Evelyn Orena Quander Rattley was born Oct. 8, 1924. She transitioned from this life on Good Friday, April 10, 2020. Encircled by her two children, daughter-in-law and caregiver, in those last moments she received the devotion that she bestowed abundantly over a resplendent 95 years on earth.
Counselor. Confessor. Champion. Mentor. World Citizen. Faith Leader.
The third and youngest child of John Edward Quander and Helen Orena Stewart, the family would eventually move from Upper Marlboro, Md., to Washington, D.C.
The Quander family is one of the oldest documented Black families in the United States. Tracing its lineage directly to Ghana, West Africa, they identified their first African ancestor, Egya Amokwandoh, to arrive on U.S. shores through the Transatlantic slave trade.
Evelyn proudly contributed to the family’s genealogy rigor which has produced legions of reunions, books, articles, documentaries and intergenerational storytelling. The Quander presence is enshrined in Ghana’s museum at Cape Coast Castle, infamous as a port for the slave trade. An exhibit was also established at Mt. Vernon, where Quander relatives are acknowledged as former slaves of George Washington.
Evelyn attended Howard University and George Washington University where she earned an advanced degree in special education, devoting a 30-year career in the DC Public Schools.
In 1947, she married the love of her life, Thaddeus Allen Rattley Sr. To that union, extending over 44 years, came two children, Sandra and Thaddeus Jr.
Evelyn’s world would transform with her 80th birthday gift in 2002. She and her daughter Sandra Rattley took a monthlong sojourn to her ancestral home in Ghana. She experienced “joy beyond words” from the images of Ghanaians with striking resemblance to her paternal aunts and uncles. The family roots and connections across continents were undeniable.
A high point of the trip was a celebratory parade with rituals reserved for the most important occasions. Before returning home, Evelyn was enstooled as Queen Mother of Dutch Komenda and presented a beautifully carved stool in recognition of her eldership.
From that point forward, a Queen was born.
“She was embodied, emboldened to the fullness of her nobility. It changed and empowered her forever,” remembers Sandra.
Evelyn’s affiliations and honors reflected her dedication to civic engagement in education, philanthropy, the arts, and support of youth, the elderly and disabled. She served over a dozen organizations ranging from the John F. Kennedy Institute to scholarship committees of the D.C. Retired Educators Association and the AARP.
Evelyn’s activism and leadership was most profound in the service of her faith. She was a founding member of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church, a parish named for one of the only Black saints. Evelyn was active in all phases of parish life for the 74 years of the church’s history, until recent illness slowed her down. For decades she served as sacristan, proclaimer of the Word, and Eucharistic minister. She continued her lay clergy duties until 92 years old.
She was awarded the Archdiocesan Order of Merit Medal for faithful service to the church. She also served as President of the Council of Catholic Women, later assuming the highest office as Province Director.
As a living legacy to Evelyn Orena Quander Rattley, a fund has been established to support the Sanctuary Renovation Project for St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in her name at https://stbenedictthemoordc.com/sanctuary-project or mail to 320 21st Street NE, Washington, DC 20002.
Quander family matriarch, Queen Evelyn is survived by her daughter Sandra Rattley, son Thaddeus Allen Rattley Jr., daughter-in-law Cynthia Summers Rattley, grandson Thaddeus Allen Rattley III, two great-grandchildren Malakai and Micah, and a host of loving relatives and devoted neighbors and friends.