A Hayward Guy

Adam Bellow said the greatest benefit of writing was personal, and I was reminded of this when I went to see my good friend Mark Croghan not long ago. I took my sons and met Mark at Val’s Burgers in Hayward where I grew up.

Val’s is one of the oldest and finest hamburger institutions in the East Bay, a place with pictures of hot rods and Little League teams on the walls, a place that only takes cash or checks—no credit or debit cards. Mark, Hank and I had Mama Burgers, Gabe had a hot dog, we all shared fries and onion rings, and the boys and I drank shakes made with Berkeley Farms ice cream and served in old-fashioned soda fountain silver canisters. Afterward Mark snapped a picture of me and the boys standing under the parking lot sign at Val’s, a place I had been to many times as a boy. The day filled me up, physically and emotionally.

While we were talking Mark said that someone had told him that Bill Evers had died and that his obit was in that day’s Daily Review. He said he didn’t know Bill very well and wondered if I did. Sure, I said. Good guy. Played football with him, rode on the back of his motorcycle many times, just flying down Crow Canyon Road on our way to a party or nowhere in particular.

On my way out of town I stopped and picked up a paper to see his death notice. After high school Bill had joined the Navy and after finishing his hitch in the service he moved to Spokane, where he got married and had a family. That was also where he died, of a sudden heart attack, at age fifty-five.

When I got home I emailed some friends who also knew Bill from high school and without any prompting from me, they responded with their memories. I then compiled and edited what we all said, and sent it in as a letter to the Review. It isn’t much of a sendoff for a man who deserved more, but it was something anyhow and it made me feel good to do it. Here’s what we said about Bill:

Dear Editor: Being four guys who knew Bill Evers, we were saddened to hear about his death and read his obituary in the Daily Review. Bill may have lived part of his life in Washington state, but he was a Hayward guy through and through. He grew up here, went to school at Markham, Bret Harte and Hayward High, and had East Bay grease in his veins. Here are four short memories of him:

Max Lateiner: “Bill had a ‘no holds barred’ personality. I remember once he had a party at his parents’ house off East Avenue and afterwards I got on the back of his Yamaha or Triumph motorcycle.  He drove so fast that I was sure I was going to die.”

Kevin Nelson: “That’s one of the things I remember about him too. Riding on the back of his motorcycle on Crow Canyon Road and to this day I am grateful he didn’t crash and kill us both. He played linebacker on the HHS football team and for a guy who loved to hit, he was an awfully sweet guy. He loved the blues and played a mean harmonica.”

Steve Bragonier: “Bill’s musical interests actually started before the harmonica. He and I were in the Markham Elementary School band sitting side by side in the 6th grade blowing a mean trombone. We were good!”

Bob Newlon: “I remember Bill as the original stud. As tough as nails. Steve Bragonier and I sometimes played tackle football with him and a buddy of his at the Hayward High football field on rainy Saturday afternoons. We’d choose the muddiest area and play all afternoon. Bill played the hardest and was always ready for more. Trudging off the field after one long afternoon, Bill finally looked whipped. Cockily I said to him I bet he couldn’t run around the track without stopping. Bill laughed and told me to put a buck down and he’d do it ten times! Damn if the guy didn’t take my buck. That was the last time I bet against him.”
Sincerely, Max Lateiner, Kevin Nelson, Steve Bragonier and Bob Newlon



Filed under Hayward, California, Parenting, Personal

4 responses to “A Hayward Guy

  1. Kevin Odell

    Hey man,
    I was looking for Newlon on the net and found this about Billy Evers. I still live in Hayward but have gone paperless and don’t look at the Review site too often.
    I am saddened to hear of Billy’s passing. He had gotten his life together after some rocky times. The motorcycle I recall was a Triumph Bonneville, 650 cc. It could go like a bat out of hell.
    I was at UC San Diego when Billy went to boot camp. My girlfriend and I went to see Billy graduate. He carried his unit’s flag which meant he kept his nose clean during basic training. We helped get it back dirty afterwards, those being the days, the draft and all. He and a buddy stayed with our family while on leave before he joined his ship.
    After the Navy Billy and his wife Carol, mother of Ben, bought a house on Broadway off Mission, near Moreau High school. I was sailing in the merchant marine by then and would spend a lot of time there. I remember holding Bobbie, who was real small and pointing out and naming stars and constellations to him. Billy liked the constellation, “Orion” the hunter, and that was how Ben got his middle name.
    The move to Spokane started a hard time but good one for Billy. When I saw him last, around the time of the HHS 30 year reunion, he was strong and healthy, as happy as I ever saw him.
    He was a good friend to me and countless other people.
    Nine bows, Billy.

  2. Gail Lauritzen Spielvogel

    I am sadden to hear of the passing of Bill Evers. I recently saw him at the 30th HHS Reunion. He was wearing a blue sweater vest and I commented on how preppie he looked. He was telling about his process of getting healthy, seemed to have a good outlook on life, to be in a good place. It was delightful to talk with him.

    Not knowing Bill well in high school, I had girlfriends that did so we talked of him. Senior year he hung with Robin Francis and I can remember always singing the song: “… don’t mess with Bill, leave my Billy alone …” Everytime I hear that song it reminds me of Bill Evers.

    Bye Billy Evers.

    Fondly, Gail

  3. Steve Bragonier

    Hi Kevin,

    I enjoyed the comments from Kevin O.

    Hey, I miss seeing you. Can we do the Yosemite trip this year with your boys? It would be fun. Maybe Danny would come too. You will be proud to know that last year he went to Yosemite with some friends and really did a heck of a climb like your old college days. Hopefully, they did not hike naked (I seem to remember you saying that one time.).

    • Steve,

      Definitely, let’s do Yosemite with the boys. They’d love it with Danny there. Got the announcement from Aimee. Congrats to her. And hey, it’s interesting how first us, then Kevin Odell and now Gail Spielvogel have commented on Bill’s passing. I’m wondering how we could reach out to Bill’s family and his children to let him know that there have been these reactions from all of us.

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