‘He was the real thing’: Santa Rosa’s Glyn Evans dies at 92

Houston “Glyn” Evans was a combat veteran, genuine cowboy, co-keeper of a pet Texas Longhorn cow and toiler in various hazardous trades who took his hardest hit in life in 2017, just after the Tubbs fire vaulted Highway 101 in north Santa Rosa. Evans died Saturday at age 92.

The firestorm four years ago killed his partner in all things, Valerie Lynn Evans, who’d run into their burning home for their elderly dog, which also perished. The following day, Glyn Evans and the couple’s son, Houston, found Valerie’s remains.

“It’s like a nightmare I can’t wake up from,” Glyn Evans said in March of 2018.

Amid the agony, he and his son and his daughter-in-law, Victoria, found a glimmer of joy in the form of a 1,600-pound bovine.

Angel, the cow that had been adored by Valerie Evans and admired by countless southbound passersby on 101, had come through the conflagration unsinged. Through the community’s arduous recovery from the 2017 fires, the mellow-natured Texas longhorn became a symbol of survival and hope. While, post-fire, the surviving members of Evans family lived temporarily in Penngrove, many locals contributed dollars to help rebuild her burned corral and return her to the ranch between 101 and Coffey Park.

The longhorn took on new significance to the grieving Glyn Evans. “She just means everything to me right now,” he said half a year after the fire that scorched nearly 37,000 acres, killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,600 homes and other structures.

Glyn Evans added that Angel “reminds me of Sonoma County because she is stout and brave, and reminds me of my wife who was kind and gentle.”

Glyn and Valerie Evans met in Southern California in 1963 and married, then divorced when their son, Houston, was a child. They later reconciled and lived on the ranch on north Coffey Lane with Houston and his wife.

Houston Evans said of his father, “He was the strongest and toughest man. He always wanted to be a cowboy, and that’s what he was. He was the Evel Knievel of cowboys. He was the real thing, the real damned thing. He became a real, loving, nice old man over the years.”

Glyn Evans was born in Arizona and grew up there and in New Mexico as a true, old school, cattle-punching, fence-mending cowboy. His son said he worked some of the Southwest’s largest and best-known ranches.

Taking what other work he could find, Glyn Evans was an oil-field wildcat, and a miner. He went into the U.S. Army during the Korean War and in September 1950 took part in the massive amphibious invasion of Inchon.

He would tell his son that he experienced nothing to rival the fiery destruction he witnessed in war — until the night of Oct. 8, 2017.

In no time at all, the elder Evans would recall, everything around him was ablaze. “The barn, the house, the houses across the street, this house behind me,” he said from the ranch in the spring of 2018.

As the flames spread across the property, all four members of the Evans family ran to save what animals they could. Glyn shouted to Valerie that he would get a tractor to pull a horse trailer. He did not see her alive again.

The darkest period in the lives of Glyn, Houston and Victoria Evans involved coming to terms with Valerie’s death and leaving the ranch for a temporary home in Penngrove. They took Angel with them, and began the harrowing process of removing the remains of the two houses and other structures, and struggling to get a new house built.

Passersby on 101 missed seeing Angel, and winced at the site of destruction. Local animal lovers mounted efforts to raise money to help the Evanses maintain Angel and to rebuild her corral so that she could be returned the ranch.

A GoFundMe campaign begun by cat rescuer Dave Yarger Jr. drew donations of more than $11,000. Animal lover Paul Derkos and his wife, Kristina, created a “Bring Angel Home” Facebook page. The Western Farm Center feed store helped out with the sales of T-shirts to raise relief money for the survivors of Valerie Evans.

Derkos said it was a joy to meet, get to know and shed some community caring on Glyn Evans and his family.

“He was a sweet dude, a cowboy through and through,” Derkos said. He added that it’s clear the outpouring of help and encouragement from Sonoma County people “gave him hope through the most difficult time of his life.”

It was a happy day when, in mid-October of 2018, Glyn Evans and his son and daughter-in-law returned Angel to the Coffey Lane ranch.

“To see her standing down there, it's just the greatest thing in the world for me,” Glyn Evans told The Press Democrat. “It's like taking a shot of really good medicine of some kind.”

Just this past march, Houston and Victoria Evans moved into the gorgeous log house they had erected on the property. They beamed as they showed Glyn his room.

But the retired cowboy found that too many painful memories still occupied the ranch. And at nearly 92 he yearned to be back in Arizona, where he’d begun.

His son said, “He loved Sonoma County, too. Don’t get me wrong. But he wanted to be back there, in the cactus and the rocks. He didn’t want to die here.”

Glyn Evans had been back in Maricopa County, Arizona, at the country home of nephews for several months when he died on Sept. 11.

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