Cary History: Remembering Jeanette Reaves Evans

Cary, NC — Cary lost an icon on May 17, 2021, with the passing of Jeanette Reaves Evans. She will be sorely missed.

Here’s a glimpse into her life, in her won words, from an interview in April 2009.

Jeanette Evans  

“My father was Connie Reaves and my mother was a Turner. She was born in Cary. My father was born near Sanford. While working on the railroad in Cary he met my mother, so he moved to Cary and they got married. They had ten kids. When I was a child, Cary was tiny.

You could roller skate on Highway 54. Every now and then a car might come by.

When the Cary Colored School burned down in 1936, nobody knew what happened. Some said it was set afire. The same year I was supposed to start first grade there, but it burned down. We had to wait until they built our school. My parents and friends from church joined up, along with Clyde and Lovelace Evans on the black school board, to build a new school. They all worked really hard to get a school built, which is now called Kingswood. I was one of the first children to start there in the first grade.

It was a very small school to start, with maybe three teachers. Then I went to Berry O’Kelly High School in Method.

It bothered me when I had to pass by the white school in Cary to go stand out on Highway 54 in the cold, get on the bus, and go six or seven miles to my own school.

I married Herbert Evans who was a plumber. We had three children. Herbert was the son of James Lovelace Evans. Lovelace bought the land from Highway 54, down Evans Road past West Cary Middle School for $500. Later, he sold the land to the town to build the segregated West Cary High before it became West Cary Middle.

In 1968, a white lady, Margaret Keller, brought all the churches, black and white, together to open a thrift shop to raise money for anyone that needed help. I helped her get the Dorcas Shop started. I love to help folks. We started on Cedar Street, then moved to other locations around downtown Cary until we built the building on Maynard Road. I was the shop manager for fifteen years, and then a day manager. The money raised in the shop pays to help people who need rent, or food, or to pay their bills. 

We also started the Carying Place to help folks get homes when they are about to become homeless. It’s run independently now, but I still go there to help. My church, Cary First Christian, works together with the white Good Shepherd church four times a year to feed those families from the Carying Place.

We also work together for Habitat for Humanity. Every fifth Sunday the two congregations get together. We go to their church, then the next fifth Sunday they come to ours. We’ve been doing that for over twenty-five years or more, since before they even had their church building.

You all get to know each other and become a community. That’s the way it should be.”

Much of Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina, published in August 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel. The rest comes from later oral history interviews with local citizens.

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3 replies
  1. Nettie Crawford
    Nettie Crawford says:

    Jeanette Evans was a kind, giving women who stood out a cut above the rest. She supported me spiritually, emotionally and adopted me as her daughter. The awesome woman helped me as I organized the “Utopian Drama Esemble.” She was a gentle giant. I am so thankful to have met this most unique woman of God. She was a moving force in the Cary community. I called her Nana she call me daughter. Gone but never forgotten ❤💔

  2. Kakie jordan yelverton
    Kakie jordan yelverton says:

    I grew up in Cary on south Harrison Ave . Mary Evans who looked like this lady lived behind us and worked for us. Mary Evans later sold her property to us and moved to an area/ neighbor hood near highway 54.
    My family attended her funeral in Cary. I wonder if Mary Evans and Jeanette Evans we’re related. The likeness is uncanny. Mary Evans was a part of our family back then….. before 1966.

  3. Eva Jones
    Eva Jones says:

    Jeanette Evans was married to my cousin Herbert Evans and she was the reason that I volunteered working at the Dorcas Shop for years I enjoyed working with both of them, Her and Margaret Keller, the founder of Christian Community in Action (CCA) and Dorcus. Margaret belonged to the Methodist Church across from Ashworth Drug store.

    . Jeanette, was an awesome woman of God. She played the piano and organ at our church (CFCC) for many years as well as volunteered daily at the Dorcas. We also traveled to the rest homes and assistant living to play and sing gospel music for the sick and shut-in. They all lived her so much and requested our return. There is so much more that I could tell of my dear cousin and Friend Jeanette. She made me a better person and I owe a lot to her. May she rest in heavenly peace till we meet again.

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