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Two weeks after her senseless death, Evelyn Player, 69, is laid to rest

Alethea Finch speaks during the funeral service for her mother, Evelyn Player, at Huber Memorial Church on Wednesday. Player, 69, was killed on Nov. 16th in the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore, and friends remembered her humor, courage and fearless ability to tell the truth with a smile.
Alethea Finch speaks during the funeral service for her mother, Evelyn Player, at Huber Memorial Church on Wednesday. Player, 69, was killed on Nov. 16th in the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore, and friends remembered her humor, courage and fearless ability to tell the truth with a smile. (Kenneth K. Lam/The Baltimore Sun)

Fifteen days after Evelyn Player was fatally stabbed inside her East Baltimore church, the 69-year-old woman was laid to rest Wednesday in a funeral honoring her life and the impact it had on so many.

Family members, fellow parishioners of the Southern Baptist Church, local politicians and others filled the Huber Memorial Church in Northeast Baltimore to remember Player as a dutiful volunteer and servant of the church, as well as a loving mother and grandmother. She was known for both a sense of humor and her blunt but caring nature.

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“Evelyn gave her life to Christ and the Church,” Southern Baptist Church Bishop Donté L. Hickman Sr. said in the eulogy. “She was always there. I don’t know of an event, a program, or an activity that Evelyn did not participate in.”

Baltimore Police announced late Wednesday that they have “a person in custody in relation to the November 16, 2021 homicide of Evelyn Player.” Police did not name the suspect and provided no new details.

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Player participated in the church outreach programs, including giving out Thanksgiving meals and Christmas gifts to the community. She helped with the church’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination distribution. She sang in the choir, attended bible study, and opened and closed the church as part of her duties as a church sexton.

Player arrived at the church early Nov. 16 to let in contractors doing renovations. She was found later by another church member slain inside a church bathroom.

Evelyn Player, 69, killed last month at an East Balitmore church, was laid to rest Wednesday as loved ones and admirers saw her off.
Evelyn Player, 69, killed last month at an East Balitmore church, was laid to rest Wednesday as loved ones and admirers saw her off. (Courtesy of the family / HANDOUT)

Born in North Carolina, Player moved to Baltimore when she was 5, according to an obituary prepared by the family. She began attending Southern Baptist with her mother, Susie Mae Wright, and graduated from Dunbar High School in 1970.

She worked as a bindery trainer at Waverly Press and later Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins publications, where she worked for 28 years before retiring. In 2011 she completed courses and earned her certification in medical billing and worked at Chase Brexton Health Care until leaving in 2011 to take care of her mother, the obituary said.

Deacon Bernard Corprew, a longtime friend of Player’s mother, recalled how Player dutifully cared for her mother when she became ill, making her meals, doing her laundry and taking her to doctor’s appointments.

“She had to make sure she had clean drawers,” he said. “She was a jokester.”

During the eulogy, Hickman recalled Player’s sense of humor and how she would tease him.

“I remember walking into church during my early days there. She was sitting there, eating a chili dog or a sausage, listening to the radio, chilling. I said, ‘Oh no, we can’t have this,’” Hickman recalled telling Player.

“She looked at me and said, ‘Why, you want some?’” he recalled, causing the church to burst into laughter.

Hickman also recalled how Player was blunt and direct.

“On several conversations, Evelyn would take it upon herself to end our meetings,” he said.

At the end of a Bible study or choir practice, he said she would often pop into the room and remind the group that it was past their time and she needed to lock up the church.

She would be “walking in, flipping the lights and pointing to her watch,” he said with a smile. “She was not above being corrected, but she made it clear that you was going to have to correct her. She got to the point with me that she would walk in and say ‘don’t you want to watch ‘Scandal’ tonight?’” he said to laughs from the crowd.

During another recent conversation, Player told Hickman she preferred his virtual services during the pandemic to the in-person services that had resumed.

“You better on the computer,” he recalled her telling him. “She was fearless.”

While he was referring to her directness, Hickman said Player was also fearless in her faith.

“She was fearless in her compassion and who she helped,” he said. “She was fearless in her church and how she served.”

Hickman urged those at the service to follow Player’s lead and be courageous.

“We cannot allow our fears to stop us from moving forward,” he said. “We can’t allow our fears to stop us from taking back our streets. We can’t allow our fears from stopping us from reclaiming our children. We can’t allow our fears to stop us from holding people accountable.”

Mayor Brandon Scott also spoke, encouraging the church to continue to support the family after the burial, after the news coverage slowed and after time had passed.

“We all have to continue to be here for this family,” he said.

Scott also offered encouraged Player’s daughter and grandson, Kenneth Melton, to call him directly.

“Grandson to grandson, because I know how it is to lose your grandmother,” he said.

Player’s only daughter, Alethea Finch, also spoke, almost unwavering, of her mother and their special bond.

“This is the most difficult task I have ever had to do,” Finch told the church. “Everyone who knows her knows she was my best friend. She was my rock. There is nothing she couldn’t do for her baby girl and there is nothing her baby girl wouldn’t do for her.”

But Finch said that even after her mother’s death, she has found strength in her mother and found some peace.

“Even on that last day she told me she loved me. My last message to her was ‘I love you too,’” Finch said. “And that makes my heart filled with joy.”

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