LEGOs Make Early Childhood Pioneer a Kid Again
By Michael Barber, First Community Church (December 2016 FirstNews.extra)
She had enjoyed building LEGO kits for nearly three years. Nonetheless, after eagerly searching the company’s website for new arrivals almost daily, she made her most enthusiastic purchase; a 4,080-piece set that would become a replica of Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
The magical toy was soon delivered in a box so big she had to roll it into her dining room from the front door.
While this story might easily depict the anticipation and excitement of a young girl, it’s equally true of Mary Evans, 95, a self-proclaimed child at heart.
“I retired from playing golf and decided I could no longer pay in the First Community Church hand bell choir,” Mrs. Evans said. “At that time, I visited a LEGO exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. I had built LEGOs with my grandsons and loved it. I was always goo with my hands.” Mrs. Evans’ grandson, Nick gave her a LEGO kit for Christmas. It was a recycling truck, reflecting her interest in preserving the environment.
“My grandson told me I would recycle toothpicks if I could,” she said.
The truck sparked her interest, however, Mrs. Evans wanted something a bit more challenging. She purchased more kits and began building intricate replicas of Victorian Villages out of the tiny plastic bricks.
“They have such interesting internal parts with the floors lifting off to see things inside,” she said.
Eventually, Mrs. Evans would graduate to replicas of the Tower Bridge of London, complete with a working draw bridge, and a Ferris wheel that spins with turn of a crank.
“The Ferris wheel was probably the hardest one to put together because it took four arms and I only have two,” Mrs. Evans said, “So I used my elbows and neck and fingers and finally put it together.”
She completed almost 30 LEGO projects before tackling the Disney Castle. The castle would prove to be especially tedious with its companion instruction book of no less than 750 pages.
Mrs. Evans finished the castle in about one month by working just 2 hours a day. Perched atop her dining room table, the fragile creation awaits a time it will be carried gently down basement stairs by her son to join the rest of her collection.
“I kept thinking this would be my swan song,” she said. But once my fingers get less numb, I may be looking for another one”
Mrs. Evans is no stranger to innovative play. For almost 70 years, she’s been a leading early childhood educator; a legend in her own time.
After World War II, she and her husband moved to Grandview with their daughter, who was three at the time. “My husband wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with the rest of his life,” Mary said. “I need to earn a little money. someone told me to go see Dr. Roy Burkhart at First Community. He believed anyone could do anything.”
At that time, the First Community Church Early Childhood program was in its infancy. Mrs. Evans used her degrees in secondary education, human development and family relations to grow a basement startup into an institution.
Decades later, nearly every First Community program dedicated to children and parents carries her philosophies.
“Nobody would have guessed that I would have been an early childhood pioneer,” Mrs. Evans said. “Not even me. I know I’m blessed.”
Mrs. Evans hopes that one day, hallway shelves will be built and her LEGO creations will reside in the Child Development Center on Dublin Road that bears her name.
“I’ll give them all my LEGOs before I die,” she said. “I don’t know how we’ll get them all up there, but we’ll figure a way.”