I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Jewell Evans at the age of 99.

She and her husband, the nationally famous Bob Evans of sausage and restaurant fame, built an empire of 527 restaurants around Appalachia and the Midwest with locations in 18 states. She and Bob also had a big farm near Rio Grande in Gallia County which became a tourist attraction where the very popular Bob Evans Farm Festival is conducted every October.

This Bob Evans family took the slogan “Down on the Farm” and made it nationally known. While I did not know Mrs. Evans personally, I gained insight about her important role in the family and the business when I interviewed her son, Steve, who is now a Jackson County resident and a sausage maker in his own right.

In the interview, Steve told me that while his dad was a great man and the business bore his name, it was his mother who did much of the behind-the-scenes work. She helped the family build the tremendous legacy they now leave behind. I only met Bob once and this was enough for me to understand why he was a great man and an iconic figure.

Steve stated it was essential to Jewell to keep the kids grounded. I remember he said his youth was pretty standard except for television crews coming to the house to make commercials (those were the days before home videos). Steve related it was not until he was in high school that he started to realize what the family had accomplished.

The Evans family, especially Bob and Jewell, realized that it was not what you start, but what you leave behind that counts the most. Steve stated he would always be humbled by what his parents accomplished in spite of coming from a rural area in Southeastern Ohio.

The Evans family’s life and times is an excellent model for our young people to research as an example of what can be accomplished by area folk. Many great businesses have started and operated in the region, but very few of them have reached the kind of national status of Bob Evans Farms. It is a shame the museum at the Rio Grande location could not have been retained as it contained a treasure trove of information and told the story of the business and family in an interesting and visual way.  I know the first Kentucky Fried Chicken Building in Corbin, Kentucky, is a big tourist attraction. It is a working restaurant, museum and the colonel’s office has been restored.

Another enduring legacy of the Evans Family is its investment in and support of The University of Rio Grande. Its contributions and the business professionals developed there will serve the region’s people for years to come.  The University also gives the area a link to Wales and Europe and makes the University genuinely unique.

Jewell and Bob had an offering for America, and it sure came from Southern Ohio with love. To all the Evans Family, The Telegram offers a heartfelt “Tip of the Hat” for all you have done, and our condolences at the passing of the family’s amazing matriarch, Jewell.