Obituary for TAGGART

Published in the Albuquerque Journal on Wednesday September 03, 2014

TAGGART, EVELYNA HELENA ALISE YCAS June 29, 1923 - August 17, 2014 Evelyna H.A.Y. Taggart passed away peacefully on August 17, 2014 in her home at the Good Samaritan Manzano del Sol Village in Albuquerque at the age of 91. She had suffered a stroke on July 9. Variously known as Eve to her friends and Guga to many of her relatives, she was an educated, energetic, and gregarious woman who endlessly and generously reached out into the lives of hundreds of individuals, connecting them all with her unique verve and enthusiasm for life. She was the last Ycas of her generation. Eve was born to Martynas Ycas and Hypatia Sliupas Ycas in Kaunas, capital of the newly free republic of Lithuania, and was raised on the nearby family estate of Tirkeliskiai, with her older brother Martynas (D 2014), older sister Hypatia (D 2005), and twin sister Violetta (D 1976). Her father was an activist who lobbied ceaselessly for Lithuanian freedom from Czarist rule, participated as a Lithuanian delegate at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and served as the initial Minister of Finance of Lithuania during the 1920s. Her mother was a Lithuanian American from Scranton, PA. The siblings grew up bilingual (Lithuanian and English) due to their mother's American heritage and years of tutelage from their Scottish governess. Eve also studied Latin, French, German, and Spanish later on. In her teens Eve attended the Ausras State Gymnasium in Kaunas, where she was a member of the Birute Girl Scouts. When Russia invaded Lithuania in 1940, she and her family escaped through Poland into Germany, where they survived the RAF bombings of Berlin and subsequently traveled and lived as refugees through Barcelona, Lisbon, and Rio de Janeiro, where her father died of a heart attack. The remaining family arrived by ship in New York Harbor in May, 1941 and were quickly dispersed amongst various residences and immigrant sponsors across the U.S. Eve lived initially with her maternal aunt, Dr. Aldona Sliupas, in Brooklyn, and then briefly with the Rudkin family of baking fame, on Pepperidge Farm in Fairfield, CT, when she worked in a factory making metal soap boxes. She successfully applied to the International Rescue & Relief Organization for a full scholarship, and enrolled as a freshman at Ohio State University later in 1941, graduating with a B.A. in French in 1945. She was a member of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority, where she resided, and waitressed at the Faculty Club in exchange for her meals. She was thrice interviewed by The Columbus Citizen about her family's experiences. In December of 1946, she became a naturalized citizen of the U.S.A. Eve married Joseph L. Lessman in 1950 in Cleveland, OH. They were divorced in Las Vegas, NV, in 1958. Later that year she married Graham V. Taggart, a civil engineer, in Las Vegas, where they resided until his death in 1972. She took his ashes for interment at Santa Fe National Cemetery for veterans, "liked the place," and stayed to seek employment. She worked for 21 years for the New Mexico State Energy, Minerals, & Resources Dept., coordinating events across the state, and retired in 1995 at age 72 with a personal commendation from Governor Johnson. She lived in Santa Fe until 1986, when she moved to NE Albuquerque to better assist her mother (D 1987), who had moved out to NM earlier to live with her. During the 1970s, Eve pursued coursework at the Graduate School of Business & Administration, Univ. of New Mexico. She also acquired a real estate license. Eve's mother had earlier remarried an American Lithuanian, Pius J. Zuris, whose son by a previous marriage, Stanley Zuris, and his wife Patricia, had moved to Albuquerque in the 1950s, building a home NW of the city on the west side of the Rio Grande. Throughout the remainder of her life, her double-step "other" family, from the other side of the river, and Eve enjoyed a rich and close relationship. Eve was an active member for nearly three decades in both the Albuquerque Council for International Visitors & the Friendship Force of New Mexico, non-profit organizations dedicated to international citizen diplomacy. She hosted numerous visitors from abroad in her home, including once the Asst. Prefect of Police of Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia. She traveled widely, taking trips to China, Australia, and New Zealand, and often visited Lithuanian friends and relatives in Chicago, CO, FL, NY, and Toronto, Canada. She also socialized extensively with numerous Lithuanians in Albuquerque and corresponded worldwide. In 1993 she traveled with her brother, his wife, and his sons, John Ycas of CO, family back to Lithuania for the first time in five decades, when they were able to locate and view Tirkeliskiai once more. They also toured across the country to Palanga, on the Baltic coast, where the Ycas family had maintained a seaside villa 60 years previously. Eve and her sister Hypatia returned to northern Lithuania in 1995 for the dedication of national monuments to their father and uncle in the old Ycas home town of Birzai. Her sister, having published her memoir Springtime in Lithuania (illustrated by Peggy Zuris) in 1995, moved from CA later to live with Eve in NM, died in Albuquerque in 2005, and the next year Eve moved into Good Samaritan Manzano del Sol Village in the NE quarter. Eve collected art, textiles, and books. She absorbed stories, life, and people. She conversed and laughed with everyone she met; her range of interests was infinite. She loved bright colors, oysters, lobster, crayfish, and beer. She embraced the modern technological world, enjoyed a prodigious memory for the myriad details of her numerous friends' adventures, and never let the past defeat her. She has inspired the younger generations of her two families. She is survived by three nephews: Martynas Albert Ycas of Arlington, VA, John Algis Ycas of Boulder, CO, and Joseph Warren Ycas of Hockessin, DE; six grand-nephews and grand-nieces: Eliza Y. Callahan of Chicago, IL, Gabriel Ycas of Boulder, CO, Trevor Ycas of Boulder, CO, Nathan Ycas of Gaithersburg, MD, Skye Y. Picon of Kenton, OH, and Peter Ycas of Minneapolis, MN; her double step-brother Stanley P. Zuris of Albuquerque, NM, and double step-nieces and nephew: Nancy Z. Slater of Horace, ND, Suzanne Z. Levy of Chandler, AZ, Carol Z. Peacock of Bellevue, CO, Stephanie Z. Collins of Artesia, NM, and Eddie Zuris of Albuquerque, NM. A life celebration will be held within the Good Samaritan Manzano del Sol Village in Albuquerque, for residents, on Friday, Oct. 17th. A party (Eve said so!) will take place locally for friends and family on Saturday, October 18th. BYE-BYE FOR NOW