Wells of Generosity

July 01, 2019 - 5 minute read


Evelyn Joeckel

The Evelyn and Raymond Joeckel family has supported Concordia University Irvine and many Lutheran churches and ministries for nearly seven decades, even while raising a family of seven and moving frequently as part of the oil industry.

“Raymond was a very smart man, and he loved the Lord and working in all the churches we ever were part of,” says Evelyn, 90. Ray went to be with the Lord in 2014

The Joeckels were introduced to CUI (then Christ College Irvine) through Ray’s father, Tobias, a good friend of founding president Charles Manske, who showed the family the property he wanted to develop into a college. “I still remember driving up to that empty lot and Ray’s dad saying, ‘Why do they want to build a college way out here?’” says Evelyn.

Evelyn had grown up in California into a family of German immigrants and spoke German in the home. She met Ray at Redeemer Lutheran Church in South Gate, where Tobias was pastor, and they were married there. While Ray was clerking for a law firm in Beverly Hills, he learned about the oil business and decided to change industries, going to work for Shell Oil’s legal department. As he researched and bought mineral leases, the family moved all around the western United States, from California to Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

“Every move was a promotion,” says Evelyn. “Number one was plugging into the local Lutheran congregation. I loved them all and always went to the ladies groups and got so much support.”

She needed support as she cared for their seven children, including five under the age of five at one point.

“I was a busy momma,” Evelyn recalls. “It was difficult, but you learn to do difficult things. A lot of times the kids had to go grocery shopping with me. It was tough at times, but when we were together as a family it was beautiful. Being together was the important thing.”

The youngest Joeckel child, Lis Hohman, says Evelyn’s deep spirituality was modeled by Evelyn’s mother.

“I remember my grandmother saying in her German accent, ‘The only thing I have is the love of Jesus,’” Lis remembers. “She constantly referred to how Jesus loved her so much. Now, if you go to my mom’s house on any given morning, she’s got a Bible and a Portals of Prayer daily devotional open on the table, and the OC Register. She’s a woman of prayer.”

When they were building their family, Ray traveled often for Shell Oil to secure oil and gas leases from farmers.

“Ray had an entrepreneurial mind,” says Lis’s husband, Jim. “When he was in the War, he would get Mickey Mouse watches and sell them to the Russians. He was a natural salesman. Everybody loved him.”

In 1969, Ray retired from Shell and started his own business. Ray often said that his biggest business breakthrough came when he decided to tithe on his income.

“Sometimes he couldn’t even afford it, but he gave ten percent all the time,” says Lis. “That’s when things really started kicking in. He said, ‘I’m just going to do it,’ and that’s when we started being really blessed.”

Ray worked with geologists to identify possible locations for oil wells, then secured mineral leases, packaged properties together and sold them to oil companies. When oil was discovered, he retained a royalty.

After raising the family in Colorado, and helping to build the Lutheran church in their city, Ray kept his promise to move Evelyn back to Southern California in 2000. They plugged into Concordia University Irvine—which was no longer “out in the boonies” as Tobias had once remarked—and soon, Evelyn and her daughter Cathy were helping with women’s luncheons. The family enjoyed Christmas concerts, president’s dinners and galas, and Ray was invited to serve on the President’s Advisory Council.

At St. John’s Church in Orange, Ray and Evelyn lent their voices in a special way.

“Ray and I joined the choir,” says Evelyn. “I was a soprano and Ray was a beautiful baritone. We sang in choirs whenever we were in any of the churches. I love to sing to Jesus. I love to praise the Lord.”

Ray also mentored a generation of upcoming Lutheran leaders and young family men in the church with advice and encouragement.

The Joeckels’ support of Concordia, most recently with the Borland-Manske Center, flows from Evelyn’s and Ray’s belief that Christian higher education “keeps students in closer contact with the Lord,” she says. “They grow up knowing more about the Lord, living in a Christian community. God works in different churches, but the Lutheran church is my church, so if I have a Lutheran college close to home, why wouldn’t I serve that? I’m so pleased to have had many years of serving Lutheran churches and Lutheran schools.”

Students grow up knowing more about the Lord, living in a Christian community.

Before going to be with the Lord at age 88, Ray also served as chairman of the Board of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and on the Board of Regents at CU Nebraska. He was a fervent supporter of Lutheran Bible Translators and served on their board as well. Their daughter Cathy is now on CUI’s Board of Trustees.

“I’m happy to do it because I know that’s how my dad served,” Cathy says. “There’s a sense of pride to be able to follow in his footsteps.”

In Ray’s last days, “Chuck [Manske] came to visit with him. We thought that was so wonderful,” says Cathy.

Lis says her parents, married 65 years, were “very much in love. They were bridge partners and very social. They loved being with people.”

Evelyn and Ray’s son Paul followed Ray into the oil business. Cathy and her brother continue to run Ray’s business.

“The Joeckels have a tremendous sense of family and a real commitment to their friends,” says Tim Jaeger, Executive Vice President for University Advancement for CUI. “They also have a gift for hospitality. They loved to open their home for activities, Bible study and celebrations. Concordia is so thankful for the commitment of Ray and Evelyn Joeckel and their family over many years. Their service to Concordia Irvine and to the greater church has been a tremendous blessing. Ray worked hard and was blessed and was generous. They love to give back to their church, to their family and to places like Concordia. Those values have been embraced by the next generation.”

Eveyln Joeckel was called to Heaven on September 21, 2019.

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