Robert M. Evans, a retired computer executive, Air Force veteran and and avid photographer, died Thursday from complications of pneumonia at his home in the Cloisters in the Woodbrook neighborhood of Baltimore County. He was 89.
Robert Middleton Evans, the son of Donald Irving Evans Jr., a DuPont Co. draftsman, and his wife, Betty T. Middleton, was born and raised in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey.
A scholar-athlete, Mr. Evans was a 1950 graduate of Merchantville High School, and because of his athletic prowess as an outstanding basketball player, he earned an athletic scholarship to the Johns Hopkins University, where he played forward on the university’s basketball team and was the top scorer.
While at Hopkins, where he was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity and joined the ROTC program, first with the Army and then switching to the Air Force, he picked up the nickname “Moose" Evans.
“His life really is a rags-to-riches story because his family was quite poor,” said his son, Robert Middleton Evans Jr., who is known as Middleton Evans, a noted photographer and author who lives in Baltimore County’s Phoenix neighborhood.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1954 in business, Mr. Evans went to work for IBM in the company’s downtown Baltimore office. In the fall of that year, he was called to active duty and reported to Webb Air Force Base in Big Springs, Texas, for jet pilot training and took additional training at Marana Air Force base near Tucson, Arizona.
From 1956 to 1958, he was stationed at Ramstein Air Force base in Germany, where he changed from flying fighter jets to embracing technology.
“With his prior IBM training, he played a major role in the U.S. Air Force installing its first data processing system, in London and Paris, using the key punch card system," his son wrote in a biographical profile.
Discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1958, Mr. Evans returned to Baltimore and his former job with IBM. It was while he was on an IBM assignment at Hutzler’s department store that he stepped out of the elevator one day and met Shiny Black, a sales clerk. The couple fell in love and married the next year.
Mr. Evans remained with IBM until 1967, when he established Data Processing Associates, a boutique computer services firm that was located at the York Dale Terrace complex across from Towson University on York Road.
“He grew the business to 75 employees. Major clients included Legg Mason and T. Rowe Price. They were huge clients and he managed all of their information systems for them,” his son said in a telephone interview. “He never bragged about what he did. He was a very modest man.”
In 1996, Mr. Middleton, a former Pinehurst resident, purchased a new home, a one-story miniature French chateau with a walled garden on Baltimore Avenue in Towson.
Known as the 18,000-square-foot “Secret Garden” property with its topiary, Corinthian gazebo, fountains and formal English garden, its former owner was Thomas Garland Tinsley, who started WITH-AM in 1941 and for many years was the owner of the Maryland Music Corp., which in turn owned Baltimore’s Muzak franchise. He died in 1994.
Mr. Evans’ interest in the unique property was aroused after reading about its availability in an article in 1995 in The Baltimore Sun.
“I was curious to see what was there,” he told the newspaper in 1997. “The place was kind of run down. But I thought, ‘This place has all kinds of potential.’ ”
He sold his business in 1996 to ADP, an international conglomerate, and in his semi-retirement, commenced a second career working with Middleton Press Inc., which he had founded in 1988 with his wife and son, to publish Maryland-related books and calendars, and which was later headquartered in his Towson home.
The firm published its first book in 1988, “Maryland in Focus,” by Mr. Middleton’s son, featuring his photography and text.
During his Air Force days, Mr. Evans developed a lasting interest in photography and began taking pictures throughout Europe, passing his love of photography on to his son.
“He loved to take photographs on family trips to the Caribbean, Europe and all over North America,” his son wrote. “His beautifully composed images adorned the walls of his home, office and the homes of family and friends.”
His son said his father was “particularly proud of a photograph he took of a bull moose crossing a river near Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, and it hung for years above his chair in his den."
While father and son were both photographing the moose, Mrs. Evans sat in the front seat of their car reading.
“It turned and came back and crossed within 10 feet of the car and because she was so engrossed in her book, my mother missed the highlight of our wildlife trip. We joked about it for years,” Mr. Middleton said with a laugh.
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A Cloisters resident for the last two decades, Mr. Evans, an avid tennis player, was a member of the L’Hirondelle Club in Ruxton and a member of a winter group of tennis players who met at the Bare Hills Tennis Club.
For years, he enjoyed spending time with family and friends at “Rigby’s Lot,” a second home he owned near St. Michaels, where he also liked taking guests on sunset cruises to Maxmore Creek and dining in fine restaurants.
A visitation for Mr. Evans will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, York and Overbrook roads, Rodgers Forge.