The dates of birth and death that appear like bookends on a tombstone do not matter as much as the dash between those dates. Award-winning writer Alana Baranick has made her living writing about the dash between. She’s focusing on Medina and Lorain counties and those who have made our area the unique and interesting place it is. Look for her stories on the first Monday each month in The Gazette and visit www.medina-gazette to find additional photographs.
To suggest a story or make a comment, contact Baranick at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 731-8340.
Today, Alana Baranick examines The Dash Between March 6, 1923, when Emil John Evin was born in Cleveland, and July 17, 2011, when the York Township resident died at age 88.
Emil John Evin and two other Marines from H Company of the 3rd Division’s 21st Regiment waited in a foxhole the night before they were scheduled to leave Iwo Jima during World War II.
Exhausted after the bloody battle, they fell asleep.
“A Japanese soldier snuck into their foxhole and slit the throat of one of the guys,” said Evin’s son, Vic. “My dad was one of only two from his company that got out alive.
“I think he had a very real sense that God had spared his life for a reason. I think a large part of that reason was demonstrated by his life — living a life of service to his fellow man.”
The York Township resident, who died July 17, 2011, at age 88, was born March 6, 1923, in Cleveland’s Slavic Village and grew up on a farm in Ashtabula County. He was the second of four children born to parents who immigrated from what is now the Czech Republic.
His father stayed with friends during the week in Cleveland, where he worked in the machine tool trades. His mother ran their farm in the Windsor area.
Evin worked on the family farm and was a farmhand on another before following in his father’s footsteps as a machinist in Cleveland. A hunting trip to Kentucky with a co-worker led to his meeting Frankie Cannon, who would become his wife.
“He was invited to my grandparent’s tobacco farm to go rabbit hunting,” their daughter, Susan, said. “It’s a family joke that Daddy went rabbit hunting in Kentucky and brought back a ‘dear.’ ”
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led to America entering the war, Evin enlisted in the Marines.
“He was proud to be a first generation American,” his daughter said. “He was proud to be a Marine and to have served in World War II. And he loved his flag.”
Evin served in the Pacific theater during the war, while Frankie served with the Women’s Army Corps at the Pentagon.
They were married in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 21, 1945.
“(Frankie’s) barracks were full of soon-to-be-marrieds, and they could hardly wait, so several of them shared a (wedding) gown,” their daughter said.
Evin and his bride went on to have three kids, two of whom survive. Their son, Thomas, died in infancy.
For most of his life, Evin worked at least two full-time jobs. He also squeezed several community activities into his schedule.
“He was constantly on the go,” his son said. “He never sat still. I don’t know how he did everything he did. I don’t know why he did all he did.”
Over the years, Evin worked at machine shops, factories and a dairy. He was a welder, a postal worker and a shoe-fitter. He owned a gas station and managed other people’s farms.
He worked for 19 years for Tru-Fit Products — in Lakewood at first, but most of that time in Medina — before retiring in 1985.
Evin received a teaching certificate from Kent State University, then taught vocational shop at Thomas Edison High School in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood.
He later was a substitute teacher for Medina County schools, including Buckeye High School. He also worked with various vocational programs and at the Medina County Joint Vocational School.
In his retirement, he took classes at Cuyahoga Community College with intentions of becoming a lab technician in mechanical dentistry.
Evin was a Mason and a trustee, Sunday school superintendent and youth group leader at York United Methodist Church.
He served as a paramedic for the Erhart Fire Department and cooked mashed potatoes at the department’s fundraising Swiss steak dinners.
See more photos of Emil Evin at: http://bit.ly/n6YI1n
More than 25 years ago, Evin helped found the Marine Corps League’s Medina County Detachment.
“Emil was our oldest living Iwo Jima veteran,” said John Harkness, MCL chaplain for Medina County. “He looked forward to going to the Marine Corps Ball and always rode on the Marine Corps float in parades.”
Evin not only rode on the float, he played a key role in transforming an airline baggage car into a float on which the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima by six members of the Marine Corps’ Fifth Division was recreated.
He participated in other re-enactments of the famous flag raising. During one such event, he recalled the horrors of the battle of Iwo Jima.
“We lost 50 percent of our men the first minute we were on the airstrip,” Evin told The (Elyria) Chronicle-Telegram’s Jeff Mohrman in 1991. “There was no man alive that wasn’t scared half to death the whole time. I happened to be on the other side of the airfield when the colors went up. I saw the first raising and the second raising.”
Evin also worked diligently to establish the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.
“The last couple weeks before he died, when I would ask him a question, he would pause to think about the answer,” his son said. “One day, I said, ‘Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps?’
“With no hesitation, he looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Pride.’ ”
Alana Baranick can be reached at email@example.com or (440) 865-2518.