Mamie Evans, Baltimorean was 122

March 14, 1995|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Sun Staff Writer

When the memorial service being planned for Mamie Evans is held, none of the Baltimore woman's friends or relatives will be there.

She outlived them all.

Mrs. Evans, who died of pneumonia Jan. 14, might have been the oldest human being on the planet. At age 122, she didn't have much competition for the title.

Social Security records say Mrs. Evans was born July 2, 1872, which would have made her at least two years senior to any centenarian listed in the current "Guiness Book of Records," which says that it is rare for anyone to survive beyond 113. The book lists "authenticated" birth dates, and no birth certificate was ever found for Mrs. Evans.

To the dismay of the few people who knew Mrs. Evans at the end of a life that began during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, she couldn't set the record straight. She wasn't mute but rarely spoke, and then only to ask for some water. On occasion, when a nurse would prick her finger to test for blood sugar, she'd greet the pain by exclaiming: "Papa, I didn't do anything."

"That's what I really wanted, to be able to go down memory lane with her," said Odessa D. Dorkins, a gerontologist who befriended Mrs. Evans. "I'm so sorry that we couldn't verbally communicate."

The only information Ms. Dorkins was able to uncover was that Mrs. Evans lived somewhere in North Carolina during her early years, and that her parents were named Joe and Lizzie Evans. She was apparently a widow with no known relatives. About a year ago, the Baltimore aging commission was appointed guardian for Mrs. Evans by the city Circuit Court.

"I had unofficially adopted her and would go sometimes to see her," said Ms. Dorkins. "If there was something she didn't like or didn't want, like when I'd try to feed her, she'd let you know, and this intrigued me. She had a way of communicating that wasn't verbal. She'd move to the rhythm of music, and you could see that she enjoyed it by the expression on her face."

Mrs. Evans took vitamins, but almost no medicine. Although she had survived her teeth, she was fond of sweets and ate solid food.

Except for Ms. Dorkins, the only friends left to Mrs. Evans were the staff of the Camden Yards Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where she had lived since 1993.

"She liked Caribbean music and seemed real serene when she heard spiritual music," said Rosalind M. Hazelwood, director of recreation at the nursing home. "Even though she couldn't talk, when we dressed her up to take her out, her whole demeanor would change. She propped herself up and touched at her hat to make sure it was on properly. She was still in tune."

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