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Restaurateur Bob Evans, Child of Appalachia, dies at 89; Legacy lives on through FAO fund

Bob EvansOne of Appalachian Ohio’s famous entrepreneurs, philanthropists and I’m a Child of Appalachia™ honorees has passed away.

Bob Evans, founder of Bob Evans Farms, Inc., died Thursday, June 21, 2007, from complications of pneumonia at 12:30 p.m., at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

A native of Gallia County, Evans opened a 12-stool diner in Gallipolis, Ohio, in 1946 to market his own sausage and owned a farm in Bidwell. Today, the Bob Evans franchise has grown to include nearly 600 restaurants in 20 states and multiple brand name products. Evans retired as president of Bob Evans Farms on Dec. 31, 1986.

Throughout the last several decades, Evans has contributed much more than good food to his home region. In 2005, Evans was honored by FAO as an inaugural I’m a Child of Appalachia™ honoree for his philanthropic efforts, entrepreneurial success and support of improved access to higher education in the region. The I’m a Child of Appalachia™ campaign uses individual success stories to promote greater investment in the region to increase student access to post-secondary education. 

“As a former member of the Ohio Board of Regents, I know the importance of education to open the minds of our youth in Appalachia. A college education is crucial to their future job success,” Evans said when honored by the Foundation.

In addition, Evans has long promoted youth through his involvement with the 4-H program. As the only lifetime member of the Ohio 4-H Foundation Board, he encouraged young people to respect their environment and embrace their agricultural heritage. Evans also supported environmental conservation, support for small farmers and innovative farming methods. In their hometown of Gallipolis, Evans and his wife, Jewell, have been active fundraisers for the Gallia County Development Fund and the public library, among other organizations.

“Appalachian Ohio has many success stories to tell, and the story of Bob Evans and growth of Bob Evans Restaurants as a family enterprise is one of the most inspiring,” said Leslie Lilly, FAO President/CEO. “People who have come together to honor and  celebrate this man’s life and legacy agree that Bob’s generosity, passion for living and deep love of this special part of Ohio have helped to make this region and the world a better place to live. We are all deeply grateful.”

Marianne Campbell, former FAO board chair, current trustee and Gallipolis native, also shared her personal reflections on Bob Evans contributions to the region.

“To have known Bob Evans as a community leader and as a friend provides lasting cherished memories. Bob was totally dedicated to his loving family and to his community,” Campbell said. “He was a true visionary, always looking to a better future, sharing ideas and projects to make Southeastern Ohio and the surrounding area a better place. Those of us who were privileged to know and work with him over the years will always value his dedication and treasure his friendship.”
  
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family has asked that donations be made to the Bob Evans Memorial Fund for Scholarships, payable to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, P.O. Box 456, 36 Public Square, Nelsonville, Ohio. Donations also can be made online.  Sympathy cards for Jewell Evans and family can be mailed to the Bob Evans Farms Corporate Office, 3776 S. High St., Columbus, Ohio, 43207.

Bob Evans Farms, Inc., will share memories of Bob Evans on a legacy Web site at www.bobevans.com/legacy. Memories, stories and well wishes can be sent to memories@bobevans.com.