Joseph M. Evan passed away Thursday evening, Dec. 6, 2012, at his home in Plymouth after a lengthy illness. His wife and children were at his side.
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Born in 1927, Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Michael J. and Anna Elko Evan, who owned and operated Evan's Grocery on the corner of Main and Vine in Plymouth for many years.
A 1945 graduate of Plymouth High School, Joe served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash. After an honorable discharge, he earned a bachelor's degree in economics from King's College in 1953, where he was vice president of his senior class, and later earned a master's degree in secondary supervision from Bucknell University.
Joe was a social studies teacher in the Dallas-Franklin-Monroe Township, Plymouth, and Wyoming Valley West school districts for 40 years. He loved and was very enthusiastic about teaching American history. It was important to him for students to understand the role of past events in shaping the future of the nation.
Joe was renowned for his long and successful career in local athletics. As a senior at Plymouth High School, he sank the game-winning shot in sudden death in the district championship basketball game. After coaching basketball for a few years at St. Leo's, Joe took the reins at St. Vincent High School in Plymouth, where he earned his crowning achievement by coaching the 1957 team to an undefeated season and a state championship. This is generally regarded as one of the most successful teams in local high school sports. Later, he guided Plymouth High School to district championships as assistant and head basketball coach.
Joe became the first head basketball coach at Wyoming Valley West School District in 1966, and led the 1970 team to the Wyoming Valley Conference championship. This was the only Wyoming Valley Conference championship won by WVW over the district's first 30 years. As a result, he is the initial member of the Wyoming Valley West Basketball Wall of Fame.
While most of his recognition was earned for coaching basketball, Joe was also a highly successful baseball coach, guiding Plymouth High School teams to five championships in the 1960s. In 1972, Joe became the athletic director at WVW, a role in which he served for 21 years until his retirement in 1993. Joe was well respected by his colleagues, and was considered a leader in the Wyoming Valley Conference. All of this culminated in his induction into the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
In addition to his success in athletics, Joe was dedicated to public service. He was appointed and then elected to Plymouth Borough Council, and served 2½ years, including one year as president. Joe also served on various boards, including Danville State Hospital Board of Trustees, charter member of Plymouth Teeners' Baseball League, and Plymouth Historical Society. Joe was also an active and devoted member of St. Stephen's and later All Saints Parish.
More than any of this, Joe is remembered by his family for his love and dedication to them. They admired him for his leadership and generosity, and will always respect his keen ability to understand others and help others become and do more than perhaps they ever could have imagined.
Though his health declined in recent years, Joe continued to enjoy the company of his devoted wife of 45 years, the former Joan Olshefski. She cared deeply for him, and will miss the beautiful partnership that they nurtured throughout a lifetime. He also greatly loved and was proud of his daughter, Joann, at home, and his son, Joseph, and daughter-in-law, Renata, Kingston. Joe especially found joy in his grandchildren, Philip and Antek. Also surviving are his sisters, Mary, Hanover Township; and Anna Gorski, Endicott, N.Y.; brother, Robert, Nanticoke; and many nieces and nephews.
In addition to his parents, Joe was preceded in death by brothers, Michael and John.
The funeral will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday from S.J. Grontkowski Funeral Home, 530 W. Main St., Plymouth, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in All Saints Parish, 66 Willow St., Plymouth. Interment will immediately follow in St. Stephen's Cemetery, Lehman Township. Family and friends may call from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to King's College. Memorial contributions in his name may be sent to King's College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 133 N. River St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711.
Please visit www.sjgrontkowskifuneralhome.com for directions or to submit online condolences to Joe's family.
Published in Citizens' Voice on Dec. 8, 2012