Evelyn “Evie” Isobele Pendergraft nee McKinlay, 98 passed away at 9:57 a.m. at Desert Springs Hospital in Las Vegas on March 28, 2023. She was the daughter of John B. McKinlay and H.M. Haagen.
Evie was both early and late. She was a premature baby, born on August 2, 1925. She was conceived on or about November 30, 1924 being about 3 weeks early. Yet she was late, in that she was the youngest of a large family, she was often called a menopause baby.
Born in South Africa she grew up among the elephants and giraffes and pythons. She often went back for visits during the course of her long life. She joined the South African Women’s Auxillary Army Service (“WAAS”) in 1940 to go aid in the fight against Hitler and the Axis Powers. Evie actually joined with the permission of her mother at the age of 15. Because of her talents in singing and dancing Evie was assigned to the Union Defence Force Entertainment Unit to boost the morale of the fighting troops. Evie was part of a group called the “Wotnots”. They performed shows close to actual combat occurring.
Evie although engaged at the time to another man, met the love of her life John A. Pendergraft “John”. John proposed to Evie at the pyramids of Giza. They were married on May 24, 1944 in Alexandria, Egypt John was 25 and Evie about 18 (from date of birth) Evie was a true virgin bride.
Evie was originally in North Africa doing the shows for the troops and giving much needed support. When the Nazis and Axis powers were forced out of North Africa, Evie and her group were sent to the Italian theatre of war.
Once the war was over, John and Evie went to Long Island New York. John was continuing his education to improve the young family’s life. Evie worked as a model. She then became a model in the custom made department of the iconic Bergdorf Goodman store making 45 bucks a week (which is almost 1700 bucks today with the value of the silver she was given then as it is priced now ). Although there was no immediate need or requirement for Evie to become naturalized because of her marriage to John, Evie was naturalized on March 10 1961. Thus becoming a true African-American just as Elon Musk and his mother and siblings are.
John and Evie had one son John F. Pendergraft (“Fred”) and the family moved to San Diego California. John with the benefit of his advanced education worked at General Dynamics and was doing electronics for the Atlas rocket program. Evie did landscaping work and her work in the San Diego canyons was featured in the September 1974 issue of Sunset magazine “South Africa comes to California”.
John and Evie moved to Sedona, Arizona while Fred moved to Las Vegas. John died in 1999 of cancer and Evie then joined Fred in Las Vegas. Fred died prematurely in 2013 after a failed medical operation.
Evie and Kim Blandino (“Kim”) had met some months before Fred passed away and when Fred passed away Kim vowed to take care of Evie until the end of her days. Evie was very active throughout her life until her failing health and loss of vision in the last two years of her life limited her activities. Yet, everywhere she lived she would make a point to request to go into the various schools and show the children in the respective schools about Africa. She did this in Cottonwood Arizona, San Diego and in Las Vegas. She would show the children such things as a Python that had swallowed an entire goat and had to be cut open just to make sure a missing child at the time had not been swallowed (the child was later found). Evie brought authentic African clothes and exhibits to these school authorized talks. Evie received hundreds of letters in response to her presentations. One could only guess if any of these children’s life trajectory was changed as a result of Evie’s public service in this regard and stimulating these young minds.
Evie is survived by two granddaughters (unfortunately estranged) and by Kim and his two sons Zach and Andrew who informally adopted Evie as mother and grandmother respectively in honor to a “wonder woman” and a treasure to this earth. Evie always supported Kim’s efforts to go after judicial corruption and expose it even though retaliation against Kim hurt Evie indirectly. Evie was truly and always a “warrior woman”. Calling her a lady would be a downgrade. . Evie’s ashes must be united with John’s at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix and a new marker will be set.