Top chef "Junnie" Evans savored life to the fullest

December 10, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Alfred Leroy "Junnie" Evans Jr., who died Nov. 25 at the age of 66. His obituary appeared in the Nov. 30 edition of The Daily Mail and the Dec. 1 edition of The Morning Herald.

Alfred L. Evans Jr. died Nov. 25 at his home. Family and friends called him "Junnie" from an early age until his death at the age of 66.

His career as a chef had its roots at the Alexander House Tap Room, then the Red Horse Steak House in Frederick, Md.

Through relatives in Laurel, Md., Junnie learned about a position as chef at the cafeteria at the Johns Hopkins Research Center there.


"He was there about 15 years until he retired as head chef," said his sister, Wanda Vernon. Johns Hopkins even sent Junnie to nutrition school to expand his knowledge of healthy cooking.

Even after his retirement, Junnie continued to work as a chef. His last stint was at Texas Roadhouse in Hagerstown.

"They loved him there," nephew Mark Taylor said. "They even came to see him just before he died."

Everyone agreed that Junnie could do magical things in the kitchen. And he always was willing to share his expertise as well as his food.

"He tried to teach me to cook, but I was more the eater than the cooker," Ryan said.

Wanda said times were tough for the Evans family growing up in Hagerstown. There were seven children, two of whom now are deceased.

"Our parents were strict, and punishments were swift," Wanda said. "But we were a very close family."

Another sister, Priscilla Smith, said Junnie always was Mr. Fix-it.

"I really miss him today because I broke my (Christmas) tree stand, and he would have fixed it for me," she said. "He'd help everybody."

As testament to that, Priscilla said her brother moved to Philadelphia after her husband died so he could help her and her family through that rough stretch.

Mark said he enjoyed fishing with his uncle, often at Zetts in Inwood, W.Va.

"I baited his hook and took the fish off the hook," Mark said. But it was Junnie who then took charge, cooking the catfish in a deep fryer for all to enjoy.

"I'm really going to miss him in the spring, when we would start going fishing again," Mark said.

Junnie always loved music, and at one time, he was lead singer for a group calling themselves The Wonder Tones.

"He still loved to sing whenever he had the chance," Wanda said.

Cliftonya Taylor, one of Junnie's nieces, said he always called her "Bit Bit" because she was really tiny. She said her uncle did good work around her house, with one notable exception.

"I got a storage stand for my closet one Christmas, and Junnie put it in for me," she said. "The doors are upside-down and don't shut, but I won't change it because Junnie did it."

Lenora Greene, known as Dolly, was one of Junnie's younger siblings. She, too, was the recipient of one of Junnie's home improvement projects.

"He put together a wall unit for me, saying it would only take about an hour," Dolly said. It took all day, and the wall unit never was quite right, she added.

Five years ago, Junnie and Betsy Broadus got married, and even though they no longer were married, Betsy said she remained close to him and his family.

"We all grew up in the same area," Betsy said.

Betsy said she and Junnie took a bus trip to Atlantic City for their honeymoon.

"We spent freely while we were there," Betsy said. They laughed about that, she said, because they didn't have enough money left to share a hot dog on the trip home.

When Junnie wasn't working as a chef, he was spending time with his extended family. Donald Evans, Junnie's brother, said that started early as he and Junnie often would spend the summer together with relatives in Laurel - good times, as he recalled.

Mark said his uncle had a favorite expression, and as soon as he said it, everyone in Wanda's living room smiled and recited it together.

"It's nice to be important, but it's also important to be nice," was that favorite saying. And all agreed Junnie lived his life with that philosophy as his guide.

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