By Karla Prudhomme
A cut-out of Queen Elizabeth of England was placed next to the guest table, and though the partygoers would agree that they were not at Buckingham Palace, they did state that they were there to celebrate Johnson County royalty- Ms. Evelyn McQueen Cook, on the occasion of her 95th birthday. Complete with a stunning tiara and seated in a Queen Anne chair, Ms. Cook was greeted by hundreds of friends who wanted to celebrate her and wish her Happy Birthday.
Born in Shady Valley in 1927, Evelyn McQueen Cook has lived a most exciting and full life. Always an avid reader with a curious mind, Ms. Cook naturally entered academia and became an educator.
Returning to Johnson County in the late 1970s after living overseas, Cook went back to the classroom and dedicated her life to educating the youth of Johnson County, mentoring other educators, and creating positive and lasting change for the Johnson County community. As one of the original organizers of the Johnson County Community Theater, Cook conceived the idea of Heritage Hall Theater and worked diligently for years to help turn the old Johnson County High School Gymnasium into the beautiful Theater that the community enjoys today.
Cook also co-directed the first play at Heritage Hall Theatre with a longtime friend and former co-worker, Dottie Howard. She conceived ‘Long Journey Home,’ the annual Appalachian musical heritage event that takes place each Labor Day weekend in Johnson County, and as she is known for, she gathered like-minded individuals in her home and worked to create yet another community event that is enjoyed by so many.
Envisioning ‘Heritage Square,’ she sought to bring culture, appreciation for, and a love of the arts to the community and worked to help bring it to fruition. She worked hard with a small group of those who wanted to bring an arts center to Johnson County and is still an integral part of the Johnson County Arts Center. Having dedicated her life to bringing positive change to her beloved community, it was only fitting that the community came out to celebrate and honor Evelyn McQueen Cook on her 95th birthday.