In Memory

Mary Dean (Harvey) Evans VIEW PROFILE

Age 72

Of Smyrna, Georgia, passed away on Friday, October 7, 2016. Mrs. Evans spent the majority of her life in Omaha and was a passionate educator and administrator in the Omaha Public Schools. Mrs. Evans also served as director of the Nebraska Department of Social Services, executive director of Girls, Inc., and president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Omaha. Mrs. Evans was preceded in death by son Tor Lateef Harvey and she leaves to cherish her memory, husband Leroy Evans, Smyrna, GA; son Marcus DaVid Harvey, Omaha, NE; stepdaughters and stepson, sisters, and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends who will miss her so much!

Mrs. Evans' LIFE WILL BE CELEBRATED on Friday, October 14, 2016 at 3pm at Shaw Temple AME Zion Church 775 Hurt Rd. Smyrna, GA. Castellaw Funeral Home 866 Church St. SE., Smyrna, GA 770-435-9038

Mary Dean (Harvey) Evans, longtime advocate for children who helped pioneer welfare reform in Nebraska, dies at 72

By Mara Klecker and Nancy Gaarder / World-Herald staff writers

Mary Dean (Harvey) Evans, a child of Louisiana who went on to become a tenacious, longtime advocate for children in Nebraska, once said that the Jim Crow South shaped the philosophy she brought to her work: that people, if given the chance, can achieve and elevate themselves.

Evans died Oct. 7 in Cobb County, Georgia. She was 72.

During her years in Nebraska, Evans held a number of positions, from educator to member of then-Gov. Ben Nelson’s staff. In the 1990s, while serving in Nelson’s administration, she and others worked to help pioneer welfare reform, Nelson said.

“It changed the way (Nebraska) was doing things, in terms of welfare,” Nelson said. “And the numbers back then reflected a level of success.”

The idea of a hand up not a handout was Evans’ doing, he said.

“She was really committed. There was never any doubt about how strongly she felt about anything that was discussed,” Nelson said. “She had a lighter side, she had a sense of humor and did not take herself seriously at all. She brought compassion with common sense and recognized that all the good ideas in the world, if they can’t be implemented, won’t get you the result you’re after.”

Nelson credited her with bringing Medicaid costs under control and for redesigning the state’s system for investigating child abuse. Her work in the then-Department of Social Services drew criticism and praise. It was in that context that, in 1995, she discussed her formative years in the South with The World-Herald.

“The mentality in the countryside was that African-Americans were inferior,” she said. “My family simply didn’t buy it.”

In addition to serving in Nelson’s Cabinet she was a teacher and administrator in Omaha Public Schools for 17 years. Her work at OPS included serving as principal of Lewis and Clark Middle School, as assistant principal of Nathan Hale Middle School and as a teacher for seven years at Central High.

She also served as a leader of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Omaha. During her tenure as executive director of Girls Inc. of Omaha she created a mentoring program for girls.

Evans moved to Georgia in 2005 after being appointed by that state’s then-governor, Sonny Perdue, as director of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Funeral services will be Friday at Shaw Temple AME Church in Georgia.

LeRoy Evans, her husband of eight years, said his wife never met a stranger because her heart was open to all people.

Her son, Marcus Harvey of Omaha, said his mother’s long hours at work sometimes meant he didn’t see her as much as he wanted.

“I always said that I shared my mother with multiple other kids across Omaha,” Harvey said. “I was glad to do so. People have been calling me, saying, ‘You know, your mom was like my mom.’ ”

Other survivors include stepdaughters Anana Evans of Palmetto, Georgia, and Salisha Evans of Atlanta; stepson Malik Evans of Smyrna, Georgia; and sisters, Hassie Hunter of Marietta, Claudia Taylor of New Orleans and Leona Davis of Detroit.

Click here to see Mary Dean's last Profile entry.