In 1919 Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States but suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed for the remainder of his term; former President Theodore Roosevelt passed away in his sleep; the 18th & 19th Amendments to the US Constitution went into effect that respectively prohibited alcohol and granted women the right to vote; the Grand Canyon became a National Park; the First World War ended; the National Football League began; the Florida Keys Hurricane killed over 600 people; the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series; the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees; and on June 26, Evelyn Eviglia was born in Meriden, Connecticut!
While “Eviglia” was her maiden name, she spent most of her long life as Evelyn Mason, as she and her late husband Lawrence were married for over 70 years prior to his passing. They had three children – Jeff, June, and Dennis, who sadly has also passed away. Succeeding generations are female-dominated, as Evelyn has 7 granddaughters and one great-granddaughter!
Evelyn never graduated from high school, opting instead for secretarial school, then joined General Motors for the start of her almost half-century career with the automotive giant as a private secretary, but fate had another idea in mind for her! “World War II broke out and all the men left to fight, so I became a factory line supervisor in charge of the production of ball bearings. General Motors was very good to me, and that is why I stayed there for about 50 years – I still receive a pension from GM today.”
Another almost 50-year love affair for Evelyn is her time in Southwest Florida and specifically Fort Myers Beach. “We first moved down to South Fort Myers in 1973 but really wanted something on the water, and became enamored with Fort Myers Beach, but did not initially move here, actually driving the Florida coast to look at other areas, but everywhere else we saw paled in comparison. We would say to people at these other places that they were nothing like Fort Myers Beach and they would reply that is because Fort Myers Beach was special.”
It was around that time that the Island’s End Condominiums at the very southern tip of Fort Myers Beach was nearing completion and they became one of its charter owners in 1981. “No sooner did we put down our deposit, then two seconds later, we had a renter,” she recalled with a hearty laugh! “They wanted to rent it again the next year, but we said ‘No’ because we wanted to move in ourselves.”
Today, Evelyn still lives at the Island’s End with son Jeff, saying that, “I have never wanted to live anywhere else since then, as you can’t beat the Gulf view and we have the nicest neighbors! I had wonderful friends in Connecticut but even better ones here, and that is so important. We have Cocktail Hours each Tuesday and use any excuse to have a party. I play bridge with the girls and poker with the guys, so if you have a few bucks, come on down and play and I will send you home broke!”
Long Life & Good Advice
Evelyn always looked to the future, judging almost all the changes she experienced in her life for the good, with very few bad. “I love all the new technology, especially flying, and if I could go to the moon or Mars tomorrow, I would! I do miss driving, however, but family and friends convinced me a few years ago that I should stop, and today I can say that was the right decision.”
As to her secrets for a long life, “Despite all the parties, I drink very little alcohol. I am Italian, however, and wine is important to our culture, so when I was young and wanted a glass, my Mother would pour it into my soup! I had heart surgery once but my doctor said I was a good candidate and I came through it just fine. I remain active and was a ‘tomboy’ when I was younger, being captain of the school basketball team and an avid swimmer in our local river, until one day I looked behind me and saw a bunch of snakes following me in the water – you should have seen me jump out and climb up the nearby bridge at 100-miles-per-hour, and that was the end of river swimming for me! At our condominium parties, I would dance all night! I have always been thin – in fact, I am one of those lucky people who never seems to put on any weight.”
Evelyn offered sage advice: “You can enjoy a little alcohol but don’t overdo it. Stay physically active, enjoy your family and find yourself a great group of friends you can trust, and if you can do anything for your local community, do it, as those benefits always come back to you! I like to be treated right and that is how I treat everyone else.”
For someone who has always been the life of the party, one celebration for a 100th Birthday just won’t do! Neighbor George Repetti organized the first get-together in May with 37 people, explaining that “many of the folks who live here head north for the summer, and it was important to them that Evelyn knows how much they love her, as we are a close community. There was a second smaller event about a week prior to her actual birthday, hosted by those of us still here.” Finally, on June 26, her daughter June is throwing Evelyn a centennial celebration at the Turtle Club in Naples, where she will see many old friends from Connecticut who are traveling down for the special occasion.
Reflecting on her century on Earth, Evelyn concluded that, “I have had a darn good life; I ought to write a book – I really should!”
By Gary Mooney