Evelyn Winokur loves her life. Three days a week she drives from her home in Evanston to her job in Buffalo Grove, getting in around 10 and leaving around 3. Her fellow employees and customers adore her. In her free time, when not visiting friends or attending a lecture at Oakton Community College, she reads news magazines or watches C-SPAN. A hard worker, she received her most recent raise in April. This summer her colleagues surprised her on her birthday with a cake made of cupcakes.
Evelyn is 90.
A lifelong Chicagoan and an Evanston resident for 61 years, Evelyn graduated from Tuley High School (now Roberto Clemente Community Academy) in the West Town neighborhood on the Near North Side. She attended Wright Junior College, where she met her husband, Perry, a fellow student. They eloped in 1943 after a yearlong courtship.
After the United States entered World War II, Perry enlisted in the Army as a machinist. With his knowledge of math and air transport command, he traveled to various Army bases to teach and train infantrymen. Evelyn always found civil service jobs on the bases and together they made the best of being so far away from their families. “I knew nothing when I got married. I really grew up during our time in the Army,” recalls Evelyn.
In 1946 they returned home to Chicago and lived in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Perry taught at Chicago Technical College and Evelyn went to work at Billboard Magazine. An entrepreneur and businessman, Perry started servicing and buying vending machines. Together the young couple would travel by bus around the city to replenish the empty machines. Evelyn admits, “It was hard work, but we were young. You do what you have to do.”
Children soon followed: a daughter, Barbara, and Steven, the first of two sons. In 1952 the family moved to Evanston and three years later Evelyn gave birth to their youngest child, Mark.
Evelyn reveled in her time as a stay at home mom and threw her energies into the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and gathering funds for UNICEF through her children’s schools. A few years later Evelyn joined Perry in a new business and worked with him until his death in 1986. They had been happily married for 44 years.
A young widow, Evelyn was restless with energy. She did not want to travel or pursue new hobbies; she wanted to work. With her family’s encouragement, Evelyn joined her son Steven’s business, First Delta Group. Her responsibilities include some clerical work and making sure customers are satisfied with their orders and service.
Five years ago her granddaughter Laurie joined the company. Working with both her son and granddaughter brings new joy and pride to Evelyn. Today she is the proud grandmother of four and the great-grandmother of two.
Evelyn attributes her personal longevity to her penchant for staying busy and intellectually engaged. She refuses to retire and swears she would “wither” if she were ‘forced’ to stay home. Her son Steven happily admits, “She runs the place.”