I read the obituaries almost every day. I’ve written about this before. And about how I marvel at the people who have accomplished so much in their lifetimes. Not just raising a family and being successful, but overcoming obstacles, being philanthropic and making the world a better place. Some days, I can barely make my bed, do my family’s laundry and eat unprocessed food.

And though I am not yet one of those people whose obituaries would be long and inspiring were they to die today, I do know or have known some people whose would be.

First and foremost would be my grandparents Monroe and Mildred Evans, known to their grandchildren as Poppa and Gaggy. Poppa died in 2006 at the age of 91. At the time, he and my grandmother, who eloped after knowing each other for two weeks, had been married for 69 years. Gaggy is now almost 93 years old and still lives in their home, with some help.

In 1998, Poppa wrote a memoir that he self-published and I’ve been reading it this past week. I’ve been struck by a need to find out more of the history about these two grandparents of mine and try to figure out what their secret to life was. They had a long, happy marriage, financial success and many accomplishments ranging from my grandfather being the Mayor of their city, a sculptor and hands-on philanthropist to my grandmother being on the City Council, being a painter and a founding member of the city’s art museum. Not to mention being parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and mentors to many.

One of the first bits of history I read last week was how my grandfather’s father, Isaac Evans (shown above in his engagement picture with Sarah Newmark Evans), came to settle in the town of Fayetteville, NC. In 1908, he won a lottery held by the Jewish Labor Union. The prize was $700.00, a lot of money back then. Isaac went to visit his sister and her husband down in Rocky Mount, NC to get some advice on where to start a new life and a business. Isaac didn’t like their advice, for him to move to Rocky Mount, so he got back on the train, took it south to the next decent sized city and got off. That city was Fayetteville, the city where my grandparents lived for their entire married life and where my mother and her brother were born and where my brother and I spent many vacations away from our hometown of Miami. All because Isaac Evans didn’t want to live in the same town as his sister and brother-in-law.

There are enough interesting stories like this surrounding my Poppa and Gaggy, who lived a life I would like to try to emulate, to fill many pages, which I hope to do. I’ll be working on this in the next few months and hope to emerge with a clearer sense of where I come from and how my grandparents managed to live such full lives and have so many accomplishments.