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Volunteer Work Helps Keep Young At Heart Story by Ray Burow • Photo by Abner Pedraza

Decades upon decades ago, her parents immigrated to this country from Italy. For this reason, she prefers to be called by her given name — at least, what it was meant to be… “Katarina.” The now Wellington resident’s name was misconstrued in translation when she was born 86 years ago, and the name “Catherine” was printed on Katarina Evangelista’s birth certificate. “No one calls me Catherine; always Katarina,” said Evangelista, who is originally from New Rochelle, N.Y. It is with great respect that Evangelista speaks of her parents. She credits her mother and father for raising her to respect others and is convinced that children today aren’t afforded the same parental attention she was as a child. “Parents today are busy,” she said. “I would encourage them to spend more time with their children. We always ate together.” Of all the advice passed on to her from her parents, she considers the best to be from her father. She has never forgotten that one day, without provocation, her father sternly told her, “You are to never smoke.” Evangelista laughed recalling her father’s statement. “To this day, I’ve never smoked,” she said. When Evangelista was 18 years of age, she met her future husband, Aldo. Little did she know, her new boyfriend had a significant connection to her parents. It was an uncanny link they discovered on their first meeting. Speaking excitedly in Italian, the older couple learned that the boyfriend of their Katarina had come to the United States on the exact same ship that ferried Evangelista’s par114

february 2018 | wellington the magazine

ents to Ellis Island. Her boyfriend was only 2 years old at the time. Aldo and Katarina were married for 54 years before his passing. It has been 30 years since Evangelista moved to South Florida, and as for most people of retirement age, it was the warm sun that beckoned her and her husband south. However, neither Evangelista nor her husband had yet retired, as they were both living and working in Connecticut at the time. “Aldo came home one day after work and said, ‘It’s time.’ That was in November of 1987. I said, ‘Let’s go,’ and we

“Volunteering isn’t for everyone. It really depends on the person. I know many seniors who volunteer, but others who feel they’ve already done their part, and if they’re going to work, they’d work to get paid,” Evangelista said. “But if they only knew the good feeling that comes with volunteer work.”

were here by Jan. 5, 1988,” Evangelista said. “It was an awful winter.” Evangelista breaks the “forgetful senior” stereotype. She is very good with dates, recalling and associating events in the same manner as she remembers her own name. “I don’t know how,” Evangelista said. “It’s a gift — that’s how I look at it. I remember birthdays, anniversaries. All I can say is that it’s a gift.” That’s not the only old-age stereotype that is foreign to Evangelista, who might best be described as “young at heart.” The 86-year-old breaks them all. She doesn’t mind telling people exactly how old she is, but before revealing her age, she engages the inquisitor in a quick guessing game. The test-takers are most often stumped, rarely guessing or believing that she is as old as she is. “Sometimes, they’re afraid to guess, but I tell them, ‘It’s OK,’” Evangelista said. “‘Even if you guess 100, I’ll tell you.’” No one ever guesses 100, and seldom guesses that Evangelista is in her mid-80s. This is especially true of the students in the New Horizons Elementary School afterschool program. Evangelista worked there with the kids and teachers for 15 years, only just recently retiring. The students there, however, showed very little interest in her age. “The only thing they ask is why my hair’s that color, which is completely white,” Evangelista said. “I tell them that when someone has all gray hair, that it means it is a blessing, and to give them respect. That’s how I handle it.” At the end of January, Evangelista will

Wellington The Magazine February 2018  

February 2018 |ON THE COVER Kent Farrington aboard Creedance at the Winter Equestrian Festival. PHOTO by Sportfot | Jumper Kent Farrington...

Wellington The Magazine February 2018  

February 2018 |ON THE COVER Kent Farrington aboard Creedance at the Winter Equestrian Festival. PHOTO by Sportfot | Jumper Kent Farrington...