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Evelyn Marie Ford, Penn employee, a mom to all, dies at 92

EVELYN MARIE FORD knew when she wanted to die. It was after her cherished great-grandson, William Ford-Conway, completed his junior year at Chestnut Hill Academy.

EVELYN MARIE FORD knew when she wanted to die.

It was after her cherished great-grandson, William Ford-Conway, completed his junior year at Chestnut Hill Academy.

She satisfied herself that he had gotten good marks, although he had to explain why he got a B- in one subject instead of his customary A's.

Content, she asked him when the school term was over. Then she said, "Go home. I'm all right."

The next day, Monday, she died. She was 92 and lived in West Oak Lane.

Evelyn's family was treated to an unusually eclectic upbringing. When she worked in the biochemistry lab at the University of Pennsylvania, she befriended medical and research students from all over the world. She took it on herself to make sure that they were well fed by bringing in sandwiches and snacks and, eventually, setting up a little kitchen with a refrigerator for their food.

"The boys get hungry," she explained. "They have to study."

That was not her job. Her job was in inventory, making sure that the students had the lab equipment they needed for their studies.

But she provided the food at her own expense, then invited the students to her home, then in Germantown, for holiday meals. She was an excellent cook and baker, specializing in homemade applesauce, Seven-Up cake, butter rolls and sweet-potato pie.

Her granddaughter Renee Ford-Conway recalls when her grandmother introduced her to a young man from Japan: " 'Talk to him,' Grandmom said. 'He's going to be rich someday.'

"Language may have sometimes been a barrier," Renee said, "but her love and generosity made language unnecessary, and those who were the recipients of her giving spirit were nourished with more than just food because of it."

Before going to Penn, Evelyn worked in food service at Beaver College, now Arcadia University.

A devoted churchwoman, she was a 50-year member of Trinity United Methodist Church, in Germantown. She was a member of the Gospel Choir, chairwoman of Women's Day, an usher and chair of the Kitchen Committee. She also cooked for church affairs.

Evelyn was born in Philadelphia to Artery Chase and Hattie Friend-Chase. She attended school in Philadelphia and in Preston, Md., along with her late siblings, Artery and Ben.

In 1937, she married William Wesley Ford, who wound up a career as a paperhanger, postal employee and Streets Department supervisor with a job with the Keep America Clean Committee under Mayors James H.J. Tate and W. Wilson Goode Sr. The family has photos of him taking the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on a tour of the city.

In earlier years, the couple helped take care of entertainer Bill Cosby and his brother, Russell, when they were children living nearby in Germantown and their parents had night jobs. Cosby has sent a note of condolence to Evelyn's family.

Evelyn was a popular figure in the neighborhood. Neighbors noted her prompt appearance every morning at Medary and Ogontz avenues as she waited for the No. 6 bus to get to work. They could set their clocks by her arrival.

"Transportation was Evelyn's way of getting to know people in the community," her granddaughter said. "Every bus driver from Olney Avenue to Cheltenham knew her by name.

"She was very independent to the end," Renee said. "She was assertive and spoke her mind. She was a loving and caring person and you always knew where you stood with her. It was Nanny's way or the highway."

Her husband died in 1991. She is survived by her son, Edward H. Ford; two other grandchildren and her great-grandson.

Services: 10 a.m. tomorrow at Mount Carmel United Methodist Church, 5909 Park Ave. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery, Willow Grove. *