Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson
Editor 

The City of Kimball says goodbye to one of its most beloved residents

 

February 13, 2014

Daniel Thompson

Pictures of Evertson lined the table in front of the auditorium as residents walked in.

Cars lined the streets as residents descended upon the Harry McNees Auditorium at the Kimball High School to pay their respects to Bruce Evertson, the morning of Saturday, February 8.

Evertson, 64, was killed along with a female passenger and business associate, Robin C. Lapaseotes, 56, in a car accident Tuesday, February 4, when his Cadillac Escalade crashed head-on with a semi westbound on Highway 88 west of Redington in Morrill County.

The driver of the semi, Dennis G. Dobrinski of Bridgeport, 56, was transported to Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbulff with non-life threatening injuries.

As residents shuffled into the auditorium, friends and family began to share their stories of Evertson and pay their respects. Throughout the speeches given, it became clear that, though Evertson was well known as an oilman throughout the nation, there were many different aspects, many different parts that made up the whole of the man who was Bruce Evertson.

He was a business man.

Evertson started the company Evertson Well Service, Inc. in 1974 after years of working as a roughneck, which entailed digging trenches and laying pipe, with the help of Reed Gilmore. According to Mike Nelson, Evertson's friend and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Firstier Bank in Kimball, Evertson was a hard worker from day one, working every day to make his company successful.

"I met Bruce in 1974 when he and the Gilmore family were forming Evertson Well Service, Inc. The Gilmore's brought the financial capacity, but Bruce brought the work ethic and the knowledge of the oil field. But no money. We made the loan for the rig, the initial purchase. Plus, we made a very modest loan to Bruce personally for his minority interest in the corporation. He later told me that during the first six months of Evertson Well Service, Inc. he never took one day off including Saturdays and Sundays," Nelson said.

Evertson grew from these modest beginnings, buying several more rigs and growing his business into a five-state operation. Evertson's drive to succeed in the business is something that has stuck with Nelson.

"I had the opportunity to have dinner with Bruce and Dar at their home two weeks ago. At that time, I told him that his inner drive to succeed was unmatched. He definitely was one of a kind. From those modest beginnings, came the next rig and eventually the next and the next and the next, and finally, the purchase of the majority of the interest in the company in Nebraska, of course, is history. What a success story for a person whose education came from the rig and had an unmatched inner fortitude to succeed," Nelson said.

Evertson was also calm and collected when it came to business as shown in a story that Nelson shared about a time when he and Evertson flew to Utah to finalize a deal with a small Denver independent on an oil field that Evertson had purchased that was subject to a field inspection.

"The field visit took a few hours and then we adjourned to a very small office. The company man who was in charge for the seller was wearing a long sleeve khaki brown shirt. The office was not air conditioned, and Utah in the summer gets pretty warm. As the purchase price had been agreed on, however the field visit had enclosed some environmental issues that would take a number of dollars to correct," Nelson said.

However, though the environmental issues and the money that would need to be spent to correct them might make some people nervous, Nelson says that Evertson never strayed from his calm and collected demeanor throughout the negotiations.

"Bruce was always Mr. Cool in negotiations. He was an example that you learn more by listening than you do by talking. As the price reduction conversations continued, a perspiration circle began to appear under the arm of the company man wearing the brown khaki shirt. I could just see the sweat coming down his arm," Nelson said. "When the adjusted sales price was finally reached, the sellers shirt was soaked, and Mr. Cool, Bruce, walked out of another successful negation."

In the years to follow, Evertson would get heavily involved in exploration and production, becoming the largest oil producer in the state of Nebraska for a number of years.

However, Evertson's ambition was not satisfied with simply sticking with Nebraska or the United States in general, and in 1995, he started Evertson International -Bolivia. He also started Evertson International-Venezuela the following year with longtime friend and colleague Chuck Southard.

"From humble beginnings, Bruce achieved success known to but very few others in the world. From a ranch north of Kimball, Bruce has expanded his influence throughout the Rocky Mountain region to the Dakotas, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, California, Illinois, Bolivia and Venezuela. Bruce and I watched the Super Bowl over coffee in Muscat Oman while we were there on a business trip looking for more opportunities in the Middle East. Bruce got around a lot," Southard said.

Evertson was also generous in his business practices, taking to heart how much the opportunity given to him by Gilmores meant to him and the doors that it had opened to him. It is for this reason that Evertson always looked to spread the opportunities he could to those around him.

"Bruce used his opportunity given to him by Mr. Gilmore to create even more opportunities to become managing partners with him....[We] started to build companies with Bruce that continued to operate and expand opportunities to others for generations to come. He supported many others to follow their dreams of running their businesses by providing seed money or providing them some assistance to get going," Southard said.

He was a father.

Evertson's daughter Julie was born in 1969 to Evertson and his first wife, Jeannie Cannon. Eleven months later, Evertson's son Eddie came along, leaving Evertson with two children to raise at the age of 20 years old.

Though while his kids were growing up Evertson was still in the process of building his empire, Evertson stayed active in his children's lives, making sure that he was there for special events and taking them on fishing and hunting trips.

"He loved both Ed and Julie very much and took particular joy in his four beautiful grandchildren. Many times he told me wherever I was in the world over the phone how proud he was of them, and that he was traveling to be to one of their events and to see them in person or his favorite thing was taken one of them out to steak dinner at Dude's after they got straight A's. They could always count on old pop to be there for them," Southard said.

Evertson also strengthened his bond with Eddie through their time going on hunting trips, becoming more than just hunting buddies in the process but rather best friends.

"As big as he was, and as much as he had going on in the world, he always called me three or five times a day." Eddie said. "I shot my first goose with him when I was six years old. From then on, we were hunting buddies. I'm just going to miss looking down there. I was on the left. He was on the right. He was my hunting buddy. Like Mike said, to start from nothing and build the empire that he did was truly amazing. He was a really good man."

Eddie also pointed out that Evertson's perseverance did not simply pertain to his business transactions and his company but also permeated through his interactions with his children.

"Me and my dad butted heads on many occasions, because we were both so damn hard headed. Usually, he was just trying to guide me in the right direction. I just didn't realize it then. I made a lot of mistakes in my life, and he could have given up on me many times and he never gave up on me. He was just always trying to guide me down the right path as patient as he was, it's not until now I realize how patient he was with me," Eddie said.

He was a practical joker.

Vince Heeg, owner of Vince's Lounge which used to sit in downtown Kimball, shared a story of a young Bruce Evertson that showed Evertson's sense of humor.

"Bruce was probably 21 or 22. My first bar was an old, old building and it didn't have refrigerated air. It had a swamp cooler. One day, it was a hot, hot summer day, and Bruce and his dad came in to have cheeseburgers at lunch. While they were in there, they got to saying to everybody, 'Boy, it's really hot in here, Vince.' There was about 20 or 30 other customers in there and pretty soon he had said this all enough that he got the other people thinking, 'Man, it's hot in here, Vince.' So they got on my case," Heeg said.

After seeing Bruce and his father start sweating, Heeg spent hours working on the old swamp cooler on the roof of the building, and after finally getting everything fixed, Heeg returned inside the bar to find the patrons snickering and laughing at him.

"The customers were kind of laughing and joking and snickering. Finally, the guy sitting next to Bruce told me that the reason they were sweating was because they took ice cubes and put it in their hat bands. They all thought that was funny. But I didn't at the time," Heeg said.

He was an avid sports fan

It was no secret in the Evertson household or throughout the community that Evertson was a Nebraska Cornhuskers fanatic. This showed in Evertson stopping whatever he was doing to watch the Husker game if it was on, and his many trips and donations to the University of Nebraska athletics along with serving as a guest coach in a game against Oklahoma a few years ago, according to Tom Osborne, former head coach of the Cornhuskers.

"Jeff Jamrog and I drove out together this morning from the football staff and had a little bit of time to reflect on Bruce. And probably are greatest involvement with Bruce has been through Nebraska athletics. Jeff reminded me that Bruce had been a guest coach about three years ago when we played Oklahoma, and that day we won 10-3, and of course, Bruce took full credit for the victory," Osborne said.

Evertson and his wife Darla were also given the Lyell Bremser Award in 2011 by the athletics program for their many contributions and assistance to the program.

"The reason we did that was that whenever we needed an airplane, we'd call on Bruce. So for the last six or seven years no one has had more impact on recruiting in Nebraska athletics as Bruce Evertson. He donated his airplane endlessly, and I'm sure, at times, at inconvenience to him. Any time a coach needed to get from one place to another, that airplane was available. So we can't thank him and his family enough," Osborne said.

Osborne also pointed out that even though Evertson had given so much to the program, he never once asked for anything in return.

"The interesting thing about Bruce is that often times when people are major contributors, they also are very demanding. Bruce never asked for anything. He's one of those guys that would give you whatever you needed and he wouldn't ask for a ticket. He wouldn't ask for a sideline pass. He wouldn't ask for anything. And there really aren't many people like that," Obsorne said.

For all of his work with the athletic program and his years of friendship, Osborne and the Nebraska athletics program will dearly miss Evertson for many years to come.

"He was a great guy. Somebody that all of us at Nebraska athletics are going to be very grateful to for many years to come. So on behalf of athletics and Jeff and others, I want to thank all of you for all that Bruce contributed," Osborne said.

He was a man of conviction.

Grant Gregory of Connecticut, who first met Bruce at an NRA convention in Phoenix, spoke of the impressive quality of Evertson to not talk about superficial things such as financial gains and physical possessions but rather his values and the things he believed in.

"What impressed me about Bruce was he didn't talk about things or physical things or assets or accomplishments he had. He talked about principles. He talked about values," Gregory said. "He talked about ethics, and when you talk about ethics, I knew there was something special going on. Tommy Millner and I talked about that. We sensed it in the first 30 minutes. We weren't sure what it was, but there was a lot there."

Gregory states that what drew him to Bruce and what made Bruce such a great man and friend was the fact that Evertson had a great moral compass and stood by his convictions in any scenario.

"He knew where North was, and he didn't get off of it. He knew where his values were. In the business world, there's a standard business plan and it has components: finance, human resources, marketing, sales, production and quality control. It's called the rules of gravity. Bruce had it all. Very few people have the whole package in one guy, and Bruce could revert back and forth. He had all of those characteristics and all of those strengths. He was remarkable. I saw Bruce as a force of nature. He also rode leaning forward in the saddle. He was positive. He was a builder. He knew who he was," Gregory said.

He was a husband.

Evertson married Darla Hasse in 1989 with the couple recently celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

In listening to the way that his friends and family described his affection and love for his wife, it is clear that this was perhaps the most important aspect of his life and one held perhaps most closely to his heart.

"I felt compelled to travel from Houston to Lisco, to Nebraska after New Year's, and I'm glad I did. While I was there, which would be the last time I'd see Bruce alive. Bruce was telling me about a time when he and Dar were married 25 years ago, and we were talking about all the goings on during the wedding. Dar left the room for a few minutes and Bruce looked me in the eye and pointed his finger at me like he was known to do and he said, 'That's the best woman in the world.' And he said it again, 'That is the best woman in the world," Southard said.

The memorial service came to a close as Tom Millner, President and CEO of Cabela's, gave one last parting to a business man, a father, a practical joker, an avid sports fan, an ethical man, and a husband.

"That was Bruce: fun, generous, competitive as all get out, clever, successful, and every way a remarkable person," Millner said. "Bruce loved Alaska, and I found an amazing Alaskan Inuit proverb, and I'll close with this. It goes like this: say not in grief he is no more. But live in thankfulness that he was."

 

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