Nature 17

Harlan Jackson Evans

August 25, 1942 ~ April 17, 2022 (age 79)



Harlan Jackson Evans, 79, died April 17, 2022, in Houston Hospice.


He is survived by his sister, Paula Evans Baker of Norman; nieces, Julia Baker (Susan Miller) of Vashon Island, WA,  and Christine Baker O'Neil (Mike and daughter Grace) of Wheeling, WV; and dear friends, Carolyn Lewis of Houston, TX, and Robin Gunning (Sarah) of Lone Tree, CO. 


Gunning became a friend in elementary school.  They canoed down the Illinois River as Scouts, were college roommates and shared many adventures for the rest of their lives.


Evans was the son of Richard Harlan Evans and Nell Jackson Evans of Oklahoma City.  His father was killed in World War II when he was two years old.  Nell vowed that she would raise "Dick's" children as he would have wished.  She became active in Gold Star Wives, primarily to promote assistance with college education expenses for orphans and widows.  She also worked with PTA and Camp Fire.  Later, she volunteered with the Oklahoma City Veterans Hospital.


Educated in Oklahoma City, Evans attended Sequoyah, Taft and Northwest Classen schools.  He was recruited to leave high school before his senior year in response to the space race.  He earned a BS in physics from the University of Oklahoma in 1963.  The Fermi Institute of the University of Chicago granted his doctorate in physics in 1973.


As a research scientist, he spent 40 years studying the effects of space travel on muscle and bone mass.  He worked for various agencies contracted to NASA.  This involved studies on both astronauts and cosmonauts and many trips to the former Soviet Union and Russia.


Taciturn by nature, he was greatly interested in his extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins.  He enjoyed family news and group activities.  Board games, trips to the zoo and birdwatching were favored.  A special memory was a cousins' trip to Big Bend National Park during spring bird migration.  Selecting stuffed animal toys for the youngest family members was particular joy at Christmas.


Evans was an active member of the Houston Audubon Society and served as treasurer for many years.  He cleaned up beaches and Houston's Audubon Park after hurricanes and other disasters.  Oil-soaked birds after spills also claimed his volunteer hours.


Not flamboyant, he was greatly competitive.  He played contract bridge, ran marathons, and took the MCAT and LCAT exams just to prove he could enter medical or law school if he chose.


He was not impressed with celebrity nor publicity.  His last work project involved the return of astronaut Scott Kelly to earth after a year in space.  He complained about the magazine writers and photographers who "got in the way."


"But we got the job done," he said.


Private services celebrating the life of Harlan Jackson Evans will be held at the columbarium of Norman's First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 18, 2022. 


Memorials may be made to the Houston Audubon Society, 440 Wilchester Blvd., Houston, TX 77079 or, or any other regional nature group.




You can still show your support by planting a memorial tree in the memory of Harlan Jackson Evans
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