Seniors & Aging

Bellingham newcomer Evelyn Freeman resolute, lively at age 99

At age 99, Evelyn Freeman can easily explain one glowing aspect of how she has achieved her age.

“I have met so many wonderful people,” says Freeman, who has lived at The Leopold in downtown Bellingham since moving from Florida last year. She moved with the help of granddaughter Raine Dozier, who teaches sociology at Western Washington University.

A retired school teacher, Freeman says she has encountered wonderful people everywhere, including the “three wonderful men” she married. She is a widow three times over, with memories she treasures.

She was born Jan. 10, 1916, the oldest of seven children. She grew up in small-town Massachusetts, not far from Boston, and has lived as an adult in Michigan, California, Florida and now Washington.

She is so affable, with bright blue eyes that seem like those of a woman less than half her age, that she doesn’t have trouble making new friends. That was obvious during an interview at The Leopold, as many folks stopped by to exchange greetings and tell her how excited they were that she was to be profiled in Prime Time.

“I guess they know I’m 99,” Freeman says with a laugh. “They make a lot of fuss over birthdays here at The Leopold.”

Freeman has quickly earned respect as a woman who still stands up – literally – for what she believes. When she learned of the nearly half-century of citizen demonstrations on Friday afternoons at the downtown Federal Building, she quickly decided to become a regular participant.

“They gave me a peace sign to stand there and hold, and so I do,” she says of the Whatcom Vigil for Peace and Justice.

Freeman is of Irish, British and Dutch descent. She can trace her paternal lineage to the 12th century and her material descendants to the 1630s in Massachusetts, not long after the arrival of the pilgrims in 1620.

“They must have been Puritans,” she says with a grin. “That’s all who came in those years.”

Freeman is the adventuresome sort, such as having eye surgery in her late 70s. She is likely one of the few 99-year-olds in America who use glasses only for reading.

One of her typically kind gestures led to her third marriage. She wrote the man who became her third husband, Arthur Mansfield Freeman, a sympathy letter on the passing of his wife.

“We had been friends in Massachusetts in high school,” she says. “I always thought he was handsome. He came from California to see me. (After about a year), we got married in the same church where we went through high school graduation ceremonies.”

Freeman had two children by her first husband; daughter Paulette is deceased and son Richard lives in Hawaii.

Freeman recalls teaching reading for about 30 years in Southern California, including many years in Barstow in the high desert.

“I am so impressed by our Bellingham schools and all the programs they have,” she says. “They have three times as many music teachers as any area where I have lived. Our young musicians are unbelievably good. My great-granddaughter, Ry, is a pianist, so I have greatly enjoyed several musical performances I have attended here.”

Freeman recalls that one of the great blessings of her youth was her “very responsible parents.”

“You know, I was born old,” she says, explaining why she was called an “old soul.”

“I could always understand what was going on,” she says. “And I had a lot of responsibility (as the oldest of seven children). I never drank or smoked.”