Alaskans we’ve lost to COVID: John Redmond Evans Sr., hardworking dad

John Redmond Evans Sr. and his son John Redmond Evans Jr. in 1969 in Kotzebue. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Evans)

More than 800 Alaskans have died of COVID-19 since early 2020. We asked readers and listeners to tell us about the lives of some of those Alaskans, and they responded.

John Redmond Evans Sr. of Kotzebue, known to many of his friends and family as “Johnny Red,” died from COVID-19 on Aug. 2, 2020. He was 77 years old.

Born in Galena in 1943, Evans got an electrician’s degree in Kansas. That’s where he met his wife, Sophie, whom he married in 1965 and started a family with in Kotzebue.

Evans held many jobs around Alaska, including with the state Department of Transportation, and was an assistant chief at the Kotzebue Fire Department.

His youngest daughter, Suzanne, says his work ethic was matched by his care for his family — and that many of her favorite memories of him involve holiday gatherings.

Listen here:

The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Suzanna Evans: My dad, Jonathan Sr., was a kind, caring, loving, supportive father — very devoted to his children and his wife. I’m the youngest of the girls. I’m the middle child of the family, and he also raised a nephew that was like his son that lives up in Kotzebue with us.

John Redmond Evans Sr. and his daughters Johna and Suzanne Evans. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Evans)

He loved going to family gatherings and, most of all, spending time with his immediate family and his brothers and his sister. We always flew over to Galena, Alaska, to spend Thanksgiving and Christmases with my dad’s side of the family. That was very nice.

He was only working to provide for the family, to pay bills, to put bread and butter on the table, to buy stove oil and buy stuff for school and make sure that we had a warm house and things to eat every day. He was a very good provider.

When we went to Galena to visit the other kids, we’d always go back to the base and watch movies during Christmas time. And ride around on sno-gos and walk around town and go to the store and buy ice cream and then go back to my grandpa’s house or my uncle’s house and stay in and watch Christmas movies and look at presents under the tree and look at all the lights. We were happy kids, excited to be around my dad’s side of the family for the holidays.

From left to right: Suzanne, Sophie and John Redmond Evans at Peggy’s Restaurant in Anchorage. (Tami Krukoff)

When we were living out in Muldoon, my dad had a fun thing of doing. He’d know I was sleeping in the bedroom, and then he’d pretend that he and mom were getting ready to leave, and they weren’t dressed up yet. And he’d say, “Well Sophie are you ready, OK, let’s go!” And he’d walk out into the living room with mom, and I’d be in my bed, and I’d hear them and pop up. And they’d be in the kitchen and I’d run out really fast. And then my dad would start smiling and say, “Sue, I was just trying to get you up! I know it’s early.”

Alaska Public Media

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