Churchton’s Bob Evans was best known as a fishing magnate. A captain since 1972, Evans served on countless boards and committees as a waterman’s advocate. But he was also something of matchmaker.
“To be honest, my dad got together quite a few people,” says his daughter, Liza Evans, 37. “I would ask him: ‘Hey dad, you’re hooking up everybody else. Why haven’t you found anybody for me?’ ”
After her father died in 2015, Evans worried he would never know the man she’d marry. It turns out he’d already found the right person for her — though no one realized it for 25 years.
Liza Evans, who was born with cerebral palsy, began answering phones for the family business at the age of 7 and continued to work for Bob Evans Seafood for the next 30 years.
A few years after Evans began working, her father hired 11-year-old Anthony Jones to help in the boatyard and eventually work aboard the ships. As Jones shot up to 6-foot-9 over the years, Bob Evans dubbed him “Shaq.”
“We did so much together. He was like my dad, pretty much,” says Jones, now 37. “He was a really great guy.”
Liza Evans remembers the beloved waterman as “very set in his ways,” a trait she didn’t appreciate until recently.
“Once he had his mind set on something, there wasn’t any changing it,” she says.
Evans and Jones continued to work for her father and even rode the bus together in the same grade at Southern Middle and High schools. Somehow, the two never noticed each other.
That all changed when Bob Evans became ill sick in 2015. Evans and Jones had to work together to figure out how to keep the business running without its patriarch. Jones, who had been working as first mate, took over the fishing operation aboard the Tempest, a 43-foot crabbing boat, and Evans headed the retail operation. After a year as business partners, the relationship turned into something more.
“I had feelings for her for a while, but I didn’t want to say anything because we worked together. If she didn’t have the same feelings it would have been weird,” Jones says. “Finally, it just kind of clicked. It was funny because she told me the same thing.”
Evans admired Jones for his patience, loyalty and sense of humor, she says. “If I get down about missing my dad, he [Jones] can find a funny story. He spent just as much time with my dad as I did,” Evans says. “The more time we spent together, the more we just got to like each other and figured out we were a great fit for each other.”
Last June, on the day before what would have been Bob Evans’ 64th birthday, Jones took Liza Evans and members of their families out on the Tempest for a fishing trip. The group sailed to Horseshoe Point, Bob’s favorite scenic spot on the Severn River, and laid flowers in the water for him. In the middle of it all, Jones got down on one knee and asked Evans to marry him.
Four months later, Evans and Jones boarded the Tempest again and headed to Horseshoe Point for their wedding ceremony.
“Since I didn’t have my father to give me away, I wanted to go to a place that was important to him,” Evans says. “The business played a big role of bringing us together. It’s the closest I could come to having my dad there with me at the time.”
Evans’ cousin, Crystal Jordan, also lost her father and had to take over his 38-foot crabbing boat, Some Beach, in 2007. The Tempest and Some Beach rafted together with bridesmaids, groomsmen and loved ones aboard for a true waterman’s wedding. A family friend presided over the ceremony.
“Everything was so perfect,” Jones says. “Everything went nice and smoothly and the weather was beautiful. It was almost like he was looking out for us or something that day.”
Two weeks later, Evans and Jones held a Chesapeake Bay-themed reception at Shady Side clubhouse, on the water near Horseshoe Point. Crab pot buoys served as centerpieces, while guests looked for their names on oyster shell place cards, signed a giant crab guestbook and ate slices of a cake topped with a replica of the Tempest. Framed pictures of Bob Evans were decorated with flowers, and guests could write down their favorite memories of him and put the notes in an oyster can.
“If my father would have never passed away, we would have never gotten together,” Evans says. “I really believe he had a hand in getting us together.”