Evelyn Thomas Young had a passion for exposing her children to art, music and literature. But how do you do that when you don't have much money?

You find out which musical productions are free, which museums do not charge admission, and, of course, there is the Free Library with its bountiful collections of books and regular educational programs. You don't have a car, so you spend a lot of time on buses.

That's how she did it, and her three children gained a cultural education they wouldn't have had if their mother had been less resourceful.

And then, they could listen to their mother sing. Her fine soprano voice graced the choirs of many churches and religious gatherings. And once a year, they could hear her sing Handel's Messiah with one of the mass choirs in the city.

Whenever the conventioneers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church came to town, they put in a special request for Evelyn Young.

Evelyn, a 35-year employee of the former Naval Aviation Supply Depot in Philadelphia, a consummate baker whose cakes and pies were in such demand she often couldn't keep up, and a devoted mother and grandmother, died of heart failure April 26. She was 79 and lived in West Philadelphia.

"We had an interesting upbringing," said her son Victor Young. "We came from a low-income community, but we spent time going to musical productions, finding free museums like the University of Pennsylvania Museum — anything we could find that was free. We were always in parks. Cobbs Creek Park was just up the street."

On payday Mom would spring for volumes on mathematics, science and whatever encyclopedia was being peddled door-to-door. The house was full of books.

Victor said he got his interest in engineering reading the books she bought on math and science.

Evelyn Thomas was born in Monroeville, N.J., the fourth of the five children of Gifford and Ethel Thomas. The family moved to Philadelphia when she was an infant. She was baptized by the late Rev. T.H. Carter at Mount Olive Baptist Church.

She graduated from Overbrook High School in 1950.

Her singing began on the youth choir at Mount Olive. As an adult, she joined Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church under the late Rev. William H. Smallwood where she continued her singing on the adult choir.

She married the late Rev. Donald W. Young, who was pastor of Mount Airy Baptist Church. He died 23 years ago.

She went to work at the Naval Aviation Supply Depot, where she was a clerk dealing with documents that were often classified. Evelyn was such a great baker that often people who did work around her house declined to accept money and would opt for one of her delicious coconut cakes, peach cobbler or other delicacies. After all, they couldn't find such delights anywhere else.

Besides her son, she is survived by another son, Donald Wayne; a daughter, Karen Young; two sisters, Syreetha Cook and Doris Thomas; a brother, Ivory Thomas, and two grandchildren.

Services: 11 a.m. today at Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church, 5901 Larchwood Ave. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Ivy Hill Cemetery. n

Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or morrisj@phillynews.com.