Remembering Harold Evans: Paying Tribute to a Community & Cultural Tour d\' Force

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 763   By: Robert E Martin

24th January, 2013     0

Harold Evans was born in 1927 and into a Detroit that few of us know or remember, back when its population was larger than Chicago and the weight of its vision, the curve of the sculpted metal that draped the axis, carried a weight that because it was defined by mobility, represented a freedom felt around the world.  You can still feel the remnant of that power today, though weakened by decay.
It was that early background of growing up with opportunity that Harold transposed into the landscape of Saginaw County. The beautiful parks, the cultural atmosphere, the enviable transportation system that carried those without cars about the city; all of these things Harold nurtured and cultivated here in Saginaw with total involvement and commitment and the wisdom of a true gardener.  And sadly, Harold left us on January 2nd - just at the start of the new year.
Employed at Citizens Bank for 42 years, Harold possessed a youthful optimism and energy about life that I found envious, yet he was never one to suffer fools, whether in business and particularly if they were betraying the public trust in positions of business or government.  Harold was a very moral man, a grandiose supporter of the arts, and in many ways reminded me of Oscar Wilde when it came to matters of wit.
His laundry list of accomplishments is impressive: a member and past Chairman of the Healthsource Saginaw Advisory Board, the Saginaw Hall of Fame, Torch Club and the Navy League. A huge supporter of The Saginaw Art Museum and Pit & Balcony and even a one time Saginaw City Council candidate.
Although I did not know Harold on a personal basis as well as many of those experiencing the weight of loss involved with the passing of this truly iconoclastic individual, it was equally an inspiration, honor, and pleasure to have cultivated a deeply influential and unique relationship with Harold that spanned three decades.
When I was a young, fledgling writer and journalist in my mid-20s, struggling to cultivate a fresh publication aiming to raise the bar on providing in-depth coverage to regional political issues and artistic endeavors in what was then known as the tri-cities, Harold was one of the first community leaders infused with a deep historical knowledge of local politics, and equally invested with a passion and commitment to numerous arts organizations to reach out to me.
Above all else, Harold was thoughtful, studied, enamored with the nuanced structural beauty of the English language, and was not afraid to ruffle feathers and call a spade a spade when it came to issues of honor & integrity. And I believe it was because we shared these qualities in common that Harold reached out to become an infrequent yet incredibly significant adviser, supporter, and friend over the years. 
 
When I broke my first important investigative story on the financial shenanigans involved with the now demolished Saginaw Conference Center, Harold was the first person to call and commend me.
From that moment forward, he would often send me letters, memos, and share thoughts on a variety of topics - whether it was governmental accounting that didn't add up; or a powerful new creative endeavor brewing in the arts community - Harold always went out of his way to guide and point me in directions involving topics that truly mattered to this community. And for that, I will forever be deeply indebted. 
 
Several years ago Harold tried to involve me in membership in the Torch Club, which I sincerely regret not having pursued. When I explained that the rigor of their schedule, coupled with the rigor of my own, led to a feeling that I couldn't commit the time necessary to make my membership or contribution a valuable one, Harold looked at me and said: 'Never underestimate the value of what you do or what you are capable of.' 
 
We may have lost a formidable and irreplaceable man, but the life force that defined the man and continues to resonate will inspire and encourage me for the remainder of my own days spent on this particularly distinct place on the planet.
Towards that end of remembrance towards the accomplishments of this iconoclastic individual, I reached out to some of those closest to Harold to share their own intimate thoughts about  moments of realization that made them realize they were in the presence of a special - and singular - spirit.
Bob Burditt *  Pit & Balcony Alum
Harold Evans was a difficult person to pigeonhole as he contributed in so many ways without fanfare, but with an understanding of each and everyone's personal responsibility to contribute to this planet and its people and societies while we are here.
 
He did what he did as a natural activity and with a good feeling about being able to contribute.  I knew Harold for about 60 years. We had a table at the old downtown "Elks Club' where we met every noon for a delightful lunch with sharing in general thoughts about ay issue one could think of.
 
Harold's sense of loyalty to the University of Michigan, Second National Bank, all his friends was primo. His mother, an Irish Big City Lady, reminded me of my own mother, also a Big City Irish Lady, and I met her many times, a no-nonsense but a warm and interesting lady. Harold kept her in his conversation so we always were aware of how she was doing and also how she thought he was doing. Neat stuff. She always called him...Evans and then on to the subject at hand.  Harold didn't need ay cultivation...he was just there in good times or bad,,,,happy or sad. Just a really great person  that I feel so privileged to have known and been a friend of.
 
Jean Beach * Fellow Arts Supporter & Confidante
I've known Harold since 1953 when we were both active in Pit and Balcony.  Most of Harold's P & B career was working in backstage crews and front-of-the-house committees but he did make one appearance onstage when he played a drunk in "Detective Story"
 
At the time, Harold was a sincere tee-totaller.  It was a perfect example of the two sides of his personality.  Of course he was a proper suit-and-tie conservative banker and loved his job but he also had his more flamboyant moments.  While he didn't exactly duck into a phone booth to change into his alter ego,  he was a lifelong friend of some of Pit and Balcony's more colorful personalities:  
 
Marion Newberry with her Broadway background and trademark flaming red hair; Emmy Brand who regarded her elite old-Saginaw heritage as a useful fund-raising tool; everyone's secret crush Joe Ombry; Rosemary DeGesero who sometimes brought her pet leopard to rehearsals and Ken Smith.  
 
When Harold and Ken got together, no one else could--or even wanted to--get a word in edgewise as they traded quips and stories.  And while he was completely and utterly devoted to Patti, he could turn on the charm and make any woman feel like the most desirable creature he'd ever met.  There will never be another Harold and our world is a greyer place without him. 
 
Ernest Muscott * Second National Bank Colleague
I have known Harold since 1951.  It has always amazed me that so many of the people who worked for or with him and are now in other parts of the country and world continued to communicate with him.  My one word description of Harold would be friend.  Harold was at times excitable but we who were his friends knew that if we offended him in any way we would be forgiven on the last day of the month.   
                                             
Another description of Harold would be Brilliant; he was capable and hardworking in his job and in the community he loved. No job was beyond his ability.  At one time the President of the Bank wanted some information not readily available from records.  Our entire group worked overtime for several days to obtain the information.  When Harold presented the report to the President the President didn't remember why he wanted it.  Harold forgave him later. 
Harold was a night person; he didn't want to go to bed nor did he want to get up in the morning,  We were all instructed not to call him before 11:00A.M. on his days off.  When he first came to Saginaw he rented a room in a home on N. Washington across from where the Dow Events Center now stands.  We would occasionally spend our lunch period in his room.  While there I noticed four alarm clocks;, each a little farther from his bed, the last two beyond his reach.  He said that each alarm was set five minutes later than the previous one and that he knew he had to get up when the fourth alarm sounded.
 
Harold thought that he would die no later than his fifty-fifth birthday, because his father had died at that age.  I feel very fortunate that Harold was my friend until He was Eighty-Five
 
Dennis & Melodye Adomaitis * Artistic Co-Conspirators
Harold was recommended by his dear friend Rosemary to be arch bishop of Canterbury in our holiday production of "A Dickens Dinner'.  The Adomaitis's and Harold donated 13 years of the proceeds from this charitable dinner to Boysville.
 
Harold was always on time and incredibly ceremonial and pompous - blessing every diner and dinner throughout the course of the evening. He proceeded and sprinkled miles of hungry guests and all in good humor.
 
His costume was not quite to his liking, so he brought his own miter and created fresh blessing for every occasion.
 
Harold was always interested in historical accuracy and a tasty Plowman's lunch (part of the evenings offerings). Harold was an important part of this festive tradition and will be greatly missed.
 
 
Thoughts of Harold Evans • by Brian Wellman

I have known Harold for the past twenty five years, we were seated next to each other at a wild game dinner at the Montague Inn.  We hit it off immediately, and a friendship blossomed into one of  “being part of the family”. 

About the time that Mitch Albom was having lunch with his former teacher Morrie, Harold and I were also having weekly Tuesday lunches.  Mitch wrote a book about it…I did not…my loss! 

Harold was a man of ideas, and people.   He loved people, and took a genuine interest in them.  It was the rare day that we would go to lunch and not run into someone he knew from the bank or one of the many civic organizations he belonged too.  Harold was a firm believer that everyone had a responsibility to their community, to give back and leave the city better than you found it.  Harold was born and raised in Detroit, during it’s renaissance.  His stories reflected the proud architecture of that era. 

We would attend a dozen or so Detroit Economic Club lunches every year.  While the DEC was intellectually stimulating, I always looked forward to our afternoon after the lunch.  Harold would pick a part of town or a building and off we would go sightseeing.  We visited The Old Mariners Church, where they still hold an annual service in rememberance of the seamen of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  We would visit the John King Bookstore, five stories of hard to find books out of print for fifty years, but still available there.  The Penobscot Building, an Art Deco masterpiece in the city named after an american indian tribe in Maine.  The Fisher Building, a part of the neighborhood he grew up in.  We toured the Fox Theartre as it was being restored to it’s original glory.  We got lost more than once in the Masonic Temple, just across the street from his high school Cass Tech…

But not just buildings, we would drive through Boston Edison off of Woodward, where Henry Ford once lived.  We toured Indian Village, northeast of town off of Jefferson; where Detroit’s turn of the century wealthy called home. We sampled the foods of Eastern Market off of Mack Ave.

Harold and I took pilgramages to the Detroit Public Library, where every ceiling was inspired from a different castle from Europe.  We envied the artwork in the Library, where entire 5,000 square foot rooms are devoted to paintings.  Most surprising, he showed me the swastikas on the tile floor of the second floor balcony and we talked about their original meaning.  Across the street was the Detroit Institute of Arts, with one of the  finer collections of medevil armor on the planet.  Lastly, the Scarab Club, located just east of the art museum.  A small unobtrusive building dedicated to fostering art in the city, and  an incredibly cool structure.

Harold grew up in a city that cared deeply for it’s residents….and he was the beneficiary of that caring.  That always stuck with him and was a guilding principle of his, to leave the community better than when you found it.

A Celebration of Harold's Life

A celebration of Harold's life will be at 11:00 AM Saturday, February 9, 2013 at the Horizon Conference Center, 6200 State St. Saginaw, MI. Rev. Greg Coles of the Unity of Bay City Spiritual Center will officiate. A memorial visitation will be held from 2:00-8:00 PM Friday February 8, 2013 at W.L. Case and Co. Funeral Chapel, 4480 Mackinaw Rd. Saginaw. Those who wish to memorialize Mr. Evans are asked to plant a Peony Bush, a flowering tree that can be viewed from the street; or a memorial to Cartwright Care Residence, the Unity of Bay City Spiritual Center or HealthSource Saginaw.

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