Special for Deaf Network of Texas
Monday, January 3, 2022
Longtime Deaf Texas Leader Dies – Larry D. Evans
(Austin) As the old year expires and 2022 barely begins, we are saddened to learn that our longtime Texas Deaf leader – Larry Dane Evans – passed away on the Truitt Family Ranch in New Mexico. His family confirmed that he passed away in his sleep early Tuesday morning on December 28, 2021. Larry Evans, 82, has been ill for the last three years and he made a final wish to be with his family for Thanksgiving and Christmas in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
For those unfamiliar with Larry Evans or why he was a longtime leader for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Texas for nearly 60 years, here is a summary of his life and his significant achievements.
Larry Evans was born in Winslow, Arizona, on November 10, 1939, to a Santa Fe Railway father and a homemaker mother, Lonnie and Pat Evans. The small town is located in the heart of Navajo County, and it has the best-preserved meteorite impact site on earth, only 20 miles away. It is no surprise that Larry’s early passions were geology, history, hunting, fishing, and science.
Before he graduated from New Mexico School for the Deaf (NMSD) in 1957, where he developed his athletic and leadership skills, Larry fought a group of bullies who ganged up on a deaf Navajo Indian. Later at a random NMSD school reunion, the Native American classmate presented Larry with beautiful Navajo artwork that his mother weaved in a show of appreciation and friendship. (It is hard to tell if it’s a throwing rug or blanket. Nevertheless, it is a work of art!)
At Gallaudet University, Larry became a proactive student, joined the Alpha Sigma Pi Fraternity, and participated in varsity track and cross country. By his senior year, he ran the third leg of the 4×400 gold medal-winning USA team in the 9th Deaf Olympic Summer Games (renamed Deaflympics) in Helsinki, Finland, on August 10, 1961.
Upon graduation from Gallaudet University, he taught biology and science at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin for a few years. Several of his former TSD Hispanic students often alluded to Larry’s caring and support of their education because he ignored the prescribed low expectations for those undereducated students in the 1960s. According to most of his former students, Larry was the most popular teacher at TSD. At the same time, he was mentored by Gwendel “Bud” Butler and Ralph White. Those two colleagues encouraged Larry’s 60-year support of the Texas Association of the Deaf (TAD). Due to his love for sports, he was later inducted into the Southwest Athletic Association of the Deaf Hall of Fame for his leadership in the late 1970s.
Seeking a new professional field, Larry continued his teaching career in the San Antonio area. He earned his Master’s degree at Trinity University before becoming a founding faculty member at Southwest College for the Deaf (SWCD) in Big Spring, Texas, in 1980. Thereafter, he served as the Executive Director of the Texas Commission for the Deaf (TCD) before the state agency transformed into different names and responsibilities. Under his leadership from about 1981 to 1992, many educational, social, interpreting and accessibility bills benefitting the deaf and disabled community passed in the Texas Legislature. Consequently, Larry received the “Disabled Person of the Year” from the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) for his advocacy work. Privately, Larry always made it clear that he never truly felt “disabled.”
It is rare to be elected as a state association president in three different decades. He served as the Texas Association of the Deaf (TAD) president during the following three terms: 1977-1979, 1995-1997, and 2011-2013. Before illness overcame him, Larry served proactively as the Region III board member (2012-2015) for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). He received an impressive framed pictorial resolution from NAD that listed his intangible attributes. Former NAD President Chris Wagner commented on April 15, 2015: “Larry is a phenomenal team player and the NAD Board will miss seeing him in his grand cowboy hat during our meetings. We will always remember his wonderful passion for our community.”
When his second wife, Betty Lee Bounds Evans, passed away on November 6, 2019, Larry struggled with many health issues, which were partially caused by a terrible car accident they both experienced in Bastrop, Texas, a few years earlier. Both Larry and Betty loved and cherished their furry companions, Schipperkes! Hondo, his current terrier, worshipped the ground Larry walked on, and now he is wondering where Larry went after his master passed away recently.
How would Larry Dane Evans want us to remember him? Some of his close friends have known him since his days at NMSD in 1950s or from 1962 to 2021 in Texas, when he was learning, teaching, training, speaking, advocating, fishing, hunting, or reading great books. After talking with a few of those longtime cronies, we came up with five quintessential areas of importance to him, personally and professionally:
His advocacy work with TSD, TAD, NAD, TCD, GAFD, Deaf Seniors of America (DSA). His love for his family, including children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and dogs. The gold medal he won as a relay runner in the 1961 Deaflympics in Finland. His fond memory of fishing, hunting, and partying with his family and friends. He recruited and hired many high-caliber people to work for SWCD in 1980.
In view of the above tangible and intangible qualities, Larry was a dedicated, humble, and caring person without beating his own drum. Indeed, Larry is a hard act to follow.
Four days after he passed, DSA informed Larry’s family that he purchased a raffle to sponsor their 2023 conference and won $200 through a drawing! During 2021, he donated $350 to the 2022 Deaf Authors Book Festival and $1000 to Greater Austin Foundation for the Deaf (GAFD), his favorite charity and last board membership. GAFD President Paul Rutowski placed Larry’s favorite Stetson on his empty table during a recent successful charity gala in Austin.
Preceding Larry in death were his parents (Lonnie and Pat Evans), his late wife (Betty Lee Bounds Evans) and his brother (Lonnie Dale). He is survived by his ex-wife and friend, Wilma Truitt of Carlsbad, his son Lonnie Evans (Paula), and their children (Courtney and Christian), and two great-grandsons (Ashtin and Austin) of Carlsbad, New Mexico, and Lisa Thompson (Alan) and their two children (Mayson and Justice) and one great-grandson (Madden) of Midland, Texas. Not to mention his stepchildren Lisa O’Connor (John) and their children (Max and Ben) of Livermore, California, and Andy Wood (Kim) of Greenwood, California.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to either the Greater Austin Foundation for the Deaf in care of Holly Hawk at [email protected] or Deaf Television Foundation in care of Dr. Steve C. Baldwin at [email protected] Due to the current virus epidemic, a Celebration of Larry Dane Evans’ life will occur at the appropriate time and place as determined by his family and friends in 2022.
Note to Deaf Network of Texas subscribers, readers and visitors: Dr. Steve C. Baldwin wrote this special article and selected the images. The story contains some anecdotes and information that came from Larry himself. Some of the information is derived from an obituary that Steve developed for the Evans family recently. The family has read, corrected, helped, and approved the family historical aspect for the obituary, which may be published soon. Because Grant and Steve strongly agreed that Larry D. Evans deserves a good write-up for his many feats as an advocate, educator and leader, the story will give him another dosage of deserved recognition. As a matter of courtesy: If you plan to use the article and photos, let Grant Laird Jr. know in advance. Thank you. Happy New Year!
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