On August 17, Winifred “Winnie” Evans, a resident at Chesterbrook Residences Assisted Living Community, will receive the Military Women’s Memorial Award: Living Legend Proclamation. For Evans, this is just another achievement in her impressive over-a-century lifetime.
At 105 years old, Evans has experienced and accomplished so many feats that the title “Living Legend” may be the best description for the Falls Church resident. A former nurse, author and supporter of various causes, Evans has expressed “genuine joy and heartfelt appreciation” upon receiving the Military’s Women’s Memorial Award, according to her niece, Patricia Garrett.
“With enthusiasm, she exclaimed ‘I am overjoyed and thrilled to be acknowledged as a living legend,’” Garret recalled of Evans.
The granddaughter of Horace Bennett, a sergeant in the Civil War under the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, Evans was born in 1917 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Growing up, she said the “most significant influence” in her life was her mother, Rose, who emphasized the importance of a college degree in opening doors to “the world and achieving dreams.”
After her little sister Betty passed away due to a sudden illness, Garrett said Evans was determined to contribute in finding medical cures and assisting the sick.
“It was her deep desire to make a positive impact on the world through her nursing skills,” Garret said.
Evans received a B.S. in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from Catholic University. She then began to travel around the world and use her nursing skills to help those in need. During her time in Africa and Asia, Garrett said Evans encountered a multitude of challenges, such as traveling through remote villages with rough terrains to assist families medically.
“The fulfillment she experienced while delivering babies and providing aid to those in need brought her immense joy,” Garret said. “Yet, what truly made her efforts even more gratifying was the genuine appreciation and gratitude shown by these families.”
Other inspirations for Evans’ accomplishments were former President John F. Kennedy’s call to serve America, which Garrett said led her to join the Peace Corps in 1962, and travel to Togo in West Africa. There she vaccinated thousands of children, which was recorded in the Congressional Record in 1964.
Garrett said Evans displayed a passion for writing poems and plays at an early age, leading to an interest in writing, which was something her high school teachers recognized.
Under pseudonyms, Evans authored several books and poems, such as the medical suspense novel “The Cult of the Green Mamba” and “Africa Once More With Feeling,” an anthology of poems reflecting her love for Africa as a nurse.
Garrett said Evans has expressed her goal to continue authoring poems and short stories.
According to Garrett, Evans’ involvement with the Women in Military Service for America Memorial was “driven by her recognition of the need to honor the courage and sacrifices of the many women who served their country.”
“My aunt, Winifred Evans, has been a great inspiration to me through her unwavering determination to conquer challenges and serve people globally,” Garrett said. “Her life has been nothing short of remarkable, as she served as a major in the Air Force, a Peace Corps volunteer, a professor at the University of New Mexico, and a charter member of the Women in the Military Monument.”
Seven years ago, one year short of turning 100, Evans had to undergo a right leg amputation. However, Garret said Evan’s strong spirit remained undeterred, and now skillfully uses a wheelchair to live out her impressive life.
“Her uplifting personality and determination to overcome challenges serve as a true inspiration to everyone who knows her,” Garrett said.