Evelyn M. Neininger saved Gregory C. Noonan and three others from burning, Glendale, Missouri, December 31, 1964. At night a Christmas tree caught fire in a first-floor room of a brick dwelling in which Gregory, 4, his 5-year-old sister, and his two brothers, aged 1 and 2, were asleep on the second floor. Evelyn, 17, schoolgirl, the only other person in the house, discovered the fire. As she ran to the stairway, all lights in the dwelling went out. She ascended to the second floor, removed Gregory from his bed, and carried him from the dwelling. Returning to the entrance hall, she found it rapidly filling with smoke and noticed flames in an adjoining room. Evelyn removed Gregory’s sister from the house. She again ascended to the second floor, where the dense smoke caused her eyes to smart. She got to her knees and crawled into another bedroom but could not find the 2-year-old boy. Evelyn moved to a fourth bedroom and found the youngest brother. Carrying him, she searched that room and another for the missing boy but could not find him. As she crawled to the stairway, the boy answered her calls. Guided by his voice, Evelyn found him in his sister’s room. With one boy under each arm, she crawled back to the stairway. She stood up, barely able to breathe because of the smoke. As she started down the stairs, she fell and slid to the bottom. She lost her hold on one boy, who also slid down the stairs. The spreading flames were within two feet of Evelyn as she got to her feet and picked him up. She could not see the door but, guided by a draft of air, moved to it. Coughing from smoke she had inhaled, she emerged from the dwelling with the two boys. Almost immediately flames appeared around the door. Firemen extinguished the flames, which caused extensive damage.
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Evelyn M. Larsen, 71, died while surrounded by family at her home in Minden, Nev., on June 21, 2018. Larsen was born in St Louis on April 26, 1947, to Marjorie (nee Whalen) and Willard Neininger.
Throughout her life, she was a devoted caretaker of children, from her own younger siblings to the family of four children she saved from a house fire while babysitting on Dec. 31, 1964, when she was only 17 years old. For this heroic deed, she received the Carnegie Medal for heroism in 1965.
She attended the University of Missouri, where she met her husband, Jim, on a blind date. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 1969 with a degree in teaching. Although she only spent a few years teaching in the classroom, most people would identify her as a teacher soon after making her acquaintance.
She had reverence for and interest in all nature. Larsen’s home was filled with orphaned and stray animals, and she was always teaching little ones how to be gentle and kind — leading by example. Her own children were shocked to find out that other families did not make bullfrog habitats in their guest bathrooms or raise litters of orphaned bunnies or squirrels on a regular basis.
After becoming a grandmother in 2005, she moved to Minden. There, she became a fixture at her grandchildren’s school, always being greeted with hugs and choruses of “Moo Moo!” She was generous with her time and talents and nurtured all around her like a bowl of her famous “Chicken MooMoo Soup.”
(From an obituary published in The Kansas City Star in Kansas City, Mo., on July 1, 2018.)