Widow keeps late Cherokee author’s legacy living

BY CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE
Special Correspondent
10/12/2018 08:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The late Cherokee author Robert J. Conley gets advice from his wife Evelyn Conley during a conference in 2011. Conley died in 2014 at age 73, and since then Evelyn has worked to keep his legacy alive. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Evelyn Conley has donated seven books that were written by her late husband, Robert J. Conley, for the Cherokee Phoenix’s fourth quarterly giveaway. The drawing will be held Jan. 2. To enter, one only needs to buy a newspaper subscription or $10 worth of Cherokee Phoenix merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CLAREMORE – Evelyn Conley’s day begins like most other days. She drinks her morning coffee and maybe works on a puzzle or two. But during the course of each day she makes time to do what should be considered no small feat – carrying on the legacy of her late husband and Cherokee author Robert J. Conley.

Evelyn and Robert, both Cherokee Nation citizens, were married for 38 years, right up to his passing in February 2014. They were living in Sylva, North Carolina, where Robert was teaching at Western Carolina University at the time of his death.

Shortly thereafter, Evelyn moved back to the CN and now resides in Claremore near family.

One of first things Evelyn did when she moved to Oklahoma was to focus on getting one of Robert’s final projects published.

“I’m working with OU Press on his latest book, which was a collection of short stories that he had finished,” Conley said.

That book, “Plastic Indian: A Collection of Stories and Other Writings,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com at https://www.amazon.com/Plastic-Indian-Collection-Writings-Literature/dp/0806161515 or can be ordered directly from the University of Oklahoma Press at http://www.oupress.com/ECommerce/Book/Detail/2330/plastic%20indian
Her days also include going through his writings. “I work on sorting his papers and see what needs to go to the archives,” she said.

As she continued sorting and organizing Robert’s papers, she’s discovered some completed projects and said she’s going to be working in the near future to get a few of those writings published.

Another passion of Robert’s that Evelyn continues in his honor is sharing his extensive private library.
His private library has been placed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Sequoyah National Research Center.

“There were 38 boxes of books, over 1,500 books,” she said. “He wanted his books to be available where students can use them.”

She added that Robert had countless trophies and awards he had accumulated over many years and that he wanted those to be placed at the SNRC along with his papers. The papers are there if anyone wants to do research into his writings, she said.

The first editions of all of the books Robert wrote are also at the SNRC.

Evelyn said 125 items out of Robert’s private office collection, art, baskets and pottery, went to the SNRC.

“I still have quite a collection of art, movie posters and other items that will eventually find a new place,” she said.

Evelyn has also donated seven books that were written by Robert for the Cherokee Phoenix’s fourth quarterly giveaway. The drawing will be held Jan. 2. To enter, one only needs to buy a newspaper subscription or $10 worth of Cherokee Phoenix merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent.

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