On May 14, our long-time friend and co-worker Evelyn Erlandsen passed away after a long courageous fight with cancer. She was 57. As her family noted in her obituary, she passed away comfortably at home on Mother’s Day.
It wasn’t as though we didn’t know about her heroism. A member of the Water Resources team on three separate occasions – she kept returning home! -- Evelyn resigned from her position with the Colorado River Management team in late April, just weeks before her passing. Our colleague was strong.
Evelyn began her state service in 1998 here at Water Resources as a recharge program manager. She stayed with us then for five years before moving over to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Evelyn would return to ADWR from her other state duties in 2006. She would work first at statewide planning, then with the Arizona Water Protection Fund as a grant manager and on native-plant restoration and re-vegetation projects.
After a year with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, Evelyn returned to her state-service home at ADWR one last time, in Nov. 2011, when she joined our Assured and Adequate Water Supply and Recharge Program, then later accepted a position with the Colorado River Management team.
With Colorado River Management, Evelyn served as an Environmental Program Planner.
In that capacity, she was primarily responsible for the administration of mainstem and CAP Colorado River contracts. She represented the department on the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program and on the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program.
Evelyn was a hiker. She loved hiking Arizona trails, especially Oak Creek Canyon. And she was generous with her time and spirit. Among many other good works, Evelyn volunteered with the Canon Arizona Envirothon event for environmentally conscious students.
Evelyn was exceedingly proud of her work with Envirothon, a national “Environmental Olympics” competition aimed at encouraging high-school students to become actively engaged in conservation and environmental issues.
She worked with Envirothon every year since 1998, including having coordinated the 2008 Canon Envirothon event in Arizona at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Environmentalists around the country noticed Evelyn’s good works. In 2009, Evelyn received the National Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Stewardship from the National Association of Environmental Professionals.
Evelyn’s passion for taking on environmental issues did not come to her casually. She graduated in 1996 from the Environmental Resources program at Arizona State University, where she was a fellow student with Virginia O’Connell of the Arizona Water Banking Authority.
Evelyn was born on February 11, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York, and lived her early years there, before moving to Arizona with her family at the age of 12.
As the touching memorial prepared by Evelyn’s family notes, she “leaves behind her daughter Sara Allegretto, her son Jesse Allegretto, son-in-law Chris Mudrenko, and daughter-in-law Ashley Allegretto, along with her beautiful grandchildren, Rylie and Elliot Mudrenko, and Lillian and Vivienne Allegretto. Also her beloved mother, Margaret Erlandsen, and her brothers and sisters: Veronica Sandberg, Peter Erlandsen, Margaret Hicks, Karen DiNaso and Brian Erlandsen. Also all of her brothers & sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews.”
“And, last, but not least,” the family memorial notes, she also leaves behind, “Frank Corkhill, the love of her life.”
Evelyn’s parting words to her friends and co-workers were a testament to her thoughtful spirit:
“Please extend my appreciation to everyone at the Department for all their support, kindness and prayers over the last year,” she told Deputy Director Lynne Smith. “I wish you all continued success in all of your endeavors.”
Later, Evelyn’s family followed up that message with another to her friends and co-workers in state service:
“We thank you all for your condolences and sympathy as we are grieving the loss of our dearest mother Evelyn. Reading all of your messages and kind words we are reminded that family and friends were her entire world.”