Cora Boyett Evans celebrates her 100th birthday

A tea party for 100 years

  • By
  • | 12:02 p.m. May 7, 2014
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • Neighborhood
  • Share

What better way to celebrate a 100th birthday than with a tea party at Casa Feliz?! Fourth-generation Floridian Cora Boyett Evans was the center of attention as friends and family from near and far gathered on April 23. A festive tea was especially appropriate, as Cora co-hosted and created her special sandwiches for annual tea parties for the Rollins Women’s Association for years. For this party, Arthur’s exceptional catering prepared the treats.

With a remarkable memory and a natural gift for storytelling, Cora entertained friends with recollections of her personal Florida history. The stories began with her grandparents’ move by wagon from Cassia to Terra Ceia Island, on the southern shore of Tampa Bay, after the terrible freeze of 1895. Cora’s father became an overseer of extensive vegetable farms as well as the shipping operation for Ruskin tomatoes on the mainland. Even though he had just a third-grade education, he was determined that his five children would go to college. Cora was the oldest, and was able to attend Florida State College for Women (now FSU) in 1931 in spite of the challenges of the Depression. She is grateful for the assistance of a 4H scholarship, work at the school, and her mother’s first job at the packing house.

With a degree in home economics, she took a teaching job in Macclenny, which she remembers as “the most forgotten place in the world.” Her principal was a wonderful man who introduced her to the love of her life, Ross Evans. His persistent courtship led to marriage in 1936, with the wedding in the house her father built on Terra Ceia.

Their love of travel and exploration of unfamiliar places began early in their marriage, as they spent summers in New York so Ross could complete a Master’s degree in accounting at Columbia. They lived in New Orleans, Atlanta, Gainesville, then Puerto Rico for a year while Ross taught at the University there. In 1949 they moved to Winter Park and Ross began his career at Rollins College, continuing full-time for more than 30 years as a much admired and appreciated professor.

In the 1950s Cora taught home economics again, this time at Winter Park High School. She appreciated the classroom equipment, which was much improved over the oil stoves in her first job in Macclenny. She has fond memories of the students, many of whom still live here and welcome her to their reunions.

With Ross’s work at Rollins and his CPA practice in Orlando and their thrifty habits, Ross and Cora were able to take long trips during college vacations. Before his death in 2004, they were pleased to be able to establish scholarship endowments at the three schools that were so important in their lives: Florida State University, the University of Florida, and Rollins’ Crummer Business School.

In 1962 an unanticipated request from a friend, to provide a short period of shelter for a child whose family couldn’t care for him, led to the adoption of a beloved son, Howard. He; Cora’s niece Marilyn Annan; and two of Ross’s former students, Guy Colado and Dodi Fox, planned the celebration.

While great-nephew Walker Hamby attended Rollins in 2006, he conducted a long interview with Cora, and then gave the recording to the Rollins archives. In it Cora refers to the personal history that Ross wrote, titled “The Story of My Life – So wonderful that if I could live it over, I would not change a thing.” Cora agreed, and remarked, “As I think back I really don’t know how I could have been any more blessed. I always said that if I didn’t have anything special happen to me after I was 21, I had been so blessed with my mother and my father and my upbringing and living at Terra Ceia Island, it had been all such a wonderful experience.” Add to that four years at FSCW, 67 years as Mrs. Ross Evans, and the “Rollins family” years. It is still a wonderful life!


Related Articles