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With a wide variety of interests, a life of gusto

C. Calvert Vans Evers was a renaissance man with a winning combination of intellectual curiosity and a giving heart.

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 5, 2002


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INTERBAY -- C. Calvert Vans Evers raised prize-winning orchids and resurrected boats from the dead. He graduated from college with degrees in French, Spanish and the industrial arts. He taught shop to high school students and interpreted classified intelligence data for the military.

"He did everything he could, and he did it with gusto," said his son, Frank W. Vans Evers. "He did it with fun, and he was always willing to help anybody."

Vans Evers, a retired major in the Army and Air Force, considered a renaissance man by those who knew him, died June 24 at the age of 93.

The son of a wealthy architect, Vans Evers had a "very English" upbringing, Frank said, with a nanny and homes on Long Island and Switzerland. He longed to become a pilot, and his father paid for flying lessons in Florida while Vans Evers was still a teenager.

Vans Evers failed a vision test and couldn't get a pilot's license. Still, he signed up for the Army Air Corps in 1930. He was stationed in Panama.

In 1939, his father persuaded Vans Evers to give college a try, so he began studying mining in El Paso, Texas, where he met his future wife, Fran.

He tried college for a few years, then returned to the Army for World War II. He interpreted aerial photographs taken by spy planes and helped hold captured air fields.

When the Army Air Force became the Air Force in 1947, Vans Evers stayed in the military and was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. He gave college a second try, attending the University of Tampa and receiving two degrees: one in industrial arts, and a dual degree in French and Spanish.

He continued working at MacDill until the 1950s, attaining the rank of major. With his industrial arts degree, he began teaching shop to high school students in Hillsborough County.

"I learned carpentry, plumbing, landscaping, dry wall hanging and many other useful skills -- often because I wasn't quick enough to 'escape' or find some way to get out of helping Daddy with projects," said his daughter, Dee Dee Vans Evers Blancett. "I appreciate having been his helper now, because I know how to do the majority of do-it-yourself projects."

In his world travels, Vans Evers had accumulated an extensive collection of knives and swords, which he sold to buy a sailboat. He took his children swimming and snorkeling, and he and his friends would often putter around the bay.

"He knew the bay real well -- daylight, dark, fog, it didn't matter," Frank said.

He was a member of Flotilla 79 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for 22 years, and was five times the Division Seven Auxiliarist of the Year.

Though he reconditioned boats and was an expert carpenter, his primary passion may have been flowers. At one time, he had hundreds of orchids in his garden, says his son, Michael.

"I would get home from junior high school and have to water them," Michael said. "If I missed one single darn plant, he would know it."

A member of the Orchid Society and the Bromeliad Society, Vans Evers was a consummate gardener. One summer, Dee Dee took care of the plants while he was out of town. Nothing bloomed. But within two weeks of her father's return, there was purple everywhere.

"I do believe that my Grampa's green thumb went all the way up to his shoulder," his granddaughter, Noelle Vans Evers, said at his funeral. "I've seen him take plants that others had given up on and nurture it back to a healthy, hearty plant to be proud of."

Vans Evers' survivors include his wife, Fran; two sons, Frank and Michael; a daughter, Dee Dee Vans Evers Blancett; daughter-in-law Sandra Vans Evers; eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a son, C. Calvert Vans Evers II.

A funeral service was held June 29. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the American Red Cross in his memory.

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