Only a few weeks after being featured in the November issue of the U.S. Navy Fleet Reserve Association, (FRA), magazine, Chief Petty Officer Herman B. Evans, surrounded by his family, passed away peacefully at a local hospital in Oxnard, California, on Dec. 11, 2018, at the milestone age of 95.
Chief Evans, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, was born on Oct. 15, 1923, in Big Sandy, Tennessee. He grew up on a simple farm with his parents Henry “Gordi” and Jewell Evans and older brother and best friend, Henry, with whom he was very close to throughout Henry’s life.
Chief Evans actually had two families: The first being his late wife of 60 years who was from Bigfork, his son Joe and daughters, Sandi Thomason and Jan Evans, and his second family, the U.S. Navy, which he served 30 years, becoming the Navy’s youngest chief petty officer at the young age of 19, in what has been hailed as the country’s “Greatest Generation.”
As the FRA reported in their November 2018 edition, Chief Evans, hearing the call of duty, left high school early and enlisted in the regular Navy on Dec. 18, 1940, at the very young age of 17.
Chief Evans loved recounting stories of his days in the Navy and the journeys and adventures afforded to him with his 20 years of active duty and 10 additional years in the Navy Reserve, totaling 30 years of dedicated service to this country. Chief Evans enjoyed a very illustrious career in the Navy. One of his proudest moments, in life, was on Feb. 1, 1943, when at the young age of 19, he was promoted to chief petty officer, the Navy’s youngest chief petty officer still to date. In 1956, at the age of 33, Chief Evans also had the honor of escorting Doris Day to a War Bonds Gala. The opportunity to escort a gorgeous Hollywood actress was a major thrill of a lifetime for a young boy coming from a small farm in Tennessee.
During his 20 years active duty career, he traveled the world with missions to Argentina, Newfoundland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iceland, England, Bermuda and the Netherlands. In typical military fashion, Chief Evans moved his family around the country to Maine, New York, Virginia, Maryland, California and Hawaii.
During his Navy days, Chief Evans picked up the nickname, “Skinner,” always one to get the job done and entertain those around him throughout the process with a good story or yarn.
Skinner loved working with the Navy’s aircraft. During this time, as a Naval aviation machinist’s mate CPO, he realized that crews were spending an immense amount of time when they were trying to make repairs and could not reach inaccessible parts. An entrepreneur in his own fashion and always trying to find a better way, in 1953, while at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, Skinner invented and patented an aircraft tool to solve this problem. Since Skinner was in the service when he patented this invaluable tool, he never received any royalties for his invention.
In 1943, Skinner met his future wife of 60 years, a Hollywood love story, that is only found in the movies. While dispatched to San Diego to get some aircraft parts repaired, “Skinner” was out on the beach one day and met two young women named Frances and her younger sister Lucille. Both sisters had moved to San Diego from Montana to join the war effort by working at a factory turning out World War II aircraft. Skinner asked for Lucille’s contact information, but she would not give it to him. Seeing that Skinner was really taken with her younger sister, Frances intervened, and secretly gave Skinner Lucille’s phone number. After one date, Skinner was deployed back to England on another tour of duty. Over several months overseas, Skinner and Lucille corresponded until Skinner returned and they finally had their second date. Needless to say, Skinner was smitten by this young woman from Bigfork and wanted to marry her, but having discovered the big city of San Diego, Lucille was not as eager to get hitched! Upon returning to San Diego and after a few more dates, they did marry on June 17, 1944, in Bigfork at the “Little Brown Church,” that is still standing to this day. Not many years later, Skinner’s brother Henry, who was also now in the Navy, met Lucille’s sister, Frances, and they soon also married. A double love story — brothers marrying sisters. Each of them stayed married for the rest of their lives, with Skinner and Lucille being married for 60 years and Henry and Frances being married for 47 years.
After serving several tours of duty together as a family, Skinner and Lucille, with their three children, Joe, Sandi and Jan, were transferred to Point Mugu, California, in 1959. In less than a year, they were all shipped off to Oahu, Hawaii, for a short time before returning to Oxnard, where Skinner and his family settled down in 1960. After 20 years of active duty, Skinner retired from the regular Navy on July 12, 1960. He then signed up for 10 years in the Navy Reserve, totaling 30 years of service. During his 30 years of service, Chief Evans was awarded the World War II Victory, Asiatic Pacific Area and American Theatre medals.
After leaving active duty, Skinner worked with Abex Aero Space Engineering for several years until he formed his own company in 1972. He later joined MVS in 1997, run by business entrepreneur and millionaire Martin “Bud” Smith. Skinner loved his many years working as Bud’s right-hand man, erecting building after building in California, including “The Tower” in Oxnard and helping to found Oxnard College. As Skinner would say, they had many good times together, especially spending countless weekends on Bud’s boat, the “Dry Martini.”
Needless to say, in military and civilian life, Skinner lived life to the fullest, never taking a moment for granted. His philosophy on life, was that everything was and should be “Ship-Shape!” This was a credo to which he lived to his last day.
Skinner leaves behind three adult children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
On Saturday, July 6, Chief Petty Officer Herman B. Evans will be honored with full military honors in Bigfork where his married life began with his loving wife Lucille. The tribute will take place at the VFW Hall, beginning at 2 p.m., with the Honor Guard ceremony commencing at 3 p.m.