The broad dimensions of the late Evelyn Munro’s character can be measured by the diverse interests and passions of the folks who attended her memorial service Saturday.
Evelyn organized unions and a Brownie troop with equal élan — and how she would have loved being described in French. It was no coincidence her family chose to hold a celebration of her life on Bastille Day.
Evelyn was an unabashed Francophile. She made frequent visits to France and offered her Bluebird Canyon home as a meeting place for the local French club.
“That was just one of her many facets,” said Bonnie Hano, a longtime friend.
Evelyn was an organizer of southern farm workers in the 1930s, putting her life on the line; an avid observer of the political scene, a photographer, a painter, a world traveler who followed her husband, David, to Africa and Cuba, where she helped found nursery schools.
“David would get a job and off they would go,” Hano said.
In Laguna, Evelyn worked with Friendship Shelter and as a mentor to the needy.
She was a founding member of Village Laguna and introduced the first chair, Arnold Hano, to the concept of the “sense of meeting,” a way of resolving divisive issues — perhaps attributable to Evelyn’s Quaker faith.
Saturday’s celebration began at 2 p.m. with a traditional Quaker Memorial Service, which included periods of silence, reflection and sharing memories. People spoke as the spirit moved them. The service lasted about two hours.
“I spoke three times and Arnold also spoke,” Bonnie Hano said. “Somebody would say something that reminded you of something else.
“I first met Evelyn less than a month after Arnold and I moved to Laguna in 1955, a couple of years after she and David came here. She asked me to be her assistant Brownie leader. She was wonderful with kids.
“But what I also remembered was that she had a penchant for picking up strays that she would bring home.”
One of the “strays,” a hitchhiker she picked up one day on her way home from a visit to San Diego, is now a Supreme Court Judge in France and still a family friend.
“That was just so typical of Evelyn,” Hano said.
The Munros also rented a spare room for a nominal rent to UC Irvine students, including actor Mark Hutter, who attended the memorial with his wife and one of his children.
Speakers at the service also included Jean Raun, an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Laguna Beach.
“I spoke about how she lived by the principals of her faith,” Raun said.
Raun first met Evelyn about 15 years ago when fellowship members wanted to become more active in caring for the needy people in Laguna Beach.
“Evelyn already was involved and she got our attention,” Raun said. “We began to do things to help the homeless and that led to our support for the [Laguna Beach] Relief and Resource Center that is so dear to my heart.”
The fellowship also has a tradition of commemorating workers on the Sunday before Labor Day, to which Evelyn was always invited.
“She was always recognized because of her contributions to the labor movement,” Raun said. “One of the features of the service is a ‘responsive reading’ she wrote for the first tenant farmers’ meeting in the south.”
This year the service will be dedicated to Evelyn.
Evelyn’s days as a union organizer and her meeting with Cesar Chavez were included in a video put together by Hannah Flom, the youngest of the Munro’s three daughters.
“Even the family hadn’t seen some of the film,” said Abigail Munro-Proulx, the eldest daughter.
“Some of the most touching moments Saturday were the positive comments related to the film that showed my mother’s various activities,” Munro-Proulx said.
The video, which ran on a continuous loop throughout the celebration, also included “Side By Side,” and “Up the Lazy River,” music that Evelyn loved. The video concluded with “Que Cera Cera.”
“Music was very important to my mother,” Flom said.
A subset of the Laguna Beach Community Concert Band played Evelyn’s favorite Dixieland Jazz, the music of her native city, New Orleans, and Laguna Beach High School French teacher Odile Dewar sang “La Vie en Rose.”
The potluck that followed the memorial service included Evelyn’s favorite foods.
“We had to have cheese and French bread,” Flom said. “And good coffee. We went to Trader Joe’s for the French roast my mother always served.”
Flom, Munro-Proulx and their middle sister, Rebecca Munro, grew up in Laguna — at least when the family wasn’t living elsewhere due their father’s jobs. They attended Aliso School, subsequently closed.
Family members at the service included Munro-Proulx, her husband, Michael Proulx, daughters, Andrea Munro, Kinara Erikson and Anthea Proulx, son, Derek Erickson, and granddaughter, Fiona Siebert; Rebecca Munro, her son, John, and his wife, daughters Rachel Suare and Jessica Roberson and granddaughters Rowan Suare and Claire Roberson; Flom and husband, Tony, and their son, Morgan.
More than 100 names were in the guest book and not every one signed, Munro-Proulx said.
Evelyn Munro died Feb. 16. She was a month away from her 93rd birthday.