It was hard to hear the news this week. Jerod Harman of the West Virginia Wildlife Federation came up on my cell phone afer I had inquired. I knew if he was calling back, and not texting, it wasn’t the answer I had hoped for. Longtime friend and retired Division of Natural Resources biologist Jim Evans had died.
Jim’s obituary included the remark, “to know Jim is to love him.” I would have to say that’s true. He was an endearing fellow who was cut from the fabric they don’t use to make people any more. If you met Jim, you were friends for life.
Jim was the first person I ever interviewed for an outdoor story. It came way back around 1991 when I was commissioned by MetroNews and the DNR to produce the “DNR Wildlife Resources Report” on the radio. I still produce the show each wee. But, this was back well before by Saturday show West Virginia Outdoors had ever been heard of. In many ways it was also before I had ever been heard of. I was a grass green and eager reporter hoping to carve a name and become an outdoor communicator. I had much to learn.
I met Jim at the DNR’s office in Fairmont. We sat down in a conference room to talk about turkey hunting and preview the spring gobbler season. He had an array of turkey calls on the table. I was not a turkey hunter, in fact I had never called a turkey in my life. I didn’t want to let him know that, but frankly from my line of questions and fascination with what he was doing, he figured it out. But with a quiet voice and a patient attitude he suffered a dumb reporter’s ignorance like a champ. He was patient and somehow I fashioned our conversation into a report for the radio.
Eventually, when West Virginia Outdoors came along, Jim was one I called on a lot to join me on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. A lot of times his voice was so soft it was hard to hear him–and I recall having to boost the level of his voice to the max at times. But, what he had to say was worth boosting and listening to closely. Jim was a smart man and his passion and love for the outdoors and West Virginia’s natural resources was unwavering.
He was among a group of biologist who helped plan and execute the wild turkey research along with the trap and transfer program from the 1970’s and 80’s. He would readily tell you he wasn’t the only one, and he wasn’t, but because of their knowledge, expertise, and foresight we now have wild turkeys thriving in all 55 West Virginia counties.
Jim retired after 39 years with the DNR, but didn’t let his passion and knowledge go to waste. He had been with the West Virginia Wildlife Federation since 1967 and after retirement became even more active with the organization. His institutional knowledge was extremely valuable to the organization and helped them advocate for the right policies and positions on protecting the state’s wildlife, hunting, and fishing.
Jim was a great guy, always accessible, and always willing on short notice to join me on the radio to talk about hunting related matters. He will be missed by many, including many who never knew his name. Hopefully my questions got better over the course of our friendship and hopefully I wasn’t as foolish as that first conversation, of course he would never have let on one way or the other. I knew Jim, and therefore Jim and I were friends.