Landscape roots run deep
If Eastern Oregon Universitys John Evers had a dime for every time he squinted into the sun while driving to work in the morning since 1981 he would not have enough money to buy a cup of coffee.
For the past 20 years Evers has been arriving at work at 3:30 each morning. The retiring landscape maintenance superintendent used part of his time in the pre-dawn darkness to patrol the campus and make sure that nothing negative had occurred overnight.
I liked to get to work an hour and a half to two hours before my crew gets in, he said.
Evers will soon be setting his alarm clock at a later hour. He wants a younger person to take the reins.
It is time for the younger generation to take over, Evers said.
Evers has served as landscape maintenance superintendent since 1981 and has been at Eastern since 1980. His impact has been noteworthy, those who have observed his work say.
He has been instrumental in making this one of the most attractive campuses in the state, said EOU President Phil Creighton.
One reason is Evers reservoir of knowledge about Easterns grounds and facilities, one that is seemingly as deep as Hells Canyon. Evers has had a first-hand look at Easterns development since the late 1950s when he started helping his familys contracting firms J.J. Evers and Sons and later Evers Excavation and Landscaping. The businesses did an extensive amount of work, helping lay the foundation for the striking appearance on campus.
John has such a long history, we are downloading what he knows into our computer, Creighton said.
Evers has a CD-ROM memory but not a computer-like personality. His personable nature makes it easy for him to share ideas and information.
He is very giving of his ideas. We will miss his friendly expertise, Creighton said.
The numerous projects Evers has been involved in have made the past 20 years pass quickly for him.
It was just so exciting. We always had something new that we were working on, he said.
Evers played an important role in the creation of Easterns football field at Community Stadium, the softball field and the amphitheater between Quinn Coliseum and Hoke Center.
Evers also participated in putting Easterns power lines underground. This improved the appearance of the campus and has prevented the lines from being vulnerable to bad weather.
Today Evers knows more about the details of this work than anyone and is frequently consulted.
Evers has also played a key role in the selection and planting of vegetation on campus. Evers sounds like a master gardener when discussing the specifics of almost every tree or shrub on campus.
Matt Graves, EOUs director of facilities and planning, is among those who has frequently consulted Evers on everything from vegetation to facilities.
People work well with and for him, Graves said.
This is one reason why Evers has developed a noteworthy network of connections .
I think that he knows everyone in the county and almost everyone in the state, Graves said.
This comes in handy when quick access to a vehicle or a piece of equipment is needed.
When we need something like a dump truck, he knows who to call on short notice, Graves said.
Evers connections are the result of trust which has been built up over the decades.
People in the town and the region have confidence in him, Graves said.
It is going to leave a void, he said of Evers leaving the campus. He is always here.
Evers will not have a lot of idle time in retirement. He is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Becky, and their family, including two sons, a daughter and a grandchild.
Evers also plans to study for his real estate license, and has many projects at his La Grande home that will keep him busy. These include a windmill that will pump water to a pond on his property.
The windmill is a fitting symbol for the winds of change that are blowing in Evers life.
Evers said that EOUs landscape will fare well in his absence.
We have a great staff. Everybody knows how to get the job done, he said.
He will miss the camaraderie that he has developed with his staff.
We are like a family, he said.