UPDATE: Jean Arden Eversmeyer 1931-2022
Celebration of Life planned for pioneering activist and historian.
UPDATE: Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) will host a Celebration of Life for Arden Eversmeyer on Sunday, January 15, 2023 at the Montrose Center, 401 Branard, 1st Floor, from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.
Jean Arden Eversmeyer, known as Arden, left us on her final journey on November 14, 2022, in Houston, Texas.
Arden was the eldest daughter of the late Audrey Handeyside and Herbert Edwin Eversmeyer. She was born on April 4, 1931, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The family moved to Dallas in 1943. Arden was very close to her father, who passed away in 1954, leaving a large hole in her life. Over time, Arden and her mother became closer. Arden and her sister, Floi, cared for their mother until Audrey’s death, at 95, in 2004. Floi passed away, at 73, in 2005.
Arden earned a B.S. degree in health and physical education from Texas State College for Women in 1951, and a master’s degree in education from Sam Houston State University in 1964. She worked in Texas public schools for 30 years, teaching health, physical education, driver education, and serving as a secondary-school counselor. She initiated the driver-education program in the Plano, Texas, public schools in the early 1950s. Arden spent most of her career in the Pasadena and Houston Independent School Districts. She retired in 1981.
In the early 1950s, Arden met her first partner, Tommie Russum, at a softball game in Houston. Arden relocated to Houston to be with Tommie, and they had been together for 33 years when Tommie died of cancer in 1985. In 1987, Arden met Charlotte Avery; they were married in 2008. Arden and Charlotte traveled, worked, and loved together until Charlotte’s death on April 4, 2018—Arden’s 87th birthday.
Throughout Arden’s life, she was a community activist. After Tommie’s death, she focused on lesbian rights by building community and developing resources for lesbians, particularly the elderly. She served for six years as a mayoral appointee to the Houston Agency on Aging. In 1987, she founded Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF), a unique social and friendship organization that now has about 150 members.
Concerned that the life stories of lesbians, particularly those born in the early decades of the 20th century, were being lost as those women aged and passed away, Arden founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP) in an effort to document and honor those life stories. OLOHP celebrated its 24th anniversary in 2022, having interviewed over 800 women. Arden personally interviewed over 200 older lesbians and co-edited two anthologies, A Gift of Age (2009) and Without Apology (2012), which contain excerpts from the collected interviews. Arden often said, “You don’t have to climb Mount Everest to be interesting. Everyone has an amazing story.”
Arden served on the steering committee of the national organization Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC) for 14 years—including 7 years as a co-director promoting social justice and equality for elderly lesbians nationwide. Arden’s efforts on behalf of older lesbians and the Houston LGBT community resulted in her being recognized locally as well as internationally. She has been featured multiple times in this magazine, as well as in Texas Woman’s Magazine and US newspapers from Hawaii to New Jersey and Washington State to Florida.
“You don’t have to climb Mount Everest to be interesting. Everyone has an amazing story.” — Arden Eversmeyer
Arden’s honors and awards highlights include three proclamations from the City of Houston for community service through LOAF, OLOC, and the OLOHP; the Woman Trailblazer Award from the United States Department of Energy; the Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment award from the National Women’s History Project in Washington DC; and the Bold Woman Award presented at the BOLDFest Conference in Vancouver. She was named Honorary Grand Marshal for the Houston Pride parade in 2017. Arden has also been a featured speaker at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Pride Month celebration in Washington DC, and a room is named in her honor at Houston’s Montrose Center.
Arden established the Arden Eversmeyer Endowed Scholarship in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies at her alma mater, Texas Woman’s University, providing scholarship funds for a master’s or doctoral student in the school’s Multicultural Women’s & Gender Studies program. She donated her substantial library of lesbian books, music, videos, and memorabilia to the Texas A&M University library. She also donated significant LOAF archival records, as well as other activist materials, to the University of Houston. Arden’s impact will be felt by generations to come.
Arden is survived by a niece and nephew, three grandnieces, one grandnephew, five great-grandnieces, and many, many dear friends around the world whose lives she touched.
Memorials may be made to: The International Documentary Association – OUTWORDS; PFLAG Houston; OLOHP; LOAF; OLOC; National Women’s History Project; the National Women’s Music Festival (℅ Women in the Arts, Inc.) or your favorite charity.
To read more about Arden and the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project, click here.