NN shipbuilder hopes North Yard garden inspires others to slow down and enjoy life

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — It’s a jungle of concrete and metal, but for Charles Evans, his shop in the North Yard, in the middle of the chaos, is like a second home.

“I’m the last of the oldest. All the other ones I worked with and trained [with] have gone on and retired,” explained Evans.

With 42 years of experience under his belt at Newport News Shipbuilding, first on aircraft carriers and now handing out materials, he can practically do his job blindfolded.

“My wife, sometimes she’ll say ‘Where ya going?’ I’ll say ‘I got to go to work.’ Well, it’s early, no I’m gone,” said Evans.

He works with a pep in his step, but you may notice he perks up even more on his lunch break when he gets to go water his garden.

That’s his chance to leave the bolts and screws behind and step into his orange bucket oasis.

Evans’ green thumb stems from growing up on a farm in North Carolina with his father.

“When he would go to the garden, I would follow him and watch him. I was really too young to do anything, but I’d try to help as much as I could,” Evans said.

Plus, he doesn’t keep the harvest to himself.

“I like cucumbers with vinegar salt and a little sugar in them,” smiled welder Douglas Rainey as he picked a cucumber.

Evans shares the veggies with anyone who wants them, planting seeds of wisdom along the way. 

“Out of all this steel and all that, it’s something different… Most people don’t know you can plant stuff in a bucket,” Rainey said with a chuckle.

This bed of blooms is more than fresh ingredients for Evans.

“If you’re stressed out you go and get your mind on doing this it’s like wow. that’s nice,” he said.

It’s an escape he created after back-to-back hardships, beginning with cancer in 2007.

“They rushed me to the emergency room because I was hurting in my stomach. Then they found out why I was hurting in my stomach and through a CT scan. They found the cancer in my pancreas,” said Evans.

Two years later, he had heart surgery, the whole time leaning on the word of God.

“Three of my brothers were pastors, preachers; now all three of them have passed. One got burnt up in a car. He passed away when I had open heart surgery and my first round of chemo,” said Evans.

Then, his heart was dragged through the dirt one more time.

“My mother-in-law, she passed in January, but it’ll be all right, it’ll be all right,” he said with tears in his eyes.

He credits God and gardening with his ability to stay strong and sane through all of it.

“It eased my mind because I get out there and get to doing things,” Evans explained.

Now, he’s 14 years in remission and hoping to pass his life lessons learned to others, one veggie at a time.

“The younger people need to kind of slow down and realize there’s more than just rushing all the time and that’s the way that garden has done me, to slow down and really just enjoy life,” said Evans.

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