Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Faith and friendship keep her feeling young at 102

Dorothy Evans of Temple Hills rode Metro into her 90s

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Gazette
Dorothy Evans of Temple Hills gets a little emotional as she listens to Carlene Jackson of Fort Washington read a proclamation from Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson during her 102nd birthday celebration Saturday at Colony South Hotel in Clinton.
Dorothy Evans feels pretty good, even at 102 years old.

‘‘I feel more like 80,” she said, chatting at her birthday dinner Feb. 2 at the Colony South Hotel in Clinton. ‘‘I feel good. I feel fine. I don’t feel 102.”

For Evans, a Temple Hills resident whose birthday actually is Jan. 30, reaching 102 is a gift from God. She’s devoted her life to her faith and feels like her age is a blessing. She was able to take the Metro well into her 90s, she lived alone in Anacostia until she was 100 and she still doesn’t need a cane when she walks.

‘‘If you know the Lord, he can take care of anything,” Evans said. ‘‘God never fails.”

Jeanette Thompson, a neighbor and friend, said Evans is an inspiration.

‘‘She is so spry and she walks unassisted,” Thompson said. ‘‘I met her and I just fell in love with her.”

Evans was born in Washington, D.C. in 1906. Her earliest memory is walking to Sunday school and seeing the ladies at church.

‘‘I can still see the ladies’ faces so clear,” she said.

She grew up in the District’s public school system and graduated from Armstrong High School in 1924. Then she traveled to Columbia, S.C. to get her teacher’s license at Allen University, a historically black college.

She taught school in several small towns in South Carolina. But just before World War II started, she moved back to the District and took a job as a printer’s assistant at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the federal agency that prints U.S. currency.

Evans married her first husband, Robert Dorrah, just after she returned to Washington, D.C. He followed her from South Carolina to take a government job in the area as well.

But the city she grew up in discouraged her. After years of living in the small towns of South Carolina, the busy city seemed full of sin to her.

‘‘The city is so wicked,” she said. ‘‘In small towns in the south everything is closed on the Sabbath.”

After leaving her job as a printer’s assistant in the 50s, Evans devoted her life fully to the church. She also left the Baptist church to join the Third Street Church of God in Washington.

That’s where she met her second husband, Joseph Evans, who she married at 80 years of age in 1986, a few years after her first husband died.

‘‘I just wanted companionship again,” she said. ‘‘I had no children.”

Evans said she got married in a small service because she wondered what people would think about an 80-year-old getting remarried.

‘‘She was so afraid,” said Sandra Page, who attends the same church as Evans and has known her for 25 years, said. ‘‘She didn’t want people to know she was getting married at 80.”

About 10 years ago, her second husband died and she continued to attend church and live alone in her Anacostia home.

Page said she has always been active and independent.

‘‘At 80 she used to get on the Metro and go to the bank to get brand new dollar bills,” Page said. ‘‘She just loved brand new dollar bills.”

Two years ago, Evans started to feel unsafe in her neighborhood and moved to her niece’s home in Temple Hills. She also joined a chapter of the Red Hat Society, a national women’s group that meets for social occasions and wears red hats.

Page said Evans still loves to talk and that her phone line is always tied up.

Evans is also still focusing on her relationship with God. She goes to church every Sunday and attends a prayer group every Wednesday night.

‘‘The Lord has been so good to me,” she said. ‘‘Life isn’t a bowl of cherries but I’ve loved mine and I’ll continue to love it.”

E-mail Ryan McDermott at rmcdermott@gazette.net