Last night a fortunate group of travel professionals and aspiring travel & tourism students enjoyed a memorable evening with Evelyn Echols. The evening was created and crafted by Joanne Giampa, CTIE, the head of College of DuPage's Travel & Tourism Department, to honor Chicago-area women with 10 or more years of travel industry service.
Evelyn signed her book, Saying Yes to Life and delivered the evening's keynote speech. Her inspirational comments shattered any doubts any audience member had about their ability to conquer life's challenges.
I've known Evelyn for nearly 30 years and I benefit everyday from our friendship. Buy her book and you'll be entertained by her accomplishments and acquaintances. From Walter Cronkite to Rita Hayworth and from President Reagan to Eleanor Roosevelt, Evelyn has led a charmed life and worked with the best of the best.
But life has not always been kind to Evelyn. Within weeks of Dave's (her husband and soulmate of 44 years) death, a deal to sell Evelyn Echols International Travel Training business with more than 12,000 Chicago graduates fell through and she learned that her failing eyesight was due to Macular Degeneration and she was legally blind.
True to Evelyn's LaSalle, IL farm-girl roots, she immediately made a list of the benefits of being blind. Her list contained things like, "I won't be afraid to ride in my friends' cars because I won't see the oncoming truck." She also welcomed blindness because she wouldn't have to look at wrinkles caused by aging." For Evelyn, the glass is always half-full.
Since Dave's death, the loss of her business, and the loss of her eyesight, Evelyn has completed creative writing classes, written a book, created a hotel training program for the City of Chicago, become a sought-after public speaker, and is starting a new television show highlighting the contributions of active senior citizens -- a topic she lives, breathes, and sleeps.
Evelyn will celebrate her 91st birthday next Wednesday, April 5, 2006. Her secret? 20 minutes of yoga every morning before getting out of bed, 20 minutes of yoga after getting out of bed, daily walking, swimming, ballroom dancing, and staying active.
Happy Birthday, Evelyn and thank you Joanne for a memorable evening!