(West Plains) – Almost 300 people, including city and county officials, friends and family, packed the West Plains Civic Center Theater Saturday morning to say goodbye to long-time city mayor Joe Paul Evans, who died on Saturday, August 18.
Speakers at the event included Evans’ long-time pastor, the Reverend Mark Mildren of the First United Methodist Church of West Plains, Evans’ brother Captain Steven Evans of West Plains, and Evans’ long-time friend and coworker Laurel Thompson.
The service was one filled with laughter and tears as the speakers recalled Evans’ life and accomplishments, particularly his marriage in 1949 to his wife Helen, who passed away in 2010 and his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Also highlighted was his early years in West Plains as a business owner and his work in the city as a past Regional Economic Development Specialist, Development Director of West Plains and head of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce. Other accomplishments by Evans and other city leaders included the West Plains Civic Center, Galloway Park, street and highway improvements, the growth of MSU-West Plains, and the expansion of Ozarks Medical Center. Evans was also an avid supporter of the city fire and police departments. One thing Evans was particularly excited for in the past year was the creation of a Boys and Girls Club in the city of West Plains.
One of the common themes in the the service was a quote Evans gave to one of his grandchildren – when asked what he would do with his life if he were given another chance, Evans said “I wouldn’t change a thing, I have lived the best life I could have hoped for”.
Evans has been hailed as a visionary and as “West Plains’ biggest cheerleader”, and his impact on the city will be felt for generations to come.