STRATFORD — At the age of 92, Evelyn Patterson has had plenty of years to become a part of her community. She’s done it by taking on a variety of tasks and services for her fellow residents of Stratford, and it doesn’t sound like she’s planning to slow down.
But then, volunteering has been in her life as long as she can remember.
“As I grew up, my parents always volunteered,” she said of her years on the family farm near Scranton. The family moved to Stratford in March 1935, when she was 9, and she’s been part of the community ever since.
For 16 years now, Patterson has gone about making Athens Woods Estates her community in much the same way as she has contributed to the community of Stratford. By doing that, she has had a lot to do with enhancing the community of the apartments.
After she was widowed, she moved there from her farm home when the 20-unit apartment building was brand new. Then she was one of the youngest residents; now she’s one of four that are past the age of 90.
She’s quick to tell you that she loves where she lives.
“I have enjoyed it here so much,” Patterson said from her homey second-floor apartment that’s filled with family pictures and other accoutrements from living for more than nine decades. “I have always enjoyed people, and I’ve made close friends here.
“I just saw so many opportunities to get busy when I came here,” she added.
Until a year ago, Patterson helped in the kitchen every day serving the noon meal, and she’s taken on the role of nurse when other residents may need a little first aid care. She coordinates reservations for the guest room at the apartments, and she launders the sheets after the room is used. In addition, for 12 years she volunteered to write a weekly column, “Echoes of Athens Woods,” for the Stratford Courier.
Patterson also makes it a point to welcome new residents and to do what she can so they feel at home.
“We’ve housed 100 in the 20 apartments, and I’ve known all of them,” she said, adding that she enjoys getting to know the families of the residents when they come to visit.
“We even have some second generations living here, children who knew about us because their parents lived here, and now they decided to live here, too, when it was the right time,” she added.
Although it seems that Patterson fills the role of mother hen to everyone who lives at Athens Woods, she just says, “We all kind of take care of each other.”
It must be that Patterson’s life before she retired was good training for her retirement years at Athens Woods. After graduating from Stratford High School in 1942, she married Loren Patterson in 1943. And then she set about being a farm wife on their farm east of Stratford.
“I was a Farm Her,” she said with a chuckle, referring to a current phrase.
The couple raised their four sons and a daughter on the farm. Those were the years when Patterson volunteered at the school, helped with 4-H projects, and always exhibited in the textiles and baking classes at the Hamilton County Fair. “Those were happy years,” she said.
Through it all, she was always sewing, her favorite activity. She sewed almost all the family’s clothing and remembers sewing suits and coats for the boys, snowsuits, even coveralls. She sewed bridesmaid dresses, wedding gowns, and baptismal gowns as well. Patterson even claims she likes to mend.
“I’ve worn out two sewing machines,” she said. “I’m on the third one now, but I don’t sew much at all now.”
The Pattersons were all involved with the South Marion United Methodist Church, too, where she has been a member for 70 years. In those seven decades, she has served in just about every capacity possible: Sunday School teacher, choir, UMW president, sewing club member, and she says she’s been on the church board for more years than she can remember.
Even though she now lives in town, Patterson still regularly attends services at the country church. She is also a regular at the weekly chapel service held at Athens Woods.
She and her husband (a World War II vet) were members of the local American Legion post and Legion Auxiliary, where she served as chaplain.
“I guess I’m just one of those people who can’t say no,” she said.
There are many people, causes, and organizations who have benefitted from her approach.
What’s the secret to being a good volunteer? “Find something you enjoy,” she said. “You need to have a good work background, too. And there’s the satisfaction of knowing you are helping someone.
“I’ll never get too old,” Patterson said. “I think if I just sat and did nothing, I’d get lonesome.”
She doesn’t have to worry about that these days. Even though she’s slowed down just a bit after a fall last summer, Patterson still goes about living her life her way.
“I do enjoy life, and I’m pretty happy, especially considering some of the deep valleys I have been through,” is how she puts it. “My greatest asset is my health, my friends, and my family.”
Her family has grown to include seven grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and even five great-great-grandchildren.
“I have enjoyed life, especially since moving here,” Patterson said. “To me, it is the last rung before you get to heaven.”