Any carpenter will tell you that nothing good could come of wearing loose clothes in a wood shop. Yet, there Evelena was, day in and day out, working every corner of Southern Pine Company’s expansive and labrythine mill in long, flowing skirts with effortless grace. And it didn’t matter how many loads of reclaimed lumber came into the place, and how many times those piles were shuffled to different areas of the mill. Evelena Mauldin could hunt down any load with the benefit of only an arrival date of the wood, and a three-word job description.
I met Evelena when Emergent Structures was just emerging. She was smiling that day, and I don’t ever remember a day when she wasn’t smiling. She taught me a thing or two about handling reclaimed wood, wielding a vintage crescent nail puller like an Olympic fencer handles a saber. That heavy metal tool would fly across a reclaimed piece of wood in a majestic blur, and all the while bent nails would be hitting the ground in a consistent pitter-patter.
She came out to volunteer events and taught design students what it meant to make things happen on the ground and in real time. She orchestrated the organized chaos of Southern Pine with a carefree shuffle. And not only could she sing, but she was happy to share her voice with us during our collaborative fundraiser with the Humane Society.
We depended on Eva for a lot of things, both planned and unplanned. And she was always able to make a difference. She helped us locate wood we would never have been able to find on our own. She unstacked and restacked bricks for the E.34 greenhouse. She denailed reclaimed lumber at four times the speed of the best of us. She coordinated the preparation of the mill and its backyard for fundraising events we held on site, which was the equivalent of Moses parting the waters, only Moses never had to deal with foot-long splinters, creosote covered timbers, and rusted nails.
And no matter what kind of weather—and Savannah has some life-sucking heat in the summer—she had a big laugh to greet us with, and an observation or two about living a spiritual life to share with us. We didn’t always catch what she was saying—she could talk fast, with inflections flying off her tongue like nails off her vintage crescent nail puller—but we always understood that the gist of what it was she was telling us was worth a good laugh and a shake of the head. She was always there, and so we always expected her to be there.
Evelena passed away at the end of last week. And Savannah lost something. I’d say that Southern Pine will be missing something from this day forward—and in many ways it most certainly will—but I also know that I won’t ever walk into the old majestic place without hearing her laugh or seeing something of that flowing skirt lightening the weight of our otherwise heavy world.
Thank you, Evalena. Love Scott