Outcalt, former Enterprise editor, dies at 100

Evelyn Outcalt is pictured at New Jersey College for Women, which later became part of Rutgers University as Douglas College. She graduated in 1938 with a degree in journalism. She was the editor of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise from 1975 until her retirement in 1980. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — Former Enterprise editor Evelyn Outcalt passed away at the age of 100 Friday, Dec. 28, at Elderwood of Uihlein in Lake Placid.

Born Sept. 25, 1918, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Carl Robert Ecke and Winifred Britton Ecke, Evelyn was the first member of her family to graduate high school. She graduated from South River High School at the age of 15, later explaining that because it was a small school she was able to skip a couple of grades. Thanks to her grandmother, Annie Britton, who saved up money from her work as a housecleaner for Evelyn’s education, she attended New Jersey College for Women, which later became part of Rutgers University as Douglas College, and graduated in 1938 with a degree in journalism. After graduation she worked for the New Jersey Press Association.

In 1941, Evelyn married George Outcalt and in subsequent years they were blessed with Winifred, born in 1943, Peggy Ann in 1945, and George Junior in 1949. From 1955-59 they lived in the Albany area, and in 1959, the family moved to Saranac Lake.

She was almost immediately hired at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise by publisher Roger Tubby and put to work proofreading. As time passed her job responsibilities expanded, and under publisher Bill Doolittle she moved from working at the front desk to reporting on the Associated Press wire. After 15 years at the Enterprise, in 1975 she became editor, a post she held until her retirement in 1980.

“She knew what it was like to be a professional woman in a profession where women weren’t always welcome,” remembered Joann White, pastor of the Presbyterian Church.

Evelyn Outcalt at age 19 (Photo provided)

“Evelyn has a long history of service to this church,” said White. “She served as an elder in the church; I think she was the second woman elder. Julia Norton was the first. And Evelyn was the first woman to serve communion in the church.

“There’s a funny story about that. It would have been 1963 or ’64. Evelyn was serving communion and as she came to the end of a row, one woman said, ‘I don’t like it’ and reached past her to the first row, to receive communion from a man.

“Women were ordained in our tradition in 1957, but it took a while for changes to happen.”

Evelyn served the church as a clerk, keeping minutes of meetings, rolls and records of baptisms back in the days before computers. She also wrote a history of the church with her friend Judy Kratz, finishing it for the church’s 100th birthday in 1990.

“I believe they divided up the pastors between them,” said White. “They read old session minutes and the trustees’ minutes. The history they wrote is fascinating. Without any question, the greatest gift to my mission was that history.

“When I came to the church in 2005, there had been a schism in the church, and so I relied on that history to understand the roots of that schism. It was built into the church from very early; the first pastor was asked to leave after 3 years, and there had been constant turnover ever since. Figuring that out gave me the tools I needed to do the healing work in the church and have a successful pastorate. I’ve now been here 13 years.”

Evelyn was also responsible for getting a grant to have the church’s archives microfilmed, so the manuscripts could be properly stored in the national archives in Philadelphia.

“She was really a good steward of the church’s history,” said White.

“Evelyn was a wonderful student of scripture; she was a very faithful attendant of the Wednesday Bible study. She was never unkind and never repeated unkind things about anyone. She was my wise one, if I needed to understand something she would always have an appropriate and insightful comment. She had that humility, too. She was very competent, but never condescending with people.”

Peggy Outcalt, Evelyn’s daughter, said she instilled a love of reading in all three of her children. “She loved to read,” said Peggy. “She always had a book going, or several books. She loved crossword puzzles.”

In 2009, Winifred, Peggy’s sister died, only a few years after Mindy Ann Outcalt, George and Julie’s daughter died in 2003. The loss of both granddaughter and daughter was hard. “It was hard for her and hard for me,” said Peggy. Mindy was only 36.

Enterprise Publisher Catherine Moore remembers Evelyn fondly.

“I always respected and admired Evelyn. While her persona was meek, she also commanded a lot from the reporters, and didn’t let any of them take advantage of her sweet disposition. Her strong ethics and values were held firm and conveyed in a very diplomatic way to those who wanted to persuade her otherwise.”

“We had a lot of fun and were always joking. Our late great Sports Editor Charlie Decker would lean back in his chair and quip something affectionately sarcastic and without skipping a beat Evelyn would spar back with a quick witted answer that would make us all laugh.

“I would tease Evelyn, that she wasn’t working hard enough, because her hair stayed naturally blonde practically into her late 80s, while I was prematurely gray in my 20s. She would give me a humble smirk and wave me away saying ‘Oh stop.'”

After George Outcalt passed away, Evelyn stayed busy, going on expeditions with three dear friends: Anna Ferree, Jen MacNeil, and Jan Bristol.

“They called themselves the Four Musketeers and every Sunday afternoon they would go exploring,” said White. “They would go in Jan’s car, which was dangerous because Jan drove like a bat out of hell, and one time they went off the road. Evelyn wrote a poem about it, which was quite funny.”

“She and Anna were intrepid,” recalled Kathy Merritt. Merritt was Evelyn’s aide while she lived at Will Rogers.

Evelyn and she entered the Essex County spelling bee sponsored by Essex County Literacy three times. The first time, they won it. In other years they placed third and fourth.

“She was a great speller, she was super good,” said Merritt. “There were like 20 teams there, and I had to cajole Evelyn to go.”

“I’m a huge Evelyn proponent,” said Merritt. “She’s about the nicest woman I ever met. Evelyn would never ever be negative about anybody. She took care of people her whole life, I don’t think she ever asked a lot, so I never minded taking care of her.”

Evelyn was interviewed Gerry Waterson, her son Skip Outcalt and Priscilla Goss on Dec. 28, 2010, for Historic Saranac Lake’s Oral History Project. The interview, in which Evelyn recounts her life story and that of her family, can be heard at: http://www.hslstories.org/outcalt-evelyn.html

Staff writer Jesse Adcock contributed to this report.

An obituary will follow on Wednesday.

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