Steve Evans thought he was coming down with a common bug. He developed a light, wet cough, and an upset stomach. He felt increasingly tired. After a couple of days, the 51-year-old Castle Rock man …
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The Dads of Castle Rock organization that Steve Evans served on has set up a fundraiser to help Elly Evans pay for medical bills and funeral costs. To help, go to docrco.org for more information, or visit the group’s Facebook page, Dads of Castle Rock Community Outreach.
Elly is bracing for medical bills and funeral costs while also paying for her Westminster apartment, where she is living with a roommate. She’s grateful to a family friend who set up a meal train to help her with food, to her boyfriend who checks on her regularly, to her uncle and aunt for helping as they can, and to the group Dads of Castle Rock, for starting the fundraiser for her.
Steve Evans thought he was coming down with a common bug. He developed a light, wet cough, and an upset stomach. He felt increasingly tired.
After a couple of days, the 51-year-old Castle Rock man began feeling better, but then started having difficulty breathing. Getting out of bed and walking downstairs left him winded.
He likened the feeling to his large dog laying on his chest, he told his 20-year-old daughter, Elly Evans. Having previously undergone a kidney transplant, Steve focused on keeping hydrated.
Still, his illness did not seem serious. On March 27, Steve called his kidney doctor as a precaution, who recommended he go to the hospital and get examined. To his surprise, staff at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital insisted on admitting him that day.
“He called me to tell me that they were going to sedate him and put him on a ventilator, and he sounded really scared,” Elly said, adding she could tell her father was trying not to show his fear, for her sake. “He told me that he loved me and that it would be OK.”
That was the last time Elly and her father spoke.
On April 6, after nearly two weeks of battling what testing later confirmed to be COVID-19, Steve Evans died. He had turned 52 six days earlier.
“He was my best friend. He was my hero,” said Elly, who at 7 lost her mother in an ATV accident. She and her dad had been inseparable since. “He was my everything.”
Making an impact
Steve also left an imprint on the Castle Rock community.
He ran a tax reduction company for more than 15 years before opening Astro Tap House in the town’s The Meadows neighborhood in early 2018. He hoped the self-pour tap house would be a unique addition to town.
Kodi Nottingham met Steve through the Facebook group-turned-nonprofit, Dads of Castle Rock, or DoCR, an organization of dads that started last June.
At first a place to meet on social media, the DoCR quickly became a brotherhood of fathers who sought ways to serve the community, Nottingham said.
Steve served on the executive team. He opened his tap house to the DoCR, which met there every Thursday night. Nottingham often brought his 3-year-old daughter to the gatherings. Steve had a glass of pineapple juice waiting for her every time.
He also brought in non-alcoholic beer for members who struggled with addiction. He made an effort to welcome and get to know every person who came into the tap house. He helped spearhead and support the group’s fundraisers, like a bake sale and pancake feed.
“You could go to any corner of Castle Rock and you could find somebody who has something great to say about Steve Evans,” Nottingham said. “That was somebody that was very visible in our community, that had an impact all over the place.”
For roughly two years Steve worked to get the bar up and running. In high school and into college, Elly worked as host, server, cook, janitor and helped her dad manage. Sales were up and the business was profitable, but it could be stressful on them both, Elly said.
They were in the process of selling the business when Gov. Jared Polis ordered all restaurants and bars to close to in-house service to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Steve announced March 16 that Astro Tap House would close for good as a result.
Steve’s last visit with family was March 27, when his brother dropped him off at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital, Elly said. Because the virus is highly contagious, visitations are restricted at Castle Rock Adventist and all Centura Health hospitals.
Complications quickly arose. That night Steve survived two cardiac arrests, Elly said. Then his kidney began to fail.
On March 30, Steve’s birthday, Elly made her father a birthday card and dropped it off at the hospital, along with cupcakes for staff. Later that day he was transferred to Parker Adventist Hospital for more advanced dialysis treatment.
Doctors kept Steve heavily sedated from the day he was admitted in Castle Rock and throughout his stay at Parker, Elly said.
Being unable to visit, to hold his hand and comfort him in person, was terrible, Elly said.
She called the hospital every morning and posted updates on Facebook for friends and family.
At night, nurses held the phone to his ear so that Elly could remind him how much she loved him. She told him they would get through his illness together, as they had through everything.
She doesn’t know if her father heard her, but she hopes her words helped him in his last days.
After he died, hospital staff set up a Zoom call so Elly could see Steve one last time. A chaplain came in and prayed for him. Staff assured her Steve was not alone when he died.
A spokesman for Centura Health confirmed Steve tested positive for the novel coronavirus and urged the community to continue following public health guidelines.
“We are deeply saddened by this outcome,” the statement said, “and our hearts remain with the patient’s family and friends.”
'I want everybody to stay safe’
Elly last saw her father more than three weeks ago.
She was sick with symptoms common of COVID-19, she said. She was never tested but isolated herself in her apartment bedroom as her roommate cleaned their home. Steve stopped by shortly before his hospitalization to drop off a laptop so Elly could work remotely. He waved to her from outside the front door as she stood by her bedroom.
Elly isn’t sure what life will look like without her dad.
They were best friends. They talked every day. He taught Elly not to judge, that everyone is not cut from the same cloth and that everyone has different life experiences. And he loved meeting and talking to people about their lives.
“He would give you the shirt off his back if it was his last shirt and you needed one,” she said.
She is scheduled to close on her father’s Castle Rock home, which he had put up for sale, in six weeks. The father-daughter team planned to move into an apartment together for a time, as he started a new chapter and she focused on her graphic design college studies.
Instead, she is planning her father’s funeral, which will likely involve holding a service remotely by Zoom because of Colorado’s stay-at-home order, now in place through April 26.
“I think the worst part of all this is I can’t even give my dad the funeral he deserves,” she said.
She plans to bury him next to her mother. Later this summer, or when life returns to normal, she hopes to hold a celebration of life, “where we can give him that gathering that he deserves.”
Nottingham has promised the DoCR will memorialize Steve and take care of Elly. The group also hopes to hold an event this summer for their friend, who was taken too soon, he said.
“Yes, Steve had some preexisting conditions,” Nottingham said, “but I don’t believe he would have been taken from us if it weren’t for what’s going on in the world right now.”
Elly hopes the community will remember her father for the amazing man he was.
And she wants residents to take the virus seriously.
“I want everybody to stay safe with this virus until it goes away,” she said. “Nobody should have to go through what I’m going through right now.”
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