Many have heard now that my father, Royston Evans, died this past weekend. He had been sick with cancer in recent months and had grown frail and somewhat weary. In the end he succumbed to a heart attack on Sunday the 14th of March at about 2:30. I was with him in his last hours and at the moment that he passed away. It was a difficult time but I was glad that I was able to be with him.
Royston lived a long life and was only a week or so short of his 78th birthday. I know that Roy got a kick out of the fact that he managed to outlive the life expectancy by nearly two years. Even though he always thought that he was in rather poor health, in reality Roy lived very well for most of his life and was very lucky. Roy lived with my wife Sylvia, me, and the kids for the past five years and we were able to ensure that his last years were happy and comfortable. Even though the three oldest were, technically, only step-grandchildren, he loved them all and enjoyed spending time with them. But perhaps the greatest joy of his last years was that he was able to see Cairo grow from a baby into a sweet little girl. When he was still healthy Roy spent a great deal of time with Cairo and he often played with her for many hours in a joyful, childlike manner. If the greatest joy of life is to retain the spirit of a child, then Roy certainly enjoyed the very best that life has to offer.
Roy was born in March of 1932, in a tenement building in Errol Street in London England, just off the Whitecross St. market. He had one sister, Kitty, and a younger brother, Chris. Kitty passed away in 1997 and Chris still lives in England. During WWII Royston and his sister were evacuated out of London, as many children were, to the countryside to take them out of harm’s way. Though during the last period of the war he lived in London and witnessed some of the bombing that so devastated London.
After Roy completed school he did many different jobs looking for the passion that would guide his life. Not only did he do many different kinds of practical jobs, Roy also tried his hands at being a poet, a cartoonist, and even a fashion designer. Roy finally found his true vocation in art and design and spent a couple of years drawing and sketching before entering art college in London at what was then called the Regent’s Street Polytechnic. After attending the Polytechnic Roy went on to do an advanced design diploma in Typographic design.
Roy married my mother Lynne in 1962 and after my sister and I were born we eventually moved to the US and Roy and Lynne pursued a career in Advertising design. We lived in Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Los Angeles. Together Roy and Lynne won many awards in design and enjoyed their life in Commercial Art. After my parents were divorced Roy and I moved to Calgary where he took a job teaching graphic design and illustration at the Alberta College of Art. Up to that point Roy had lived a rather itinerant life-style and he never expected to stay in Calgary as long as he did. But in the end Roy was happy to have the stability and enjoyed the time he spent as a teacher. He genuinely felt that he was contributing to people’s lives and I believe that his gentle, human touch helped many young art students to find they way.
After twenty-two years in Calgary Roy came to live close to me in Ottawa. He eventually joined us here in Manotick which is a small town just outside of the city. He enjoyed living in the village and in the summer he loved to sit at the beach in the Rideau River Provincial Park just south of here. Ever since he was very young Roy had always dreamed of a quiet country life where he could read and draw and just enjoy life. Though he was a London boy, born and bred, his real personality searched for something much smoother and more gentle. A couple of years ago he wrote a short essay entitled The Village that spoke to these feelings. That essay ends with this paragraph.
Los Angeles may have no winter. And in January and February when the temperature here drops to minus 30 or lower, I sometimes miss sunny California. I don’t want the cold and I envy those who enjoy perpetual summers. But there is no perfect place to be, and what I may feel about the cold is just a natural human reaction. My happiness in this village life, even with its cold season, gives me pleasure day by day and almost makes me forget my years of moving from place-to-place. Before Manotick I stayed in places I happened to be at the time. Now in this village I have, after searching for so long, found my way home.
Royston Evans did a great many things in his life and had a very dynamic personality. A short obituary of his life can do no justice to all that he was. He was generous, loving, creative, funny, silly, political, dynamic, self-educated, and always ready to lend a hand. Like all of us, Roy had his weaknesses and short-comings but, following his truly generous spirit, he would be the first to admit them, and even laugh about them. Most of all Roy always said that he was lucky. He knew that no matter how hard we try and how much we think of our talents and skills, fate holds us in its hands and none of us are more than one lucky break from great success or one break away from disaster. The most important thing, he always said, was to keep laughing along the way and when you have good luck pass it on to others.
One of Roy’s favorite books, among the thousands that he read over his lifetime, was Eric Wright’s memoir Always Give a Penny to a Blind Man, because he said it reminded him of the fragility of life, the role that luck plays in it, and the need to support others. With this in mind I ask everyone who read this to put a five dollar bill in your pocket and give it to the first homeless person you come across. I hope they will buy a good meal with it, but if they don’t, remember we are all just struggling, vulnerable souls looking for love and care. And then remember Roy’s favorite saying, “I blew all my money on wine, women, and song. . . . . and the rest I just wasted.”
So long Roy, you will be sorely missed.