Eugene “Gene” B. Even passed away peacefully surrounded by family in Auburn, California on April 17, 2020 of natural causes at the age of 92.
Gene was born on August 3, 1927 in Humboldt, South Dakota. He grew up on his father’s farm and was a farmer as a boy along with five other brothers and sisters. At the age of 17, he was chosen by his father to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corp which he did so willingly. Gene served in both World War 2 and the Korean War until 1949 and had the unique assignment of playing for the Marine Corp basketball team. For a time, he was stationed in San Diego where he met his future wife, Arleen Adrian. He was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1949 with a rank of First Lieutenant. With the aid of the GI Bill, Gene attended Creighton University and graduated in 1953 with a degree in education and received his teaching credential. In 1954, he settled in Antioch, California, and began his teaching career. During his time in Antioch, he obtained a masters of education from the University of California, Berkeley.
His teaching career in Antioch included assistant principal of the junior high, principal of the junior high and finally principal of the high school. In 1970 he became superintendent of schools in Paradise, California where he, Arleen, sons Dan and John, and daughter Jeannie, relocated. Gene lived in Paradise for over 40 years. With Gene’s vision, he was proud of the fact in the late 70’s his district was one of the first in the state to provide libraries and media centers in elementary and intermediate schools. He was a strong advocate of exposing students to the arts at an early age. In 1985 Gene was elected to serve as Butte County Superintendent of Schools and retired from that role in 1990. He also spent time as president of the Western Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges. He was passionately involved with migrant education for the state of California. After retirement, he became the founding organizer and president of the Region 2 Retired Administrative leaders and managers.
Gene was a devout catholic and was very active in St. Thomas More Catholic Church and instrumental in building a new church that was completed in 1987. He was chairperson of the effort to raise $1 million to retire the mortgage debt of the new church in 1993. In 2004, he was chairman of the parish finance committee that helped organize and lead the campaign to raise funds to help restore Sacramento Cathedral. After retirement from education he also served as interim principal at St. Thomas More school in 2001-2002. Humorously, he called all the students either Johnny or Mary. He was a long-time member of the Knights of Columbus.
Gene was very active in the Paradise community helping start the First Bank of Paradise as a founding director and then later Butte Community Bank. He was chairperson of the fundraising committee that raised $1 million to build the beautiful Paradise Performing Arts Center. He was an active member of Rotary for many years, also serving as president for a period of time.. He was chairperson for the Johnny Appleseed Days for two years in the late 1970’s, served on the first Drug Council for Paradise and was chairperson for the United Way in the Paradise area. In addition to his love of helping others and his philanthropy work, he loved all sports, particularly softball, baseball, and his passion of following the Oakland A’s. Along the way, Gene was recruited for a tryout for professional baseball and enjoyed sharing how he was encouraged by the coach to continue to pursue a career in education. After many trips and a wonderful life, sadly, his beloved wife, Arleen, passed away at the age of 67 in 1993, and his beloved son, John, passed away at the age of 38, in 1999. Gene married Mary Nevin in 1994 and enjoyed many adventures including an Alaskan kayaking trip.
Gene is survived by his wife, Mary, his children Dan (Phyllis) and Jeannie Kenes (Glenn), 8 grandchildren and one great-grandson. He is also survived by his sister Lynette and brothers, Don and Leroy
He is preceded in death by his parents (Leo and Olive), his brother John, sister, Betty, wife Arleen, and son John.
He was buried at Paradise Cemetery in Paradise, CA.
Gene’s family is planning a community celebration of life in Paradise, CA when social contact restrictions caused by the Coronavirus outbreak are relaxed.
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