Tom Evans, former CEO of Southern Mill Creek Products of Ohio, was well-known throughout the industry for his gregarious, “tell-it-like-it-is” personality.Tom Evans, former CEO of Southern Mill Creek Products of Ohio (SMCP), passed away on April 8. He was 74.
A 40-year veteran of the pest management industry, Evans was director of marketing for Velsicol Chemical Corp., Chicago, Ill., before joining SMCP in 1980 as vice president of sales, eventually rising to the position of CEO. In fact, Evans resigned from Velsicol on his 20th anniversary with the company, taking an ownership stake in Southern Mill Creek Products of Ohio shortly thereafter, a company he called on as a salesperson early in his career.
Evans was elected to Pest Management Professional magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2001 and is one of only 10 industry professionals named an honorary/lifetime member of the Ohio Pest Management Association (OPMA), where he championed the creation of an Ohio State University college scholarship for association members.
“Tom freely gave of his time, energy and money for the benefit of our industry, and he did that consistently all the years I knew him,” observed Lonnie Alonso, president of Columbus Pest Control, Columbus, Ohio. “Tom was instrumental in establishing the OPMA – OSU scholarship. He had the idea, he put his energy behind it and he showed us a way to get it done ... and it continues on today.”
Alonso said Evans also played a key role in ensuring Ohio PMPs were actively involved in the legislative process nationally. “Tom understood the need to get Ohio PCOs involved politically, and three to four years after NPMA and FMC partnered to hold an annual Legislative Day in Washington, D.C., Tom … contacted Dow Chemical (Marty Morgan) and they put together a plan to get a bus load of Ohio PCOs to D.C. for the event.” Approximately 50 of Alonso’s colleagues attended Legislative Day that first year and “to this day Ohio usually is in the top one to three states in attendance at Legislative Day,” Alonso said.
The Greater Cleveland Pest Control Association annually presented the Tom Evans Award to a worthy industry member at its spring meeting. Here, Evans presents the award to former NPMA President Jim Steckel (left) who passed away in 2008.Throughout his career, Evans also was active in a number of industry groups, including the United Producers, Formulators & Distributors Association (UPF&DA), Greater Cleveland Pest Control Association and Speckoz, a national network of distributors, where he served as chairman and on various committees.
“If you wanted an honest opinion, ask Tom Evans,” observed Valera Jessee, executive director of UPF&DA. “He was a statesman, but he would not tolerate ‘politically correct’ conversations that only filled space. It was his integrity, gravelly voice and consistent straight-talk that earned him a place of admiration among his peers. Tom was a man’s man, but also a thoughtful gentleman” who was a “role model for many to follow,” she added. “UPF&DA benefited from his leadership and values, as did the entire industry.”
“Tom had a great sense of humor and could always be counted on to give the 'other viewpoint,’” added Lon Records, president of Target Specialty Products, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., “both very important traits in contributing to group discussions.”
Despite his often brusque, “tell-it-like-it-is” manner, Evans was a softie who “truly loved people” and took great pride “in seeing those around him succeed and grow,” according to long-time friend Lonnie Alonso. “Second only to my dad, Tom has had the greatest impact on my life,” he said. “Tom was a wonderful leader, visionary, mentor and friend and I will truly miss him.”
“I remember a dinner that Bell had with Southern Mill Creek. It was a rather large group of 14 or so people,” recalled Steve Levy, president of Bell Laboratories, Madison, Wis. “We had a brand new Bell salesman in attendance who was clearly the junior person at the table. Tom made a point early in the evening of singling out the individual to learn about him and his family in an effort to make him feel like an important member of the group. Many people in Tom’s position would not make such an effort in that situation. This spoke strongly to Tom’s character.”
Another colleague, Tom Wright, who worked closely with Evans at Speckoz, described him as a “friend and mentor” who “was at peace as he faced the trial of cancer. He viewed himself being in God’s hands. Every conversation with Tom somewhere involved (wife) Roseann and/or his daughters.”
Tom Evans and Velsicol colleague Larry Carls.A member of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Concord Township, Ohio, Evans is survived by his wife of 46 years, Roseann, along with daughters Maryrose (Michael) Sylvester, Maureen (Christian) Mazurek and Bridget (Matthew) McAuliffe, and grandchildren Lauren Mazurek, Julianna and Gabriella Sylvester, and Jacqueline and “Baby Tommy” McAuliffe.
It is both ironic and appropriate that Tom Evans was laid to rest the same week the Greater Cleveland Pest Control Association presented its Annual Tom Evans Award at its spring meeting, where Evans regularly regaled his industry friends eager to hear his stories, colleagues who will long remember one of the industry’s truly unique personalities.
A funeral mass was held on Tuesday, April 12, at St. Gabriel Church in Concord Township, Ohio, with interment at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon, Ohio. To sign the funeral home’s guest book, visit www.brunners.com. – Dan Moreland