Eva Norman, 78, owner of a uniform clothing store

Posted: July 15, 2014

EVA BASKERVILLE looked into the future and didn't like what she saw.

Since childhood, she had toiled on her family's tobacco farm in Henderson, N.C. What would her future be? Marry a farmer, have a bunch of kids, continue working the soil?

No thanks. She moved to Philadelphia.

Eva and her sister, Rosa Lee, equally fed up with farming, came to the city, where an aunt lived, and Eva, then 19, started a new life in an urban environment.

Eva Norman - as she became after marrying Clarence Norman Jr., the operator of a clothing store that specialized in uniforms - was a devoted churchwoman and outstanding cook in the Southern tradition. She died Wednesday of congestive heart failure. She was 78 and lived in Overbrook.

Despite her rejection of farm life, Eva continued throughout her life to refer to North Carolina as "home," and went back at least once a year.

"She talked about how much she loved going home," said her son, Gerald Singleton. "I would say, 'You only lived there 19 years and you've lived here more than 50 years. This is home.' "

He said she would reply, "This is not home."

After arriving in Philadelphia, Eva went to work for Arrow Uniform Co., a clothing store. After about 15 years, she opened her own store on Lansdowne Avenue in Overbrook, Star Work Uniform Co. It sold work clothing for blue-collar jobs, uniforms for nurses and others. She retired in 2001.

Eva was a skilled soul-food cook. Her sweet-potato pies were always in demand.

"Everybody wanted her pies," her son said. "They offered to buy them."

She could also turn out a mean fried chicken with collard greens and other traditional Southern delicacies.

Eva was the middle child of Lehman and Elizabeth Baskerville's five children. She graduated from the segregated high school in Henderson, even though she had to take a year off from her schooling to work the farm, common in Southern farm country at the time.

She began her spiritual journey at Ashley Grove Baptist Church, where she was baptized. In Philadelphia, she joined a number of churches before settling in at Overbrook Park Church of Christ.

Her marriage to Melvin Singleton Jr. in 1958 ended in divorce. She married Clarence Norman Jr. in the mid-80s. He died in 2009.

Eva was proud of her only grandson, Javahn Singleton, 17, who won an award in May for a documentary he directed about his life and dealing with Asperger's syndrome. "Overcoming Great Odds" was shown at the Greenfield Youth Film Festival and won the "Voices Heard Award."

Javahn took care of his grandmother, made her breakfast and saw that she took her medicine before he went to school.

Besides her son and grandson, Eva is survived by two sisters, Laura Mae Ford and Rosalie Isaac.

Services: 11 a.m. today at Overbrook Park Church of Christ, 7630 W. Woodbine Ave. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be at Merion Memorial Park, Bala Cynwyd.

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