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At 105, She Fondly Remembers Growing Up & Raising a Family and Business in Covington

At 105, Opal Evans is a well-seasoned traveler who still refuses to stay home.

Opal lives at Atria Highland Crossing in Fort Wright, where she takes scenic bus rides and often goes out with her granddaughter, Kim Murphy.

Opal is one of two Covington centenarians who were honored in February during the Covington Bicentennial Celebration. Opal attended the gala; the other centenarian – also named Opal – was unable to appear.

“It was a nice, big celebration. Everyone was so friendly,” she says. While Covington may be her home, Opal isn’t a native of the city she has grown to love.

Opal was born in October of 1909 in Muses Mill, an Eastern Kentucky community just south of Maysville. She remembers Muses Mill as a country town with no plumbing, a single church and one-room school house. When Opal was seven, her father found work with the DeCoursey Railroad Yard and the family moved to Covington.

Her childhood memories of Covington include playing in the streets, looking over the fence at the Latonia Racetrack to watch the horses, and being amazed by the Mount Adams Incline.  She commented several times how much has changed since those days.

Opal married Fehrman "Ferm" Evans in 1939; they had a daughter, Barbara.

“We have four generations,” her granddaughter Kim says. “Opal, her daughter - my mom - five grandchildren - I’m one of five. And then there’s five great-grandchildren.”

Ferm and Opal ran Evans Jewelers, on Ritte’s Corner in from 1932-1970.

Their main business was watch repair but Opal was a jewelry buyer and served customers.

Once a week, Opal took the streetcar to Cincinnati with one of her grandchildren to buy jewelry for the store. Kim recalls fondly that Opal would then treat them to lunch in Shillito's tea room.

Cincinnati was hardly the only destination for Opal. Both she and Ferm traveled the world, visiting almost every continent. Opal says they “pinched every penny” so that they could travel. She fondly recalls Hawaii, which she says felt like heaven, and Switzerland.

“The most impressive one was when we were in Jerusalem. Walking along all those streets that Jesus walked on,” Opal says. “It’s really a beautiful world.”

Once the couple retired they also traveled the United States, finally settling in Florida until Ferm passed away in the 1980s. Opal then returned to Covington to be closer to family.

Opal fondly recalls Covington’s Bicentennial gala. She was chauffeured in a limousine and they rolled out a red carpet, just for her. More than 1,300 people attended the event, and she walked the red carpet while a Dixieland jazz band played.

She was honored for being one of Covington’s oldest residents.

“I don’t know what to expect in the next 100 years. I think people are going to be flying to the moon, like getting on the streetcar,” Opal said. “I used go everywhere on the streetcar. Or I walked.”

These days, when she’s not out exploring Covington, Opal stays involved and active at Atria. She enjoys playing cards, crafts, bingo, puzzles, and reading.

The secret to her long life, she says, is to always be active and not to drink or smoke.

“I don’t feel that old,” Opal says. “I enjoy life.”

Written by Taylor Barger, intern at Senior Services of Northern Kentucky

Photo: Opal Evans, right, and her granddaughter, Kim Murphy (by Charles Brewer)