By Toni Stauffer
John W. Evans drew his first breath in Phenix City and this is where he’ll draw his last breath. “It’s a beautiful place to live,” he said. John, 77, graduated from Central High School where he met his wife Judy. They have been married now for 57 years and are still best friends.
John is the former owner and operator of John’s Lawn and Garden on Crawford Road. He and his wife opened the garden center back in 1975 and sold it in 1995. The Evans’ attend Lakewood Baptist Church and have two adult daughters: Tracy Queen and Tiffany Cook. They also have two grandsons who live in Columbus: Evan who is 16 and Ethan who is 14.
John’s favorite pastime, besides chewing the fat with friends in the CHS Class of 1960 group at I-HOP for breakfast, is fishing and camping, though it has become harder for him to do physical activities since he’s been battling cancer.
It took doctors two years to find the cancerous growth hidden deep within his abdomen. By the time they found the tumor, it had grown to the size of a baseball and metastasized. The doctors at John B. Amos Cancer Center in Columbus told Judy he might have two years left—that was eight years ago. Judy credits his positive attitude and sunny disposition for extending his life. John said it’s Judy that keeps him going—and his many friends. Both give credit and appreciation to the doctors and nurses at John B. Amos Cancer Center.
Not long ago, John was so sick he couldn’t move. He spent days in bed, unable to even lift his legs, and Judy felt like he’d given up. John knew he had. But Judy wouldn’t let him, and she helped him fight, helped him struggle to move, eat, drink, sit up, dress, and she still helps him to keep going every single day.
When friends heard John wasn’t doing well, they rallied around him. John and Judy both recounted the steady stream of friends who came and spent time, and who still visit, reminding John that life is too beautiful to just give up. John and Judy are very grateful for the friends they have. Friends have made life so much better for both of them. John can no longer drive, so friends will pick him up and take him out to eat, shopping, or just to drive around. Friends bring home-cooked meals, treats, and news. Friends bring memories and a reminder of how good life was, is, and will be.
“I have known Mr. John for many years and consider John and his wife Judy as our extended family. John is always the life of the our family events and is known far and wide in the local area. When in conversation with other people, if you mention John’s name, without fail, they know him. I think one of the greatest attributes a person can have is for people to say good things about you. This is Mr. John, one of the kindest and most loyal people you will ever meet. He has provided humor, candid thoughts, and so much more to so many in this area. I am so thankful that myself and my family has had the pleasure of his friendship for many years,” said Melissa Gauntt, a family friend.
John takes joy in the small things in life and appreciates everything everyone does for him. You might never meet a more joyful and positive person. When asked about his experience with cancer, he said, “It is fun.” But John doesn’t mean that cancer is fun, or the chemotherapy that makes him so sick. He means that the opportunities he’s been given to meet and help new people is fun—like the woman he met at Amos who was there for her first treatment, scared and alone. John has never met a stranger, according to Judy. He reached out to that woman and let her know she wasn’t alone, and she appreciated him for it. We do not exist in a vacuum and John knows that, but to John, he is just doing what comes naturally—being kind to others.
Unfortunately, John’s cancer has spread from his colon to throughout his body, but he isn’t giving up. He is undergoing chemotherapy three days a week. But most importantly, John doesn’t fret. He smiles like the sun and looks forward to each new day.