Elder Day honors Evelyne Rominger

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Mary Evelyne Rowe Rominger was born on March 9, 1929. She is the first of John. O and Lillian Rowe’s six children. Evelyne’s family has lived in this region of California for four generations. She was raised on a dairy cattle ranch south of Davis, where her family reared milking shorthorns.  During the Elder Day ceremony Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor asked Evelyne about her family’s cattle. True to form, Evelyne stood up and answered.  “This is an ancient breed from England and Scotland. They were the family cow of all the pioneer people, because they were dual purpose. They were very good beef and very good and milk animals… and they come in red, white and roan,” she said proudly, adding, “How ‘bout that?” as she handed the mic back.  “When you were at UC Davis did you meet somebody special?” Saylor asked. “No. I don’t remember,” she said. Her family laughed, either at the idea that Evelyne forgotten something, or that she feigned to forget where she met Richard Rominger, her devoted husband of 68 years. Saylor played along, jogging her impeccable memory.  “It was the CAL Aggie band and you were a Majorette,” he offered.  Evelyne asked, “Would you like me to demonstrate?”  Amid wild applause from attendees Saylor said that he would.  Evelyne stood, stepped forward and back, rocked shoulders and twirled an imaginary baton up and out, then sat down.  When quiet order returned in the parish hall, Saylor asked, “Was there was a trombonist player there you took a fancy to?”  Evelyne turned to touch Richard’s arm and smiled at her husband. He was the cutest guy in the whole band.”  “I didn’t get too far in my life,” Evelyne said. “I went from Davis to Winters.”  Gazing at her husband she added, “And a few other places in between.”  Later Richard said that the couple had already been to Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Greece so far this year.  Richard was one of the first recipients of the Elder Day honors. He is a fourth-generation Winters farmer.  After being appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, he served two years at the California State Board of Food and Agriculture and then six years as Director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Richard served as the eighth US Secretary of Agriculture from 1993 to 2001 during Clinton-Gore administration. He continues to advocate on issues related to droughts, land conservation and the impact of climate change on agriculture. “In 1951 you married Rich and took some trips around the world it sounds like.” Saylor continued. “He wasn’t the only person in your family that was making a difference was he?” Saylor asked, adding, “You were. Can you tell us about the founding of the mental health board, and the early work that happened here in Yolo County?” In the 1940s the extent of Yolo County mental health care came from one psychologist who traveled to Davis and held office hours for one day a week. “Otherwise, if you had mental problems you were shipped off to DeWitt or Napa, and sometimes never heard of again,” said Evelyne.  Mental health was just starting to bud in the field of health care. According to Evelyne, “It started with good ideas from knowledgeable people, and the idea was to give backup training to family physicians so they could do the first things to help people having mental problems.”  Evelyn went on to explain: “It was very difficult then because the John Birch Society and the far-right decided to use this cause for their own purposes, and soto summarize this brieflythey said that psychiatrists were trained in Russia to brainwash us.That didn’t go over too well with the people that were working very hard to try to help people with mental problems. And so it was a struggle, at first, to do something about it.”   Saylor thanked her for her contributions in those days, saying her work in mental health care has made a lasting difference and that, “We are still working on it.”  Evelyne nodded agreement and stated, “We have a long way to go.” Evelyne attended Davis High School and went on to UC Davis,then finished her last year of college at UC Berkeley.  “I transferred to Berkeley after Davis because Davis only gave a science degree in that day, and I wasn’t about to take Biochemistry. I lived in the International House at Berkeley. I was on the board of the International house at Davis and I met people from all over the world,” said Evelyne cheerfully. In college she was the editor of the Cal Aggie paper and represented UC Davis to the Cal Club Leaders Forum.  Also at UC Davis she was vice president of the Student World Affairs Council.  At UC Berkeley she was chair of the Scholarship and Exchange Council and International Relations Board.  Evelyne and Richard raised four children who’ve individually, as well as with their families, added value to the Winters community.  “I know that you have received many honors,” Saylor said to Evelyne. “You’ve been involved with many organizations over the years. One of the highest honors that you could receive in this area is the UC Davis medal, which you have received, and have been recognized as a primary leader and contributor to that campus and its legacy around the world. Saylor continued. But probably the biggest honor is being the mother of Rich, Charley, Bruce, and Ruth. So thank you for all the contributions you’ve made to Yolo County and to the Winters community. I know you’re not done.”  Evelyne has two pieces of valuable advice for young people First: “Get an education and pay attention.”  Second: “The better you do in school, the more doors will open for you in your life!” The Rominger’s have some seven valedictorians in the family, clearly all raised with these values.  These days the Rominger couple isn’t often seen without the other. They can be found actively contributing to committee meetings to the betterment of Winters societies such as the Historical Society of Winters and The Winters Museum. They have spent a lifetime, individually and together adding value and effecting positive change. ]]>

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