The Arizona Republic, Pat Shannahan, Associated Press
In this photo taken Feb. 4, 2012, LaVona Evans holds a painting of herself when she was younger at her home in Thatcher, Ariz. Evans is the same age as her home state of Arizona, which celebrates its centennial Feb. 14.

PHOENIX — On Feb. 14, 1912, a child was born in Thatcher.

Eleven Arizona babies were issued birth certificates that day, and certainly other children were born.

One other thing was born that day — the state itself. Arizona joined the union on Feb. 14, and next week it turns 100.

Of all the children born in Arizona that day, LaVona Evans appears to be the only one who remains alive.

And she is very much alive.

On the Saturday before the centennial, she will be the grand marshal of the Graham County Centennial Parade in Safford.

Even LaVona's name reflects the moment in history.

"LaV" is for Valentine's Day, "ona" is for Arizona, the state born the same day she was.

Over the years, LaVona has lived in communities across the state, and she remembers each one distinctly.

When she was 5, she moved from Thatcher to Mesa. Mesa, she says, "was still country then."

She was reunited with her father, an educator who moved frequently, and the family moved to Chandler, then Goodyear, then Tucson, then out of state to Colorado.

It was lovely there, LaVona said, "but cold and too far away from home."

After three years in Colorado, she moved back to Tucson, where she got married "and started having babies."

In 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, LaVona's first husband died from appendicitis.

A few years later, she married again and had her third, fourth and fifth babies.

In 1970, after more than three decades of marriage, she lost her second husband, Quinton Hawkins, to cancer.

At age 62, LaVona married Junius Evans, and the two of them moved up to Redington on the eastern slope of the Santa Catalina Mountains. LaVona split wood, pulled water from a well and had no phone.

In 1980, LaVona and Junius went on a working mission to Tonga, through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then she came back to Redington.

In 1988, LaVona became a widow for the third time. She loved each of her husbands, she said. "All good men; I was very fortunate."

At 76 years old, she knew it was time to go home to Thatcher.

Over the years, LaVona was responsible for a share of the state's population growth.

She is the mother of five, grandmother of 35, great-grandmother of 113 and great-great-grandmother of 13. The 14th great-great-grandchild is expected on LaVona's birthday.

LaVona says she knows how lucky she is to enjoy good health. Her hearing and vision are sharp. She still drives around town — too fast, according to one of her daughters — and mows her own lawn if she cannot get one of the grandchildren to do it for her.

"Well, of course I do, but I can nearly always get one of them to do it for me," LaVona said. "I don't even have to ask, it just gets done."

LaVona enjoys cooking, quilting and hosting the near-constant visits from the generations of family.

She is still proud to be "an Arizona girl," and takes great comfort in her faith and family.

On Saturday, after the parade, LaVona's family is planning a large party at the local Mormon church.

There will be music and stories and prayers and lots of food. And generations of family. But probably no dancing.

"I kind of doubt it," LaVona said. "There won't be enough room."

Information from: The Arizona Republic,