GALLIPOLIS — Jewell Evans, the wife of the late Bob Evans and who relatives say was much of the reason the food chain became recognized across the country, died Wednesday.
A resident of Gallipolis and formerly Rio Grande, Jewell was 99.
“She was in charge when my father was gone (on business),” said Jewell’s daughter, Robbin Chamberlain. “She did everything and to add to that, while my father always had a great sense of pride and quality, my mother really had the taste buds. She’s from the South and North Carolina. She had keen taste buds and her mother was also an epic cook. Mother knew how things were supposed to taste and my father quickly learned from my mother that very same thing as he ate her food. My grandmother was a good cook, but not nearly the cook that my mother was. Together (Bob and Jewell), they were very insistent on quality and the taste had to be just right.”
Chamberlain credited her mother with helping her father create food the way it “should taste and should look.” The pair eventually become icons as the brand Bob Evans became nationally recognized for its restaurants and sausage.
“She was a driving force in all the menus of Bob Evans food,” said Chamberlain.
Jewell and Bob, according to Chamberlain, eventually met when Jewell’s family moved to Gallipolis. Jewell’s father was an engineer in the construction business and the family moved occasionally due to his work. The family came to Gallipolis when Jewell’s father assisted in the construction of a local roller dam. Jewell and Bob met each other in high school while living in Gallipolis. The pair married June 1, 1940 in Covington, Va. Bob was reportedly a young man who grew up on Second Avenue, said son Steve Evans, before the husband and wife duo bought their first farm after marrying. The pair shared six children between them.
Bob preceded Jewell in death on June 21, 2007.
“Mother was a supporter of just about everything that needed to be supported in Gallia County,” said Chamberlain. “Any good and decent cause. They were great supporters of 4-H, my father and mother both. They did matching funds for a building in Canter’s Cave, which is a wonderful camp. They supported the Methodist youth groups and Camp Asbury. They gave land to the Methodist Church camp. They gave land for the 4-H camp.”
The Evans family was also noted to have donated land to the current location of the Gallia County Junior Fair, said Chamberlain.
Chamberlain credited her father with entrepreneurial skills and dedication to farming.
“My parents were both big supporters of the college in Rio Grande as well,” said Chamberlain. “The Ariel Opera House was also a huge passion of mom’s, and supporting women who had been (victims of domestic violence).”
“Between the two of them, the lines blur on which one did what because they did a lot of it together,” said Steve. “There was a lot of unspoken goodness they did… As an example, this is a true story. I ordered a load of firewood from a local boy one time. He’s a kid that I’ve known for years and his dad worked for mine for a long time. I went to pay him for the wood and he said I didn’t owe him anything because it was paid for. I said ‘What do you mean it’s paid for?’ He said it was paid for and I said I hadn’t given him any money and I pushed him on it. He said, ‘Listen, your mom and dad put my daughter through pharmacy school. So, I’m not going to take any money from you.’”
Steve said he asked the man what he meant and the man shared that while his daughter had been a valedictorian of her class and was a scholarship student, the family still did not have enough money to pay for her schooling. Steve said his mother and father “wrote the difference in a check” for her college education.
“They (Bob and Jewell) never told me that story,” said Steve. “We don’t know how many times they did that kind of thing. They just didn’t tell anybody. It’s stuff like that we’ve stumbled upon in the years.”
The Evans family eventually became a household name in sausage and farm-branded dining after they opened the Bob Evans Steakhouse in 1946 along Eastern Avenue in Gallipolis, which eventually led to cross-country sales of Bob Evans sausage and restaurant experiences.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.