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Older than Chula Vista Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Apr 30 2011 12:00 PM

Eva Donahue has led a life marked with charm and perseverance.

Born Eva Catherine Stewart on April 30, 1908, in Washington D.C., she was the eldest of 13 children, whom she looked after.

In Baltimore, Md., Donahue attended a ball where she met and danced with attorney Thurgood Marshall, who later became the nation's first black Supreme Court justice.

And while the years have stolen most of the details from her memories, with some prompting by family members Stewart recalls bits and pieces of her 103 years.

The last to leave home, Donahue later became the wife of Russell Frederick Drew in 1929. He was the highest-ranking African-American in the U.S. government at that time.

Russell was the cousin of Dr. Charles Drew, who helped invent blood plasma in the 1940s and in 1943 became the first black surgeon selected to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery.

In the early 20th century few jobs were available, but with experience cooking for a large family, Donahue became a talented cook. This landed her a job working part-time in the White House, preparing food for former presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S Truman.

Donahue was also employed as a cook for well-known actor Tony Curtis and his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis.

Donahue later ended up working at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington D.C. for some 30 years.

She had one son, Fred Drew, who was a political activist in Chula Vista and ran for mayor and City Council.

Drew married a woman named June and they had nine children.

June recalled her mother-in-law reciting long poems to the family as well as entertaining them with good-humored stories of the comedy duo Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

In the early 1990s, Donahue appeared as a contestant on Bill Cosby's "You Bet Your Life" game show. The appearance led to her being photographed in an article that same year in Jet magazine.

"She's always loved attention from people and never minded entertaining them," June said. "She should have been an actress."

In the '70s Donahue moved from Washington D.C. to San Diego to be closer to her family and lived in National City and Chula Vista for many years.

"People would always ask what made her (Donahue) live so long," June said. "My mother- in-law used to drink about six cups of coffee a day."

Donahue has also been an avid walker most of her life, hiking several miles back and forth from National City to the south ern-most end of Chula Vista in high heels for groceries and post office trips.

In 1999, Donahue broke her hip during a fall, which is when her family placed her in the care of Balboa Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in San Diego.

She has spent her last 12 birthdays at the center.

Many actors were born the same year as Donahue, including Betty Davis, Joan Crawford, Fred McMurray and Jimmy Stewart.

Donahue is the last to survive her brothers and sisters and has 26 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren.

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