Jean Arden Eversmeyer, known as Arden, left us on her final journey November 14, 2022, in Houston, TX.
Arden was the eldest daughter of the late Audrey Handeyside and Herbert Edwin Eversmeyer. She was born April 4, 1931 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The family moved to Dallas, TX in 1943. Arden was very close to her father, who passed away in 1954, leaving a large hole in her life. Over time, Arden and her mother became closer. Arden and her sister, Floi, cared for their mother until Audrey’s death, at 95, in 2004. Floi passed away, at 73, in 2005.
Arden earned a BS in Health and Physical Education from Texas State College for Women in 1951 and a Master’s in Education from Sam Houston State University in 1964. She worked in Texas public schools for 30 years, teaching health, physical education and driver education, and serving as a Secondary School Counselor. She initiated the Driver Education Program in the Plano TX public schools in the early 1950s. Arden spent most of her career in the Pasadena and Houston Independent School Districts. She retired in 1981.
In the early 1950s, Arden met her first partner, Tommie Russum, at a softball game in Houston, TX. Arden relocated to Houston to be with Tommie. They were together for 33 years when Tommie died of cancer in 1985. In 1987, Arden met Charlotte Avery; they were married in 2008. Arden and Charlotte traveled, worked, and loved together until Charlotte’s death on April 4, 2018 - Arden’s 87th birthday.
Throughout Arden’s life she was a community activist. After Tommie’s death she focused on lesbian rights by building community and developing resources for lesbians, particularly the elderly. She served for six years as a Mayoral appointee to the Houston Agency on Aging. In 1987 she founded LOAF, Lesbians Over Age Fifty, a unique social and friendship organization which now has about 150 members.
Concerned that the life stories of lesbians, particularly those born in the early decades of the 20th century, were being lost as those women aged and passed away, Arden founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP) in an effort to document and honor those life stories. The OLOHP celebrated its 24th Anniversary in 2022, having interviewed over 800 women. Arden personally interviewed over 200 Old Lesbians and co-edited two anthologies with excerpts from collected Herstories: A Gift of Age (2009) and Without Apology (2012). Arden often said, ”You don’t have to climb Mount Everest to be interesting. Everyone has an amazing story.”
Arden served on the Steering Committee of the national organization Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC) for 14 years, 7 years as Co-Director, promoting social justice and equality for elderly lesbians nationwide. Arden’s efforts on behalf of Old Lesbians and the Houston LGBT Community, resulted in her being recognized locally as well as internationally. She has been featured multiple times in Houston’s OutSmart Magazine, as well as Texas Women’s Magazine, and in US newspapers from Hawaii to New Jersey and Washington State to Florida.
Arden’s Honors and Award highlights include: three Proclamations from the City of Houston for community service through LOAF, OLOC and the OLOHP; Woman Trailblazer Award from the US Department of Energy, Washington, DC; Honoree as a Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment by the National Women’s History Project, Washington; DC; Featured Speaker at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Pride Month Celebration, Washington, DC; Bold Woman Award, BOLDFest Conference, Vancouver, BC; Honorary Grand Marshall, Houston Pride Parade (2017), and a room named for her at Houston’s Montrose Center.
Arden established the Arden Eversmeyer Endowed Scholarship in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies at her alma mater, Texas Women’s University, providing a scholarship for a master’s or doctoral student in the Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies program. She donated her substantial library of lesbian books, music, videos and memorabilia to the Texas A&M University library. She also donated significant LOAF records as well as other activists materials to the University of Houston. Arden’s impact will be felt by generations to come.
Arden is survived by a niece and nephew; three grandnieces; one grandnephew; five great grandnieces and many, many dear friends around the world whose lives she touched.
Memorials may be made to: The International Documentary Association - OUTWORDS; PFLAG Houston; OLOHP; LOAF; OLOC; National Women’s History Project; the National Women’s Music Festival (℅ Women in the Arts, Inc.) or your favorite charity.
A Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date.
Special thanks to Alex Rosa and OutSmart Magazine for permission to use their photo of Arden.