Don Evans was a fast walker.
It was hard to keep up with him, but that’s how he got so much done for Napa Valley students and teachers in the more than 50 years he dedicated to the school district, his colleagues say.
Evans, who passed away at his home on July 3 at 76 years old, had been battling prostate cancer. His colleagues, friends and loved ones gathered Saturday afternoon in the Napa Valley Unified School District auditorium to honor his memory and years of service to local schools.
A slideshow played as guests filtered in, showing newspaper clippings of Evans’s accomplishments and pictures of his classic cars, pets, wedding, family and early days with his newborn daughter, Dana. Speakers recalled Evans’s energy, enthusiasm and passion for schools.
He was the great boss who nobody wanted to disappoint, a hardworking and reliable colleague, and family man, speakers said at his service. He was compassionate, giving, reliable, a strong communicator and always available when someone needed him. Evans was “a bigger-than-life-guy” who owned up to his mistakes and worked at them with determination, said John Glaser at the service.
By the end of his career, Evans had worked on school construction projects totaling $750 million, said architect Mark Quattrocchi.
During his career at the district, Evans helped give each school a multi-purpose room, added more than 250 classrooms, was instrumental in building American Canyon Middle and Canyon Oaks Elementary, become the youngest school Transportation Supervisor in the state, helped create a computer bus to give students their first taste of computers, and oversaw transportation, maintenance, operations and food services.
He helped convert Lincoln Elementary into New Tech High, worked on Measure H to help fix or replace schools affected by the 2014 earthquake and played a key role in rebuilding the district auditorium and Memorial Stadium.
His impact will be felt by every student, whether they know it or not, said Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti. Mucetti, who did not work with Evans during his tenure at the district, said she recalled meeting with him and being taken aback by his knowledge of the schools.
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“I know Don Evans lives in our students,” she said.
Virginia Rue, former Vintage High principal, spoke of “the Don effect” in being able to quickly secure state funding for and complete infrastructural schools projects. He was the Wikipedia of Napa Valley schools facilities, she said.
Evans graduated from Napa High in 1961 and earned degrees from Napa Valley College and Sacramento State University. He spent more than 50 years of his career with the Napa Valley Unified School District and founded Evans Airport Service.
Evans, an Iowa native who moved to California with his family in the 1940s, began his work in schools as a bus driver for the Napa Valley Unified School District, and later, the San Juan Unified School District. He returned to Napa in 1966, married his wife, Mary, and returned to work with the local school district as a bus driver utility person.
Evans went on to found Evans Airport Service, a service that initially took residents to and from the San Francisco International Airport, but later expanded to Oakland International Airport and grew into charters, tour buses, limousines and town cars.
In 2010, he retired as School Planning and Construction Director but “he couldn’t retire to save his life,” as architect Quattrocchi said during the service. Evans remained a consultant with the district until 2018.
As a boss, Evans was the kind of person to give young professionals a chance at proving themselves. That was the case for Quattrocchi and Terry Guzman, who first worked with Evans as a driver for his company, but now serves as the school district’s transportation director — a job Evans once had.
Guzman said his boss loved serving others.
He leaves behind: Mary, his wife of 53 years; daughter Dana; grandson Dylan; sister Patricia; mother- and father-in law Jo and George; and nieces, nephews, cousins and cats.