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Polio, MS doesnít rob Durham woman of her style
Published Friday, March 2, 2018
by Freda Freeman, Correspondent

DURHAM – Ann Evans touches perhaps as many people’s lives today from her wheelchair as she did before she was stricken with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago; on top of, at age 2, having polio that left her with a limp.

Known for doing hair, known for her fashionable style, Evans is also known for sharing a kind word.

“When I talk to people, sometimes it seems like I have the words they’ve been waiting to hear,” Evans said. “I like celebrating people. Sometimes people are just trying to pass by me, but some people will look at me because they see the way I’m dressed in a wheelchair, but the main thing is when I open my mouth. They seemed relieved after talking to me.”

Grace Graham, who met Evans 15 years ago at a community event, said she was immediately impressed with her outgoing personality and friendly conversation.

“It became clear during our talk that the well-dressed lady in the wheelchair had refused to allow her health issues to control her life,” Graham said. “As time passed, I assisted Ann with a few of her projects and discovered how much she enjoys encouraging and sharing with others. At the present, one of her goals is to share necessary information with women who are confined to a wheelchair.”

Evans first became known around town when she moved from her hometown Hamlet to Durham to do hair in 1963. Now, more than 50 years later, she still runs into former customers who tell her they wish she was still in business.

Going through the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Evans was able to attend beauty school. After she passed the state board and got her cosmetology license, Evans went back to Hamlet, but she couldn’t get a job, so she moved to Durham, wearing a “borrowed party dress” and with no money.

The woman who trained Evans to style hair gave her a start. Eight years later, Evans opened her first hair salon, Ann’s Beauty World, in 1971. She opened a second in Hamlet and a third in Rocky Mount, all while confined to a wheelchair.

“I worked 30 years with polio doing hair, and I opened three salons in the last five years of my 30 years, and I ran all three of them. I worked the last five of those years in a wheelchair,” Evans said.

Evans retired in 1995 after she was diagnosed with MS. Soon after, she formed a nonprofit organization, HOPE (Helping Our Physically Challenged Everyday), to reach out to the elderly and disabled. She went to nursing homes to visit the residents, and, at Christmastime, she held parties set up like a store so the residents could shop.

She also began to create wearable recyclable art by making clothes out of trash. She made dresses out of fast food bags, potato chip bags, Styrofoam, magazines, and newspapers. She even made a wedding gown out of duct tape.

“I just wanted to see if I could be creative with my mind, to keep my mind going, now that my hands were slow,” Evans said. “I just didn’t want to fold after they diagnosed me with MS because, at that time, my hand was still moving and I could create.”

Evans has won awards at hair shows and art competitions. Her wall is covered with photos of her art, ribbons, awards, and newspaper articles. “I keep looking at my wall, and I never get bored, because every picture has a meaning, and it just keeps my mind stirred up,” she said.

Evans is proud of the awards she’s won and accolades she’s gotten through the years. However, winning awards is not what she wants to be remembered for.

“I don’t want people to forget that I was nice and courteous, and I did my work as immaculate as I could,” she said. “I did the same thing for the last person who sat in my chair as I did for the first; they got the same treatment.”

Evans, who celebrated her birthday on Feb. 19, now lives at Carver Living Center, where she continues to spread joy and goodwill to her fellow residents, staff, and others who are there to help her.

“I’m 72, by way of 27,” she joked.


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