A master of reinvention and refinement, Evanston octogenarian shines

EVANSTON, Ill. -- At 82-years-old and still hard at work, an Evanston woman is proving that age is only a state of mind.

She has been in the fine jewelry business now for 30 years.

But until she landed in the land of precious stones and shiny metals, this octogenarian reinvented herself over and over and over again.

Eve Alfille was born in France. She and her parents left her home land when she was 15 following World War II because there was no work for them there after Nazi Germany had invaded and the economy struggled to rebound.

But Eve knew only how to plow forward. The creative daughter of two practical chemists, she kept trying new things until she found her calling.

Eve is a pioneer in many unsuspecting places. It was her dream to work with her hands and create a fairytale for herself and others. She's done it. She is the owner of the The Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio in Evanston.

Early in her life, Eve wanted to be a painter. But when instructors told her she had no talent as a painter, she fell back on her math skills of all things and became a certified public account following college in Canada. There were 100 men in her class and only three women. Eve was class president.

"The trailblazing was kind of fun,” she says. "You're young and idealistic, you think, ‘I'm going to show them.’"

But in time, her fascination with language sent her down a different path. She worked in translations in the medical profession and later, she spent 13 years of teaching French to high school students. She also had masters in linguistics and medieval poetry under her belt.

Eve became a stock broker in the 70s, but back then, she says, women weren't paid enough to stay in the game. So she changed course again, rolling up her sleeves in archeological digs all over the world.

And that’s when the light bulb went off.

"Something struck me and I thought I would like to be the person whose work somebody finds in 400 years,” she says.

So she went to more school for welding with metals and later precious gems and stones. She became a jeweler. Her style has a romantic flair and her elaborate creations have rich stories to tell. Her retail store today gets a new theme every six months. With the help of her 20 employees and plenty of family, including Maurice, her husband of 60 years, they celebrated the landmark anniversary just last week.

"The war time experiences, while some bad, also some good. It makes you very resourceful and very flexible and able to invent yourself,” she says.

Eve also says she didn't inherit the "worry gene". Perhaps that is what keeps her mind sharp, her body nimble and her spirit light.

"Staying in business and staying married for many years have a lot in common,” she says. “You find out the things you absolutely mustn’t do and those things you avoid. But the rest of it, you don't sweat the small stuff."

Eve unveils a new theme at her Evanston gallery on May 6th called "Undercurrents" and it celebrates all things under the sea.

More information on the gallery's website here.