One of the greatest ladies on the island has left us
Evelyn Wilbur Darna, beloved member of the Boca Grande community, died surrounded by her family in Englewood on June 6, 2022. She was 82 years old.
You could pick Evelyn out of a crowd the minute she laughed…and she laughed often. Her sense of humor and sparkling eyes matched those of her husband (Babe Darna) and if present anywhere, laughter surrounded them. Evelyn’s infectious smile and compassionate heart ensured she never met a stranger. Her family and the island community were her greatest loves, and she was a fierce protector of both.
Evelyn was more comfortable caring for others, whether at the salon she owned, at the Boca Grande Health Clinic, or at home. She often gave anonymously to families in need and raised her children to quietly give all you can to others. From an early age, she would often say to her daughter: “It’s not so much that you give or that everyone knows you did, what matters is that your gift, whatever he be, help the family. »
Born in Rangely, Maine on October 10, 1939, Evelyn Wood Dubois and her widowed mother, Zelia Dubois Wilbur, began coming to Boca Grande when her mother worked as a housekeeper cleaning the rooms at the Gasparilla Inn during the season. social. They moved permanently to Boca Grande when Evelyn was a teenager, where she attended the old Boca Grande High School with her future husband and many others who became her lifelong friends.
After high school, in 1959, she entered the Valdez School of Hair Design in Tampa. Later, she opened Evelyn’s – the only beauty salon on the island at the time. His customers came from all walks of life and were treated equally.
It was 1962 when a president was elected at the Boca Grande Woman’s Club who had never even attended a meeting. A 19-year-old fresh out of high school took the hammer. It was Evelyne.
“Evelyn was a bright new star,” said one of the Woman’s Club leaders at the time. “She brought to the club the youthful energy and enthusiasm that breathed new life into the club.”
During Evelyn’s presidency, the median of Gilchrist Avenue between First and Fifth Streets was planted with hibiscus and grass. Although it was very beautiful, it required a lot of work. At the time, water on the island came from cisterns and wells, and women carried large trash cans kept in the old bowling alley which was then a storage shed near the current location of the Park condominiums. Square. They would haul the water in these canisters from the back of “Mama Dear”‘s (Mrs. Fred Thompson) old wooded station wagon to Fugate, where they would get water from a cistern under the store. The women watered the plants three times a week and took turns pushing the lawnmower that stood in front of Evelyn’s beauty salon.
The Woman’s Club and the Health Clinic weren’t the only organizations Evelyn played a role in. In November 1980, she was named vice president of the Boca Grande Community House. In 1984, Evelyn hosted the last birthday party for island socialite Timmy Smith. According to newspaper accounts at the time, Timmy giggled like a little girl throughout the party.
Evelyn then went to work for one of her clients, Mrs. Jane Englehard, and upon her death Evelyn went to work for the Boca Grande Health Clinic.
Evelyn cared for her mother until the day she died in 1987 at Evelyn’s home on Pilot Street – a home Evelyn loved so much. Years later, in 2012, she helped start a clinic-sponsored dementia and Alzheimer’s disease group.
The weekly program would run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Boca Grande and would help boost the cognitive abilities of Alzheimer’s patients through physical activities, socialization, bingo, art and music. It also allowed primary caregivers to rest easy knowing their loved ones were being taken care of…a scenario Evelyn was familiar with.
She loved her time with the band “Forget-Me-Nots,” and her booming laugh and laid-back retort with the band members made it easy for everyone to enjoy themselves.
Evelyn was a friendly and familiar face to everyone on the island and was known for her meticulous style. Her beautiful smile and big heart will be sorely missed by all who knew her, but especially her husband, Merritt “Babe” Darna of Englewood; his children, Merritt “Scooter” Darna of Boca Grande and Susanne (Chris) Dudley of Tallahassee; and his four grandchildren, Brianna Darna and Brandon Darna of Englewood and Colgan Dudley and Levi Dudley of Tallahassee.
Services for Evelyn will be held at the First Baptist Church in Boca Grande on Friday, June 10. A visitation with the family begins at 10 a.m., followed by a celebration of life service at 11 a.m. The family will hold a private funeral.
In loving memory of Evelyn, the wearing of vibrant colors and flowers for her celebration is encouraged. Donations may also be made in his honor to The Englewood Hospice House, 12050 N. Access Rd, Port Charlotte, FL 33981 or the First Baptist Church of Boca Grande.
Strong women are not just born, they are made by the storms they go through. It’s Evelyn, through and through. She will never be forgotten.