The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy mourns the death of Ron Evans, who died on October 1, at age 84, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. An early member of CPSP, Ron showed up at the fourth Plenary, held at the Episcopal Camp in Greenville, North Carolina. Ron was a peer with me under the supervision of Armen D. Jorjorian at St. Lukes Episcopal/Texas Children’s Hospital in 1967. Ron and I immediately bonded. It was us against the world. Later he was certified a Diplomate, and eventually became a member of the Chapel Hill Chapter.
I recall sitting in the hospital coffee shop with Ron before heading up for patient visits. We talked a lot. He named his newborn daughter Suzanne after the newly discovered Leonard Cohen’s song by that name.
After clinical pastoral training, Ron was for 5 years the chaplain at Kings View Mental Health Center in Reedley, California. After that, he was 19 years as the Director of Pastoral Services at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Except for four years in the Rocanville parish in Canada, Ron’s working life was spent as a chaplain and teacher in psychiatric and general hospitals in Houston, Reedley, and Saskatoon. Reminiscing, he said that In another life, he would ask to “have the courage to be an actor or join the circus; as it was, adding that he “got only as far as the church".
I and my family visited Ron in Saskatoon a few years back, and one of the entertaining things we did was to go to his village center and shovel compost. I thought that was very down to earth. He had a wonderful sense of humor.
Ron was known for sharing his poetry and prose at various events. Ron was a published author and also contributed to the Pastoral Report.
After I began publishing the ACPE Underground Report, in 1988, later to be named Contra Mundum, Ron published The Sourdough Bagel, followed by three books, Coming Home: Saskatchewan Remembered; Letters from the Sourdough Bagel: Confessions of a Loner who Likes Company; and then When the Bartender Dims the Lights: Storytelling after 80. He also produced one CD, “You Can See for Miles”, a collection of his storytelling accompanied by Barry Luft on banjo. In the last few years, he learned to draw and paint, producing many images of hills, barns, and barbed wire fences.
Ron had a unique perspective when it came to observing people and some of the difficult situations that life could place them in. In his piece for Pastoral Report, "Candy and Pencils", (2015), about his encounter with artists in a correctional facility, he wrote:
“I came here,” I reply, “because I have seen artwork done by people like yourselves, by individuals who have experienced difficulty. I think good art comes out of adversity and you know about that.”
In 2013, Ron wrote about his experience in the hospital, after breaking his hip, in "It Is Good To Be Remembered", Pastoral Report:
When you are lying in your bed in the night, troubled by what has happened and wondering how healing will occur, when you can’t take care of basic functions on your own and there is no alternative but to call for help, it seems to me you are returned to a state of early childhood. Certainly, you are afraid, feel alone. One of the things that occur on the battlefield is that a wounded soldier will be heard to call out for his mother. I don’t want to suggest that my state was near that severe but something of the same atmosphere prevailed. The usual layers of protection, bravado, assumptions about one’s dignity, were peeled away and as an infant, in the arms of its mother, I was grateful for a nurse stroking my hand and calling me by name.
Ron never displayed his three diplomas from university days. Rather, what decorated his offices with were his diploma in sausage making, a plaque for fire eating, and a certificate for graduating from clown school. Ron’s alter-ego, Yitzak the Clown, was born after a week at clown school. Yitzak would later appear at the hospital, making balloon animals for patients on various wards.
Ron's death is a sad loss for the CPSP community. Our condolences to Ron's loved ones.
My appreciation to Suzanne Evans and Krista Argiropolis for assistance in composing this tribute.
Raymond Lawrence may be reached at [email protected].