Evelyn Prisk (1917-2007)
Evelyn Prisk, who taught French at Willard from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, left a lasting impression on her students. Wes Lisker, who had Miss Prisk as a homeroom teacher in the 1960s, remembered her as “stern and sweet but of a different era than the 1960s. Hairdos were a trip: I remember one like a piled up large V-shaped braid something out of 1830s France. Stern-looking black shoes, severe dresses.” She was famous for owning a pet ocelot. “The thing was frickin’ HUGE. Big, I tell you. Big like a good sized dog,” former resident Sed Chapman recalled in a post on Quora.com. “Every Halloween I think of her and that monster cat she had. Miss Prisk lived in a vine-covered house up a dark driveway on a dark street. On Halloween we would go up to her door with some trepidation. Even now, 50 years later, I can still see that cat walking across the red carpet of the foyer, shoulder blades going up and down. It didn’t help that our older brothers and sisters filled our heads with outlandish stories of that HUGE FRICKIN’ CAT eating would-be trick-or-treaters.”
While she could be formidable, students also remembered her kindness: “I remember how patient she was,” wrote Sarah Beatty. “I wish I was a better kid back then.”
Evelyn Prisk was born in British Columbia, studied at the University of Vancouver, and came to California in the late 1940s. Former students remember her catchphrases “My sainted aunt!” and “Vulture for culture.” She remained in Berkeley for some years after retirement, but at the age of 80 she moved to New Zealand. There she lived happily with a Maori family until her death in 2007, at the age of 90.