When Evelyn Greene Manly Stooksbury Foster was born in 1917, World War I was raging, women were fighting for the right to vote and Babe Ruth was a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.
On Saturday, Foster celebrated her 102nd birthday in style with a party at Signature Lifestyles in Jefferson City.
“I did the best I could. I was the oldest in the family,” Evelyn said. “I enjoyed music and dancing. I learned to dance when I was eight years old.
“I didn’t expect all of this!”
The party featured the singing of “Happy Birthday” by Hugh Warren, who sings at the center once a month. After refreshments were served, guests were serenaded with many Hank Williams, Sr. hits and other country music favorites.
Foster worked for many years at Jefferson Memorial Hospital.
“I worked at the hospital 24 years in dietary and always tried to help everybody,” Foster said. “I’ve always been aware when other people needed help. (Even) here, we’ll see if one has trouble we’ll get help.”
Foster credits the Lord with her longevity.
“I think it was God’s will that I did that,” she said. “A lot of times, I had losses in my family, but I always suspected that it was His will.”
She outlived three husbands and lost her son, Ray, in 2018. The rest of her children, including daughters Jean Garrett and Annie Phillips survive. Another son, Don Manly, came from Florida for the party.
Foster was active in travel and drove herself places for most of her life.
“I drove my car for a long time and went on trips,” she said. “I was the oldest of six children and I helped everybody. I grew up in the South and my grandfather built bridges. I went to school in about three different states. I enjoy the people here.”
Jefferson County Mayor Mark Potts also read a proclamation congratulating Foster on her long life.
Foster was born on June 16, 1917 in Statesville, North Carolina. She was the first of six children, including a set of twins, born to Arthur and Ocie Greene.
She attended school in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina since her father worked construction building dams all across Tennessee and the southeast. After graduating high school in Abbeyville, S.C., she attended business school in Columbia, S.C. Upon completion of her education, she began work as a clerk for Department of Farm and Home Administration in Abbeyville. FHA loans were granted to sharecroppers to either buy or rent farms.
Foster married Marvin Manly in 1939 and they had four children, a son born in 1940, another son in 1942, a daughter in 1943 and another daughter in 1945. She is a proud grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother to twins born in 2017. A third great-grandson is due to arrive in September.
After her father came to Tennessee to work on construction of Cherokee Dam in 1941, Arthur and Ocie moved their family, Evelyn, husband and child to Jefferson City. After being a homemaker, Evelyn returned to work as a secretary for an electrical company in the late 1950s until the building of Jefferson Memorial Hospital in 1960. She was employed in the hospital’s dietary department for more than 20 years until her retirement.
After Arthur’s death, she married Fred Stooksbury and later, Otto Foster and moved to Knoxville. Upon Otto’s passing, Evelyn returned to Jefferson City.
Throughout her life, Evelyn experienced numerous adventures, historical events, the deaths of all of her siblings, three husbands, the oldest son and one granddaughter. She continues to maintain a strong will, a deep faith in God, and loves music and dancing.
Today, she is an active resident of Signature Lifestyles in Jefferson City where she has been known to get up and dance many times.
Daily, Foster expresses her mantra: “I try to do the best I can, day by day.”