BORN on November 28, 1925, John ‘Top Cat’ Evans celebrated his 95th birthday on Saturday.
John worked as a farmer, trained as a cyclist and footballer, and went on to build a legacy with a handshake.
For his son Paul, although his father is now showing signs of slowing down, he welcomes the new friendship they share.
“I moved back to be a bit closer to dad a year ago,” he said.
“In my time being around Wonthaggi, it has helped me really to get to know him.”
Paul said even in recent years his dad would still out work him in the garden.
“Dad would say: ‘If I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t ask someone else to do it’.”
And that went for everything. John grew up on a farm at Glen Alvie and following the Great Depression, his family lost everything and ended up living in a tent in Kilcunda.
“My first job was milking cows – sometimes seven days a week,” John said.
John would make ten shillings a week. He would give nine to his mother to feed the family and would use the remaining one shilling to take his girlfriend/future wife Roma Dobson to the cinemas.
John was a hard worker and a talented sportsman.
“I used to ride down to Melbourne on a Friday night, race Saturday and then ride home Sunday,” he said.
“One race I had finished in the top 10, but then it turned out I had won the country division of town and country,” John said.
He was also an accomplished footballer, winning two best and fairest awards at Glen Alvie, and later going on to be a billiards‘ champion.
And, of course, an avid supporter of buying local.
“I worked my whole life at a Toyota dealership, but dad would only buy his cars locally. White goods, electronics, and Toyotas – dad would only buy it in Wonthaggi,” Paul said.
But that couldn’t compare to his loyalty to his wife Roma, who passed away in 2010.
John was also loyal to his business, PBE Real Estate.
It was founded with a simple handshake at the Lang Lang Pub between Terry Palmer, Barry Baker and John – hence the P (for Palmer), B (for Baker) and E (for Evans).
PBE Real Estate went on to become Australia’s biggest non-franchise real estate dealership at the time.
Paul recalled a story from his dad’s real estate days.
“There was a French farmer who came to Wonthaggi to buy a farm,” Paul said.
“Dad told him there were 10-acre lots being divided along Inverloch Road, so they went out and had a look.
“It was pouring down rain and the Frenchman asked: ‘So, how big is a ten-acre lot?’
“Dad walked it out and marked it with a rock. Later on when they subdivided it, they found dad’s marking to be within an inch of perfect,” he said.
John was also a sponsor of the 2010 Tour of Gippsland cycling race.