mountain lake called “Snake Lake”. Sometimes we even sneaked out of school with a few other friends, in the middle of the night, to go exploring.
Evelyn came with me during our vacations to stay with my relatives so she did not have to remain all alone at school. One summer when we were about fifteen my Dad arranged for us to work as volunteers in the zoo of Basel and we helped raise monkeys, bear cubs, emus, llamas and many other zoo animal babies. We were allowed inside the cage of two juvenile orangutans and fed a baby hippopotamus with a bottle.
I left boarding school when I was sixteen. Evelyn stayed another year. We lost touch for a while, but began talking on the phone on a regular basis in 1986. I stayed with her in 1994 for a couple of weeks to help clean her apartment after the flood. Evelyn and I spent many hours talking on the phone these last twenty-five years.
She was a tortured soul and the older and more ill she became, the less she could deal with everyday life. Much had to do with her childhood, and many times she spoke to me about those years.
I miss not being able to talk with her anymore. I lost a dear friend. She was like a sister to me. She was a kind human being; she had real compassion for her fellow man. At times she drove me a bit crazy when I tried to help her and it was never good enough, but I understood her anxieties and fears.
Dear Evelyn, when I think of you, which I often do, I see you running through fields and meadows, your beloved dog Rico at your side. You are free now, free from pain, anxiety, sadness and fear. Your spirit dances and embraces your beloved wolves, horses, bears and all the many creatures you loved so much. When I go outside at night I look for your bright star in the sky.
I miss you a lot.
Rest in peace, your friend Ruth.
Ruth Elizabeth Migliore
I first met Evelyn Christmastime 1985. I was looking for correspondence between her paternal grandparents and on a hunch I contacted Evelyn. The friendship that developed from that chance meeting was far more satisfying for me than my eventual rediscovery of the Love Letters between Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić.
I don’t have many anecdotes to tell nor do I remember Evelyn’s many witticisms. I leave that to others who knew her better than I did. What remains crystal clear in my memory of her is a delicious mix of fatalism and free-spirited exuberance. Her telephone conversations with me seemed to mirror this effect: Evelyn would start off in a hoarse, halting voice, somewhat grumpy, but half an hour into the conversation she had hit her stride and was skipping along rhetorically: a deft wisecrack at the expense of one of the insurance companies with which she was wrestling, here; a hearty laugh about some political hypocrite, there: Like Grandfather Albert, she was after all contemptuous of those in authority. Our talks would often end with her request that on my next trip to Switzerland, I buy her beef bouillon cubes from Maggi, a subsidiary of the Swiss food processing giant, Nestlé. I was never able to convince her that the cubes could be bought just as readily in Albany, let alone Berkeley.
I mention the Maggi cubes for another reason. They provide access to a deeper tangle in my friend’s personality. I always had the feeling that her free spirit was hedged in by an almost bittersweet hankering for things Swiss, things that reminded her of the neatness and orderliness of her childhood. This contrasted with Evelyn’s identification with the freewheeling lifestyle in the Bay Area, where she spent a significant part of her youth and adult years. Superficially, the laissez-faire, laid-back culture was a better fit, but this overlooks Evelyn’s attachment to prim and proper Switzerland, personified above all by her mother Frieda, whom she deeply loved. The inherent contradiction condemned her to outsider status in both European and American societies, a status that I think she embraced willingly, even though it caused her much pain. Fitting in was not in Evelyn’s DNA. The price she paid for this was being thought eccentric by many, not necessarily a virtue in our conformist culture. I may be particularly sensitive to this particular aspect of her personality as I worked my own way through similar polarities. Needless to say, this feature of her background provided a real bond between us.
Another aspect, which resonated deeply with me, was her radical free-thinking, a trait which she also shared with grandfather Albert. It definitely ensured her unpopularity with certain members of her family, but she was always more interested in being straightforward than in toeing a line. Her protest fifty years ago of the House Un-American Activities’ Committee’s un-American activities was but a rare public demonstration of that which privately burned within her. She was a staunch supporter of social justice without being dogmatic about it. It was her playful sense of humor that protected her from taking any position or herself too seriously. Imbedded in this natural modesty was a wicked ability to ridicule pomposity in others, often assigning unflattering nicknames to those she felt had taken advantage of her, particularly those who wanted to rub shoulders with her merely because she was an Einstein. This most probably added emphasis to her search for authenticity in others, what in German is called Echtheit, genuineness.
As for all gathered here today, it was a great privilege for me to have known Evelyn. She had a quality of funkiness, which is sadly lacking today. Her opinions, though often unconventional, were well thought-out. She was a quiet drummer who marched to her own beat. Would there were more like her.
I met Evelyn in the summer of 1987. I had recently left a high-demand group – a cult – and I was told that Evelyn would be a good person to talk to. I had already spoken with many experts, all highly qualified to comment – one hour at a time – on what I had gone through and what I could expect in the future. Evelyn could see me for more than an hour, and I was told I would find her first-hand experiences helpful.
I arrived at Evelyn’s apartment on Hopkins Street late in the morning and I did not leave until the sun was going down. It is not that Evelyn had to do a lot of work, I wasn’t that messed up, but talking with Evelyn was a revelation and a joy. Time flew by. So much of what the experts had been telling me finally made sense when she explained it. She understood exactly what I had gone through. Not only that, I enjoy listening to her. I had found an ally and a friend.
My friendship with Evelyn was always long distance. I soon returned to Colorado to finish graduate school. Next, I was off to Washington, D.C. and then to Ohio, where I now live. There were many, many phone calls over the years. Mostly we would just catch up, but sometimes she would have to cheer me up and sometimes I would have to cheer her up. What I loved most about talking with Evelyn was that she would get excited about what I was excited about, even if it was my physics research and she didn’t understand exactly what I was doing.
When I could, I would visit Evelyn if I was in the Bay Area to see my family. Mostly, we would sit in her apartment and talk. But we would also go out and hit a favorite restaurant of hers, which usually turned out to be Marin Joe’s. Not that I am complaining.
Living far from California, I regret that I didn’t get to meet and know more of Evelyn’s friends. I know my name is familiar to many of you. Many of your names are familiar to me too, since Evelyn mentioned you often when we spoke. Also, I regret that I could not assist her in a more hands-on way these last years as Evelyn’s health failed. I wish to thank all of you who were able to help. Since she prided herself on being self-reliant, it was very frustrating for her to need help from others. Still, she always told me how glad she was to have the help.
It is an overused phrase, but Evelyn was one of a kind. I don’t think I will see her likes again.
I am very grateful for the time I knew her.
The name Evelyn Einstein has been a mixed blessing. It instilled pride to those who were related to Albert, and annoyance at the questions, often silly, it provoked to those related and not related. It was a particular burden to Evelyn who could never be sure if she was related or not. Shortly before her unhappy marriage, she confided to me that she was doing so in part to get rid of her surname. Yet, once divorced she reverted to Einstein, and always kept a picture of Einstein in her apartment. She also edited a book of children’s letters addressed to Albert and had happy memories of being with him.
Evelyn and I met at Rikudom (*) , a dancing group where I had recently rejoined the exhibition team and she was a new member. Neither of us came with partners, and so we were assigned to each other. That was in the late Fifties. People whispered things to me: She is an Einstein. She is not really an Einstein. Her father is Einstein’s son. She is adopted. As we got to know each other, none of that mattered. Always graceful, she gradually became more relaxed, and dancing was fun. We became friends.
Shortly after she broke up with Grover (she always said he kicked her out) and began working as a cult deprogrammer, she came to visit us in Seattle were I was then teaching. While here, she told horror stories about cults, and confided later that she did so in part to inoculate our two young children against cult recruits. In that, she succeeded.
My wife and I kept in touch with her sporadically. I always learned something from her. She had hoards of knowledge, often esoteric. I did not know how badly off she was until the last few years when her health problems started to get the better of her. We then spoke on the phone almost every week, and my wife and I visited once when we were in Berkeley. Beyond the ambiguity of her heritage, she resented the assumption of many that she must be wealthy when in fact she was impoverished. At the time she objected to the magazine article that described her as a bag lady. Too many problems, too much uncertainty for one person.
Evelyn helped many people.
The one person she seemed unable to help was herself.
We will miss her.
*Rikudom was a dancing group led by Grace West, a Protestant who felt an affinity for Israeli music and dance. They chose the name Rikudom, a contraction of the Hebrew words “rikud’ and “am,” “Dancing People.” This unusual group, whose members were mostly non-Jewish, but had a deep interest in anything connected to Israel, ranged from high school students to grandparents. Rikudom was vital and spirited. Each session also included singing Israeli songs.
In 1960, after Grace West retired, Ruth Browns took over until 1970. Under Browns’ leadership, it grew to one hundred weekly participants. It had a performing group with a core of twenty members, gaining recognition as an ethnic folk dance group affiliated with the Folk Dance Federation of California. Since 1999, the group no longer meets. However, it still gathers to celebrate Passover, its original anniversary date.
I met Evelyn about seven years ago. I was interested in her Grandmother, Mileva Marić, Albert Einstein’s first wife. I contacted her because we were considering using Mileva’s name for our non-profit organization (Yámana Science and Technology.) But, we moved away from women’s issues in science, toward the whole system of science. We no longer needed to use Mileva’s name.
Instead, I found a person who suffered, as my two sisters do, from chronic illness. Evelyn was in a great deal of pain and was trying to keep up with her own needs while living alone. I could not help one sister, the one who lives in Australia, but I could help Evelyn. So I did.
Evelyn became like an adopted mother, or a favorite Aunt to me, overtime.
As time went on I became more and more central to her very survival. After she passed I found out how difficult this was for her, and that she struggled with this dependence on me. But we were close friends for the past six years. I am likely to be the last person who spoke to her. I ended our call at 10 PM on April 12th, the day before she died, with the words, “I love you.”
I treasured our friendship, though it created a heavy demand on my time and my family. I loved Evelyn’s curiosity and her gift of interesting, intellectual conversation. As Evelyn’s friend Ruth shared in her eulogy, Evelyn was a kind human being, with a great deal of compassion for people. She spoke often of her friends, many of whom are here today. Though in her grouchiness she would complain of their actions and failures, she would also keep up on what was happening in each of your families. She carried her concern and love for each of you in her conversations and in her heart.
I continue to be amazed at Evelyn’s fortitude in living with so much pain, in a life that I would not have chosen. We often spoke about this – it is my strong belief that Evelyn’s curiosity is what kept her alive. She was, in her own estimation, a deeply spiritual person.
I also feel that her spirit is embracing her beloved animals, most certainly her favorite dog, Rico, who appeared in her dreams throughout her life.
Evelyn deeply touched each of us, in a very complicated and sometimes difficult way.
I will miss her greatly.
Kennan Kellaris Salinero