Dan embraced us, and locals loved Dan

Dan Evers and I didn’t know each other for a lot of years, but it felt like we did.

He and I became friends about seven years ago. He was appointed Executive Director of the Clinton County Port Authority when I was serving as Clinton County Commissioner, and from the first moment we spoke, we just hit it off. One of those unexplainable things that happens to new friends sometimes.

In just a matter of minutes, we realized we shared many of the same interests and most of the same memories. We appreciated the same type of people and the same idea of living in a small town. We liked the same type of humor, and we even liked the same politicians, and that puts the pressure on any relationship.

Dan was smart as a whip. His sense of humor was dry and subtle. He talked haltingly, as if he was measuring every word he spoke.

Although he talked in measured tones, about every other sentence contained a humorous comment. He would speak earnestly, let loose with the amusing remark, and then slyly study you to see if you “got” his sense of humor.

Dan was a quiet man. A gracious man. A modest man.

His death came as a shock to me, as it did to so many in our community this week.

I last talked with Dan on April 25 when the Ole Town Tavern opened downtown. We stood by the vintage pictures on the wall, and Dan began talking about Wilmington. He sounded melancholy. He asked me about the historic pictures and if I recognized the locations. I told him I did.

“Dan, it seems like you have found a home here. The people of Wilmington have embraced you,” I said.

He told me that little did he know when he accepted the job at the Port Authority that this city would become so important to him. “When I began this job, I found my home,” he said.

He told me it is hard to express how you know when you a reach a point in your life that you realize where you need to be.

“It is just something inside,” he said. “This town, and the people I have met, gave my life new meaning.”

Dan told me his parents were still living, and they were so happy that he was happy. “If we’re lucky, there are a handful of times when we know for sure we have made our parents proud. We don’t have to ask them; we just know. This is one of those times.”

“The Port Authority is an opportunity to do something worthwhile. To do something that not everyone can do, something that not everyone even wants to do, and if done well, is something that can make a difference. It has been all of that. It has been the perfect job for me,” he said.

As we closed our final conversation, I told Dan how much I enjoyed his pictures of sunsets he posted online. His eyes lit up and he said, “They remind me even if we didn’t end up where we thought, we always end up where we are meant to be. When I face my last sunset, I hope it is in Wilmington.”

We just didn’t know it would be so soon.

Dan often ended his postings on Instagram with the words, “Goodnight, and good luck. Hang in there, please. Always.”

We will try, Dan. But we will miss you, my friend.

Pat Haley is a Clinton County native and former county commissioner and sheriff.

His book, “Around the Fire: Stories from Here and There” — comprised of his nonfiction stories in the News Journal through the years — is available through the Clinton County History Center in Wilmington, or you can reach Pat directly at 937-205-7844 or via email at [email protected] to purchase a copy.


By Pat Haley

Contributing columnist