Sunday, 26 July 2015
Kimmo Evans (1972-2014)
There’s a poignant air about this photo that I took of Kimmo Evans in November 2013, a year before his death from leukaemia.
He’d come to Budleigh Salterton’s Peter Hall to give a talk jointly organised by the Otter Valley Association and Fairlynch Museum. As Community Development Officer for East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty he wanted to explain why the AONB is celebrating its 50 years.
It was an excellent talk: he radiated enthusiasm for his work. I still remember his amazement that so few of the audience had heard a nightjar, and the offer that he made on the spot to organize a night-time trip to Woodbury Common to hear its strange whirring call.
You can listen to it now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOAGUfBFcvM
At the time I noticed how frail he seemed, and later I learnt that he was ill. It was sad to learn of the premature death of such a lively, interested and much-loved man.
The following appreciation of Kimmo’s life was contributed by Chris Woodruff, AONB Manager at East Devon AONB.
(AKA Captain Peanut, Goose, The Viking, Steve)
25 February 1972 – 8 December 2014, Seaton, Devon.
Son of Kirsti and Andrew, brother of Jake, husband to Steph and father of Jessica.
Kimmo moved from Peterborough to Devon in 2004 following his appointment to the East Devon AONB team. He left English Nature, as it was then, where he was involved with marine policy work, to join the new and recently established AONB team.
Prior to this, Kimmo had worked on the coast at Flamborough Head, and before that in a variety of jobs following his Marine Biology studies at Liverpool University. He clearly wanted a change of work and in moving to Devon, wished to be more involved with people rather than policy. It does not take a genius to work out why: height and laugh aside, he stood out from the other interviewees for the AONB post, and with his affable, personable and inquisitive nature he slipped into the team like a hand into a glove.
Initially renting in Sidbury before buying a property in the Umborne valley, Kimmo, with wife Steph and young daughter Jess, spread their roots and immersed themselves totally in the local community. Kimmo used his work experience and knowledge to good effect to assist in the amazing and wonderful transformation of the Umborne Hall, making many new friends along the way. Orchards, sheep, chickens and dogs filled his family life in between barbecues, seaside breaks, cycling, walking, holidays, visiting the wider family and friends, and of course his annual footballing passion with old University buddies ‘Atletico Alumni’
Kimmo started AONB life as a Communications Officer but his role quickly changed to Community Development Officer. Much of his time he was out and about developing links and projects, supporting local action and getting closer to the communities of the AONB: a duck to water and heavily influential in raising the AONB Partnership’s profile.
Kimmo was also an active member of the Axe Vale & District Conservation Society (AVDCS) and very supportive of all it stood for. He was a committed Committee member, braving the elements on tasks and assisting in marshalling the Grizzly* on occasions. When not at work or with family, Kimmo greatly enjoyed the opportunity to socialise or be active. A keen member of the Axe Valley Pedallers, he made many new friends whilst on his bike, and always enjoyed the opportunity of a ‘cheeky vimto’ (sloe gin) or jellybeans.
The stories recounted at Kimmo’s funeral about his college time and of him playing in the street with kids summed up his lust for enjoyment and fun in life. Never able to say no; always looking to the positive; Kimmo lived life to the full and was ever-active. Yet despite his energetic endeavours he had a calmness and personal touch that mean he always had time and thought for others – a giver, not a taker.
Kimmo fought leukaemia hard following diagnosis in 2012 and we all believed he had succeeded, following his ‘all clear’. But a second strain proved too much and his final days were spent at his home in Seaton with his close and supportive family and health carers, where he had time to plan his final days with others in mind, as ever.
For those who were able to attend Kimmo’s fineral at Whimple on 29 December, I can think of no better way to say farewell to this kind, loving and wonderful man. A truly special event for a truly special man. Kimmo is now at peace. We sorely miss him, but his love and joy for life will remain strong in us all, as indeed will his infectious laugh.
Our love and thoughts to out to Steph, Jess and family and close friends. His ashes will be spread on the beach, making the coast a special place for us all to remember this special man.
* Charity race organized by the Axe Valley Runners.