The Sault’s Evelyn Richards has had a long and colourful life and is still going strong.
At 94, she still plays guitar and can flawlessly belt out a tune, treating SooToday to an on-the-spot performance of the country favourite ‘Weeping Willow’ in her home (which can be heard on our video).
Evelyn also shared stories of the long, rough ride on the old highway north of the Sault, before the Trans-Canada Highway officially opened in 1962 (not completed until 1971).
Her husband Ray, to whom Evelyn was married for 74 years, passed away Apr. 19, 2015.
“When I hollered ‘Raymond’ he knew I was talking to him.”
The couple raised four children and were well-known in the Sault and throughout northern Ontario as country singers and musicians, who performed as a duo and as members of a group known as The Jolly Players over the decades.
“We were inducted into the Great Northern Opry Hall of Fame. That was one of our best accomplishments. We entertained a lot.”
“That new country music is for the birds. It’s not what you would call country,” said Evelyn, who shared many memories with us, not holding anything back in her own lively, comical way.
She is also a member of The Sault Rising Stars, a group of seniors which performs skits for other seniors, addressing important issues, such as avoiding being scammed and combatting elder abuse.
Evelyn has also had a love of photography and film.
She got the opportunity to film Queen Elizabeth II with an 8 millimetre movie camera when the monarch visited Sault Ste. Marie in 1959.
“I would have liked to touch their car, but I saw what I wanted to see, and I was pretty proud of that. My husband (who came from England) was thrilled,” Evelyn said.
“I’m pretty proud we have a Queen, and I think she’s done a wonderful job…she’s still going to be around for a while, I hope.”
That film footage spans three generations.
The old 8 millimetre film was converted first to a DVD by one of Evelyn’s sons, then uploaded to YouTube by Evelyn’s grandson.
“I had no idea about it (the Queen Elizabeth film) until my Dad (the Sault’s Marshal Richards) brought home that DVD and shared it with the family…it was embedded in a collection of my grandparents 8 millimetre recordings they made over the years, tons of family footage,” said Evelyn’s grandson Alex Richards, a Sault College information technology technician.
“Family members on my Mom’s side were from Great Britain, so the Royal Family’s interactions with Canada were always a big deal when I was growing up, so it was pretty cool to see that footage,” Alex said.
“She always had an interest in cameras…she ran like mad (to get footage of the Queen and Prince Philip as they rode by), and the fact the Queen was in an open car, this was all before JFK…it was also interesting to see a representative from Garden River, walking with a Mountie on Queen Street (in the film),” son Marshal said.
“We have many senior citizens in this city that have stories to tell,” Marshal said, delighted his mother’s film and recollections have now made it to the internet.