Tributes shared as Katanning loses a link to past
Few people loved Katanning more than Ainslie Evans.
A community stalwart and councillor of almost three decades, her story is entwined with the history of the town she was so passionate about preserving.
On May 4, Mrs Evans died in her sleep at home in Katanning, where she had spent all but one of her 79 years.
Known for her generosity to her community and family, she left behind four children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Born in 1941, she was a direct descendant of Katanning’s first settlers — Thomas Haddleton and Elijah Quartermaine.
It was this inextricable link to the town’s history that propelled Mrs Evans to work to protect the past and serve the present.
Meg Roche said she would remember her eldest sister for her unshakable commitment to what she believed in most.
“She was very generous with her time and the amount of energy she put into community projects, family and also not just her own kids’ family, but nieces and nephews,” she said.
“She was a generous person with her time and effort.”
Mrs Evans was educated at St Rita’s Convent School in Katanning and completed her final year at St Joseph’s Convent in Albany.
At 15, she started work at Foy and Gibson, then worked at the Great Southern Herald before returning to the family farm.
She married John Evans in 1962 and had children Melanie, Paul, Nathan and Bradley.
In 1983, Mrs Evans was elected to the Shire of Katanning council — securing her place as the fourth generation of Haddletons to serve.
She was a councillor for about 30 years, joining several council committees and holding many positions including that of deputy president.
Mrs Evans is believed to be the second-longest serving councillor in Katanning’s history, after Alexander Prosser who served from 1894-1943.
For two years from 1995, she was the president of the Great Southern Ward of the Country Shire Councils.
She was named the Katanning citizen of the year in 1987 and received a Centenary of Federation Medal.
Shire of Katanning president Liz Guidera said Mrs Evans was devoted to many community causes, but her passion lay in conserving their history.
“Ainslie was very giving of her time in helping individuals, families and organisations trace and conserve their history, while caring for our collective history at the Katanning Historical Society,” she said.
“Ainslie was proud of her heritage and a passionate advocate for all things Katanning. She was talking about tourism 20 years ago.
“She was a woman who knew the value and appeal of both old things and country towns.
“We acknowledge that the Premier Mill Hotel would not be standing today had Ainslie and friends not fought to save the Old Mill from demolition.
“Her passing is a sad loss to our community and she will be missed.”
Mrs Evans joined the Katanning Historical Society in 1977 and served as president in 1994.
Her love of history went beyond her town.
She was an inaugural member of the Heritage Council of WA, holding the role of deputy president for a decade, and was the first country appointment to the Board of Trustees of the WA Museum.
Katanning Historical Society president Gerry Watson said she would miss her friend.
“Her knowledge and love for local history and for its development and preservation was her passion,” she said.
“As she often said, Katanning was her life, her love and her family.”
Member for Roe Peter Rundle said Mrs Evans’ historical knowledge was “second to none”.
“She was a great advocate for us retaining our history and keeping a great record of it — she was such an enthusiast,” he said.
Granddaughter Ashleigh Evans said “Nan” had always been her biggest supporter.
“She gave me the biggest gift, my love of travel, which has taken me all over the world, and she always enjoyed our chats about what places I had been to and where was I planning to go next,” she said.
“I’ll never forget the trip she took me on to England where we gifted back some of the historical artefacts she had collected to the Mayor of Bradford.
“We shared a love and appreciation of history and travel, not only learning about it but preserving it for others, which she passed on to me, and for that I will be forever grateful.”
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