Evelyn Ann Pierce
Born on June 1, 1936 to her father (Frank Knolmar) and her mother (Evelyn Dawe Knolmar), Ann Knolmar grew up primarily in Dunellen, New Jersey (though also in Plainfield and Westfield), as the oldest of her parents’ four daughters, which included Kathy, Shirley (later known as Sheena), and Betty. She loved her early life in Dunellen, particularly her elementary experience at Lincoln School: she enjoyed ice skating, reading Nancy Drew mysteries, spending her summer vacations at the Jersey shore, attending the Dunellen Presbyterian Church, and taking piano lessons. The Second World War brought trouble into her life, when her family, along with the nation, rationed food, gas, and other supplies, and her father volunteered to be a neighborhood air raid warden. During the height of the war, her neighborhood regularly practiced air raid drills, covering windows and turning off all the lights, so Dunellen couldn’t be easily spotted by enemy aircraft.
Starting in seventh grade, she attended Dunellen High School (a combination junior and senior high), which was located next to her elementary school. She played the flute in the marching band; she sang in choir; and she worked at a lunch counter and at the Dunellen Bakery to earn spending money. But when she was in eleventh grade, her parents moved the family cross-country to California, where they settled in Covina, just east of Los Angeles. There, she finished her final two years of high school, met Jim Pierce (who would later become her husband), and applied to college.
Her mother wanted her to be a nurse, and her father suggested she work after high school as a secretary. But because she had so enjoyed school, she wanted to be a public school teacher. She attended Whittier College, along with Jim, who was now her regular boyfriend, where she helped support herself by working as a YMCA counselor, as a secretary for the Southern California Gas Company, and in various jobs on campus. By taking summer session, she was able to graduate after three years. In 1956, during her final year of college, she taught on a provisional certificate, and in 1957, she married Jim and took a full-time job teaching second grade at the Cameron School in West Covina.
The early years of her marriage were good ones. As both she and Jim were teachers, they took long summer vacations, often driving up to Lake Tahoe or to Shaver Lake. In the evenings, she took classes at Cal State Los Angeles toward a master’s degree in administration, a degree that would eventually allow her to teach education courses at the college level.
In September 1965, her son, Todd was born, followed in June 1970, by her daughter, Janine. Two years later, to escape the smog in Los Angeles, she moved to Goleta, California, where Jim took a position with the Santa Barbara School District and she took a teacher training position with UCSB and later a teaching position at Dos Pueblos High School where she worked for over two decades as a resource specialist. Her job was only two blocks from home, which allowed her to spend time with her children before and after school.
In 1984, she separated from Jim, after twenty-seven years of marriage, though she continued to live in Goleta and teach at Dos Pueblos. She also took a part-time job as a real estate broker for Century 21. During these years she took many vacations with her children and friends—to Hawaii, Mexico, Europe, and Australia. She also met and briefly married Don Bausler, though their marriage only lasted two years. Following their separation, she largely focused on her children and her friends.
In 1995 she retired from teaching and moved to Carlsbad, California, where she loved to attend live theater, visit the zoo, and listen to the symphony. In 2014, she moved to Laguna Niguel, a few miles from where her daughter, Janine lived. There, she spent her final eight years, watching her four grandchildren (Gavin, Owen, Ellery, and Haley) grow up. Her final wish was that she be able to live in her own house until the end of her life—a wish that she obtained. She passed away on December 23, 2022, after spending less than a month in the hospital and managed care. She was a much-loved mother and grandmother and is remembered fondly by Todd Pierce (and his wife, Kerry Pierce), Janine Pierce Thomsen (as well as her husband, Cam Thomsen), along with her grandchildren. She is also remembered fondly by the thousands of students she taught during her twenty-nine years as an elementary and high school teacher.