Don and Babs Evans
Now what could cause a nice South Tampa guy like retired Judge Don Evans to move to a condo smack dab in the middle of Carrollwood Village? It had to be love. Specifically, it had to be Babs. And now that Don and Babs are nicely nestled in the Villas of San Marino at Carrollwood, over-looking the Emerald Greens golf course, what will keep them here, says Babs, is a charming three year old granddaughter near-by who has Don “wrapped” (or rapt, as the case may be!)
Next to Babs, the most important people in the world to Don are eleven grandchildren. Some his, some hers, ALL theirs. They all live in Florida, and a group of family members have just bought a vacation home at the mouth of the Suwanee River. Don plays golf with his oldest grandson, and four of the children participated in the Triple Play Junior Sports Camp this summer at Emerald Greens. The grandchildren range in age from 16 years to three months.
Even though Don retired as a judge five years ago, he keeps his hand in by doing substitute judicial work about a week each month. He formerly worked part-time at USF’s Florida Mental Health Institute, doing grant writing and research in the field of substance abuse. It is clear that Judge Evans has had a heart for drug offenders since he first worked as a probation and parole officer in the years between his undergraduate degree and his law degree…. both from University of Florida.
At that time he became involved with 75 to 100 offenders appearing before him, filing subsequent reports on how they were doing. “I got to know these people, ” Evans remembers. “I really think I made a difference in their lives. And I acquired a lot of knowledge about the nature of addiction. ” This knowledge served Judge Evans well when years later he was instrumental in setting up and presiding over Drug Court in Hillsborough County for the last ten years of his career.
There, too, Don had offenders come back in front of him. “And however much time it took to hear a case, I took it, ” Evans recalls. Babs adds, “He never looked at the person as a number on the docket. ” If Don Evans sounds like an idealist, it’s in his genes. His dad was a state parole officer, a kind man, always believing in the goodness of people. And his uncle, Florida Governor Leroy Collins, idealistic at his core, was also pragmatic enough to have brought Florida through the years of segregation issues with honor and dignity.
At this point, I must confess that I have known Don Evans for 40 years, when he and I were each in first marriages, and had small children. I walked the precincts for him when he stood for election to the Florida legislature. He smilingly admits that it’s probably best that he lost, that, in hindsight, he wouldn’t have been a very good legislator, because he’s not a very good compromiser. As a judge, though, I believe he shone.
Babs, or formally, Barbara Titus Evans, is the one who keeps him smiling and shining these days. She told me, right away “God has a hysterical sense of humor, to have put us together. A control freak married to a judge. I tried to put in the marriage vows that he couldn’t wear his judicial robe in the bedroom.”
Babs is vivacious, upbeat and enthusiastic, belying the fact that 15 years ago she suffered a stroke, most unusual for a woman just shy of 50 years old. At the time she was Executive Director of Community Development for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, a job she “absolutely adored. It kept my passions revved up. ” She reveled in multi-tasking, with her fingers into such varied pies as sports, arts and crime prevention. She was engaged to Judge Don Evans, planning a wedding in two months.
The stroke stopped her short, although, mercifully, it was a right brain event, leaving her speech and body functions unimpaired. She and Don postponed their marriage, and Babs plunged headlong into cognitive rehab. She was now impulsive, impatient and her spatial and perceptual skills were affected. Today it is hard to believe that Babs could have undergone such a traumatic experience.
Although Babs tried to return to her position at the Chamber, it was too much for her. But now she had a new “job.” She and Don had been married since six months after the stroke, and both of their aging mothers needed a caregiver, something at which Babs excelled. She was there for them until their deaths, and feels blessed by that.
Don and Babs are both interested in politics.They do Meals on Wheels. Babs is a volunteer at the Plant Museum; Don is a member of the Homeowners Association for Phase I in the Village.They attend Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church, the church whose members drove Babs to therapy 15 years ago.They love to travel, most recently to Africa. All this, and a wonderful family, too.
We in the Village are lucky to have the Evanses as neighbors. And, Don, see, a guy from South Tampa can find much to appreciate north of Kennedy Avenue.