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Obituary: Jan Evans


April 23, 2021

On the morning of April 23rd, heaven came to reclaim an angel, our friend and mother Jan Evans. She passed away from complications from a recent struggle with cancer.

Janet Helen Smail was born Aug. 17, 1947 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Edward and Wanda Smail. She graduated from Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois in 1965. She then attended college at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she studied special education.

In 1969, Jan married Jim Evans and taught special education until they moved to Duluth in 1973. They worked at Homes Inc. as apartment managers for adults with developmental disabilities. In 1974, they bought a home in the Fond du Lac neighborhood that she truly loved making a welcoming place for all. Jan spent countless afternoons gardening, reading and making crafts, and she was known to raise a kitten or two.

Jan and Jim raised their three kids in this home; Erin was born in 1974, Bowen in 1977, and Ian in 1980. Continuing their work supporting people with developmental disabilities, Jan and Jim started EBI Inc. in 1986. The following year, St. Louis County approached Jan to work as a consultant in adult foster care. After their divorce, she branched out on her own to open JE & Associates. Jan was instrumental in helping people with developmental disabilities find homes, and in helping families become adult foster care providers.

Jan volunteered at the Duluth Public Library, CHUM and Sacred Heart, and was an active member of Asbury United Methodist Church. She was an avid collector of plants, paper cranes, books, family photos, reading glasses, glue guns, change and Birkenstocks. Jan would find a good saying, laminate it, put a magnet on the back and give it to everyone she knew. She was a very generous soul to each person she met. She also loved to travel, including trips to Jamaica, Europe, and Central America. In 1995, Jan went to China with Nancy Reid to meet her goddaughter, Madison, who has continued to be a very special part of her life. She also enjoyed spending time with her three grandchildren, whether stateside or overseas.

Jan was preceded in death by her parents, Ed and Wanda Smail; sister-in-law, Patty; and brother David.

She is survived by her siblings Harry (Arlo) and Julie (Rick), and cousin Lee (Joanie); her children, Erin (Herb), Bowen (Kelsey) and Ian (Marissa); goddaughter, Madison; grandchildren Hudson, Lawson, Harper, Johnathan (Kaylene) and Kaitlyn; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and family friends too numerous to mention. Jan spent her lifetime caring for an impossible number of people whom she loved very dearly.

Because Jan felt strongly for our safety during the pandemic, her private service will be livestreamed from Asbury UMC Friday, April 30 at 10 a.m. Family and close friends will be invited to attend. The family will also hold a visitation at the Buffalo House 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., following the service.

The family would like to thank St. Luke’s Hospital and Ecumen Lakeshore, The Fountains for the care our mom received. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in her honor to the CHUM food shelf (


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