Honoring Bob Evans: Historical Marker erected at Bob Evans Farms

by | Jun 4, 2012 | 0 comments

This article was originally  published on the Gallia Hometown Herald

RIO GRANDE – Entrepreneur, innovator, hard worker, advocate, dreamer, passionate, idea man, funny, a Welshman, job maker and family man, were just a few of the terms and ideas used to honor the man that turned one small restaurant in Gallipolis into nearly 600 restaurants across the nation.

His dedication to his family, his community and his life’s work was evident in the words spoken about him at the Historical Marker unveiling ceremony held during the first Founder’s Day celebration at Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande on Saturday.

“Bob was a dreamer, an entrepreneur, an idea man and a marketer at heart,” said Farm Manager Ray McKinniss. “Those of you who knew Bob, knew he was always thinking of ways to make our life, our products, our food better. He was ahead of his time.”

The ceremony started with an invocation by Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Bob Hood, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by a student at Gallipolis City Schools, Lane Pullins. Lisa Jones, the Davis Intern for the Madog Center of Welsh Studies at the University of Rio Grande delivered a stirring rendition of the Welsh National Anthem in recognition of Bob Evans’ Welsh roots.

Bob Evans Farms, Inc. Exec. V.P. of Human Resources Joe Eulberg, said Bob Evans’ spirit can be seen and felt in every aspect of the corporation, from the company to the employees.

“We are committed to honor that legacy, honor that heritage. Great companies succeed because they stay true to who they are, what their values are about. Bob was an innovator. Bob was someone who cared about customers and guests. Whenever we stay true to that guidepost, we do well and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Eulberg.

Eulberg said the company will continue to give back to the communities, with initiatives like the donation of 32 million pounds of food to the harvest program, and to help ensure younger generations understand the history of the farm and where it all started.

Though they do have to watch their “pennies”, as with any company, Eulberg said, “One place we never have an argument about is, we’re not ever going to stop investing back into our people, into our communities. The farm is a great example. We spent north of $4 million doing this.”

State Representative Ryan Smith, on behalf of the House of Representatives 129th General Assembly, recognized the historical marker bearing Bob Evans’ name.

“The dedication of an official historical marker in Bob Evans’ name is a fitting tribute to him, for he held an important place in Ohio’s history. The founder of Bob Evans Farms, he became one of the area’s most famous citizens and during his life he expanded his company to include nearly 600 restaurants and several different food products. This historical marker is a justifiable source of pride and excellent reflection on him, on his family and on the entire community,” read Smith.

On a personal note, Smith said, “Bob, to me, was the ultimate advocate for S.E. Ohio.”  He went on to discuss the effect Bob Evans had at the State level.

“I’ve talked more about him probably, than anybody else. It just reaffirmed to me how great of an advocate he was. What he was able to accomplish for this area is tremendous. He understood, once he got to the level of celebrity status and name recognition, he knew what that would do and how many doors that would open and he knew how to leverage that into helping Southeastern Ohio move forward. He was so proud of this area and trying to help build a better future for our kids. He’s just one of my heroes really,” said Smith.

Ohio Historical Society Board Member Thomas Johnson also spoke to the crowd regarding the historical marker and the effect Bob Evans had on their organization.

Family members then took to the podium to give the crowd a peek at the man underneath his signature white Stetson hat.

Of her late husband, Jewell Evans said, “He never got really, really serious—so serious he couldn’t laugh.”

She said he liked animals and Spring and shared a story with those in attendance of Bob saving a baby goose who had been left in a nest, because he felt “the little baby chick deserves a chance to live.”

“He would be so proud to be here today. He would have such a good time,” said Jewell.

Bob’s son, Steve Evans, said his father was young, healthy, strong and ambitious and because of that, 45,000 people now have jobs.  In addition, he took time to recognize his mother for her part in the growth of Bob Evans.

“I want everyone to know here today, without this lady standing next to me, none of us would be here today,” said Steve.

Bob’s son, Stan Evans, told the story of how Bob began making sausage as a way to pay for his farm. Stan said Bob was killing two hogs a week and worked at night. Because there was no refrigeration, the hogs were only killed in the winter. From there, Bob would peddle his sausage from a pick-up truck, mostly in West Virginia, and the sausage that did not sell would be left in mailboxes as samples.

“He wanted to only sell sausage to pay for his farm, and look where it is now,” said Stan of the father he called a big idea person.

Stan said one of the greatest ideas his father had was marrying his mother, Jewell. The other great idea: “Price is long forgotten, quality remains,” said Stan. “That’s what he lived by.”

Bob’s daughter, Debbie Donskov, said he would have been in his glory listening to Jones’ singing of the Welsh National Anthem.

“He was tremendously proud of his Welsh heritage. He took us to Wales. He admired the Welsh people so much and his own background,” said Debbie.

Debbie said she recently came across something that exemplified her father’s heritage.

“To be born Welsh is not be born with a silver spoon in your mouth, it is to be born with music in your heart and soul. And dad truly, truly embodied that. He was a happy person. He was always happy. He found a reason to always remain positive and he loved music,” said Debbie.   “We recognize the Welsh flag today and it is truly a part of so many of us here. We are a strong Welsh settlement.”

Debbie said Bob would have been honored to have a historical marker in his name.

“We could have been in the middle of nowhere, but if there was a historical marker, we stopped,” said Debbie. “We read what was on that marker. We thought about what happened there and we got a history lesson.”

Margaret Standing said the company hopes Founder’s Day will become an annual event to commemorate the history and heritage of Bob Evans Farms.

“The values that he had—his vision, his entrepreneurial spirit, his ideas—his values are still part of our company today,” said Standing.

On why the Founder’s Day is important to the farm, McKinniss said, “You have to celebrate why you’re here and if we don’t understand why we are where we are, we can’t go forward.”

McKinniss said farm employee Gale Leslie, whom he described as the farm’s “conscious”, was instrumental in the wording found on the historical marker.

On the importance of the marker, Smith said, “I think the credit the Bob deserves is well overdue, because he was so important to this area. He meant so much to Southeastern Ohio and he was such a great advocate for this area to try to keep moving us forward.”

The marker was unveiled and is located on the corner of the restaurant and the Quilt Barn.