Cora Boyett Evans had one wish for her birthday. She wanted a slice of cake made from her mother’s beloved 1,2,3,4 Cake recipe, complete with boiled icing.
Wanting to do everything within their power to please the beloved matriarch, her family found the long-cherished recipe and managed to re-create it for Evans’ big day.
After all, it’s not every day that a lady like Ms. Evans turns 100.
A long-time Winter Park resident, Evans was known until very recently for hosting gracious afternoon teas in her home, so it was only appropriate that she should celebrate with one for such a momentous occasion.
The party, held at the iconic Casa Feliz, drew friends, family and well-wishers from all over the state, some traveling from as far away as Tallahassee.
Evans was born April 23, 1914 on Terre Ceia Island, just off Tampa Bay. At the time, the island was a rustic farming community with no electricity.
On the same day in Chicago, the first game was being played at Weeghman Field, later known as Wrigley Field.
Evans was keen to point out during her party that she also shares a birthday with William Shakespeare. “Although, I’m much younger than him,” she said.
Evans grew up on the island, but left as a young woman to attend Florida State Women’s College (which was later integrated into FSU) at a great sacrifice to her family who believed that education was very important.
She graduated in 1935 with a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics, an interest she is still passionate about today. According to one of her caretakers, Lorie Green, Evans loves to watch cooking shows on TV, especially the cooking competition, “Chopped” on the Food Network.
In 1936, she married Ross Evans at her father’s home in Terre Ceia and the young couple enjoyed many adventures while traveling before settling in Winter Park in 1949, where Mr. Evans took a job as an economics professor at Rollins College.
Cora taught home economics for many years at Winter Park High School.
Rollins College Board of Trustees members Allan Keen and Bill Bieberbach, both former students of Mr. Evans, were on hand at the tea party to read a proclamation honoring Evans and thanking her for the years of service she and her husband provided to the school.
In order to provide the gift of education to other deserving students, the Evanses established scholarship funds at Florida State, the University of Florida and Rollins College, all schools that played a large part in their own lives.
Today there are eight students attending the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins on Evans Scholarships.
Garrett Flick is one of those students. Graduating this semester with his MBA, Flick credits the Evans Scholarship with allowing him to attend graduate school.
“Without their generosity, Crummer would not have been possible for me. I was thrilled to be accepted for it and thrilled to be here today to celebrate with such a great lady,” Flick said.
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Evans Scholarship at Rollins.
For 14 years, Evans has been cared for at home by a round-the-clock team of dedicated ladies, who are not just caregivers, but trusted friends.
“I don’t even know what I’d do without my girls,” Evans said.
Three of the ladies represent three generations of the Green family, mother, daughter and granddaughter. Each take turns caring for Evans. In fact, Evans credits her long life to her ability to live at home in comfort, thanks to the care these ladies provide.
Lorie Green recalled Evans’ love of storytelling: “She’s always telling me stories, sometimes about growing up on Terre Ceia, sometimes about her travels, she always has something interesting to say, but by now I’ve heard most of them,” she said with a smile.
Green’s favorite story of Evans’ is from when she was about 80 years old and wanted to buy a new car. As Green tells it, Cora wanted a new car and her husband disagreed, claiming they’d probably not live to pay it off, let alone enjoy it. In the end, Cora got her car and as she said, “I showed him, and outlived them both!”
Evans also has a fondness for the neighborhood children who like to play in her front yard.
Once, a neighbor said, the kids went to Evans and asked if they could pick the oranges from her tree. She agreed and a short while later she was presented with an offer she couldn’t refuse. The orange pickers showed up at her door with buckets of oranges for sale, 25 cents asking if Ms. Evans would like to buy some. She graciously bought back her own oranges, never saying a word to the ambitious little entrepreneurs. (They had to give the money back when their mom found out.)
That’s how she is though, the neighbor said, always looking out for the kids and indulging them whenever she gets a chance.
Although the Evanses never had any biological children, they did adopt a son, Howard Evans, who sat by his mother’s side, attending to her every need during the party.
Also in attendance was Evans’ longtime hairdresser Pat Priddy, owner of New Beginnings Salon.
“Ms. Evans has been coming to me for 40 years,” Priddy said. “She is quite a lady.”
Priddy did Evans’ hair the morning of the party and said Evans was a little taken aback at having reached such a milestone.
“Am I really 100 today?” she said. “How did I get to 100? Well, I guess I already be there,” she joked with Priddy.
“She remembers so many things,” Priddy said “And she’s always very caring, always concerned about everyone but herself.”
On her big day, Evans was eager to invite her young grand nieces over for a visit.
Grand niece and grand nephew Tori and Clay Boyett drove all the way from Tallahassee to bring their daughters, Ramsay and Makenna to meet the centenarian and join in the celebration.
After posing for photos including four generations of the Boyett-Evans clan, Cora gathered in her young great grand nieces, whispering, “You should come see me sometime, I have a nice big upstairs that no one ever stays in and you can play all you want in the yard.”
Ever the hostess, Evans stayed until nearly every guest was gone, personally greeting each one and thanking them for coming.