By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Friendly feline

Submitted photo##
Millie Mae, Lisa Henry s cat, pays a visit to neighbor Darrell  Dee  Evans. The older woman enjoys playing with and cuddling the feline, who stops by almost every day.
Submitted photo## Millie Mae, Lisa Henry's cat, pays a visit to neighbor Darrell "Dee" Evans. The older woman enjoys playing with and cuddling the feline, who stops by almost every day.

Millie May knew, somehow, that her neighbor needed a friend.

So the big black-and-white paid her a visit. She called at the door, and, once admitted, climbed onto Darrell “Dee” Evans’ lap. There Millie sat, purring, until it was time to return home.

Millie came back the next day, and the next. Now almost every day she visits Evans, who’ll be 93 Feb. 21.

Both Liz Pitman, Evans’ daughter, and Lisa Henry, her neighbor and Millie’s owner, think it’s pretty special.

“Millie Mae is a wonderful comfort for Mom,” said Pitman, whose father, Emil Evans, died nine years ago. “Mom misses Dad so much. Millie’s visits make her feel loved and cared for.”

Millie Mae is one of several pets in Henry’s household. The crew usually includes several kittens and one or more mother cats that Henry is fostering until she can find them homes.

It’s possible Millie is looking for a little peace and quiet when she heads to Evans’ house. But Henry and Pitman think it’s more likely that she knows she’s needed there.

“She plays, gets under the covers, nudges Mom and purrs so loud!” Pitman said.

She said she’s always known cats have the power to make people feel better. “I had a cat that babysat my baby,” she recalled. If the toddler needed more attention, the cat would tell Pitman about it.

“I’ve always thought God created animals first, then sent us to take care of them,” Pitman said.

She and her mother said they are fortunate to have moved into the same neighborhood as Henry.

Born on Skidmore Street in Portland in 1930, Evans has lived in Northwest McMinnville for 28 years after earlier living in Newberg, the Portland area and South Carolina.

An artist, she designed and sewed about 500 decorative flags, from a replica of the Betsy Ross American flag to those with holiday greetings. “She’s a real artist,” her daughter said. “Watercolors, pastels, pen and ink, palette knife.”

She enjoys reading novels and was known for her jelly making and baking. One year, she spent several days making and freezing 52 pies so the family could have one each week.

After settling here, she worked as a sample lady at the Winco grocery store for several years.

She also spent many years running Weight Watchers groups and traveling all around northwest Oregon to give lectures about the group.

Evans has always been adventurous, as well, her daughter said. She went skydiving when she was 84, and has enjoyed activities such as a glider ride and a steamboat cruise.

She had many pets over the years, including a cat, Squeaky, and a beagle-mix named Sunny. As a child, she had a dog named Paint Bucket.

But these days, she has no pets of her own and is mostly homebound. She doesn’t get a lot of visitors, her daughter said.

“She really looks forward to seeing Millie,” Pitman said.

Pitman usually sees Millie waiting in the driveway each morning when she comes to make her mother’s breakfast. The cat runs to the door and waits until it’s opened.

“Who let you in?” Evans teases Millie when she enters the house — she has an amazing sense of humor, her daughter said.

A moment later, Evans will say, “Come in, Kitty!”

Then they will play or take a nap, Millie purring all the while.

The cat may stay a couple hours or most of the day, then go to the door and ask to be let out.

Evans and Pitman don’t feed Millie, so that’s not what keeps her coming over to visit. Instead, they and Henry think Millie is motivated by love, as well as the enjoyment of being needed.


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