Norman Evers Brookings

May 30, 1937 - Dec. 31, 2020

Norman Paul Evers, 83 years young,  passed away peacefully at home from natural causes with his family by his side on Dec. 31, 2020. A private Memorial Service will be held at a later date after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Rude’s Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.
Norm was born May 30, 1937, to Gustav and Elsie (Giese) Evers near Lake Benton MN. He was baptized and confirmed in Verdi, Minnesota in the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church. He grew up on his parents Brown Swiss dairy and crop farm near Lake Benton. He attended Verdi Country School and graduated from Lake Benton High School in 1955. He then enrolled at South Dakota State College and graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army. After military service he returned to South Dakota and was employed at SDSU in the Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape & Parks Department for the next 42 years.  Initially, he was hired as an Assistant in Horticulture, working with fruit and woody ornamental research projects and providing support for teaching and extension. His passion for growing, researching, and designing with plants evolved into him becoming an Instructor at SDSU in 1982. He taught students his love for all things that grew in the soil.   Many former students fondly remember his classes and Woody Plants Identification walks around the SDSU Campus and Brookings.
Norm married Dianna Hacker in 1966 in Brookings SD. They had two children, Heather and Colin, who were blessed with his love of nature and the outdoors from the time they were old enough to play in the dirt. In addition to working at SDSU full time, in 1971 he established his dream business, Norm’s Greenhouse & Nursery near Aurora SD.  His business began small, growing plants and nursery stock for local customers. He designed and built his own greenhouses on his acreage, always with the end goal of growing unique and quality plants that were not readily available in this region. He loved growing plants and continued planting a large vegetable garden and new varieties of trees and shrubs in his yard well into his retirement. He had an extensive plant collection, and never met a plant he could not grow. He enjoyed talking to customers and employees about plants and advocating the “right plant in the right place”.  He usually had a fine cigar nearby in case the conversations turned to the weather or politics.
Norm also served as Director of McCrory Gardens from 1984 to 2004. During his time as Director, the gardens’ scope and size changed dramatically to eventually encompass 20 acres of formal display gardens and the future South Dakota State Arboretum.  Norm personally designed many new gardens within the framework of the original research plantings that were in place, and worked diligently with many memorable students, faculty, and enthusiastic supporters to develop McCrory Gardens into a world-class Botanical Garden and outdoor classroom for SDSU, the Brookings community and beyond. When financing for the Gardens became a challenge in the 80’s, he started the Annual Garden Party to launch sponsorships for special gardens and show thanks to those that supported the Gardens development.  In 1988, the South Dakota State Arboretum was dedicated after many years of planning and planting under Norm’s creative vision. His goal was to showcase as many different species of woody and evergreen tree varieties that would grow in this region. Research of new plant varieties was also conducted at McCrory Gardens and the South Dakota State Arboretum while Norm was Director. Many exciting new plants were introduced into the Green Industry that were evaluated over the years for hardiness and were selected at McCrory Gardens and the South Dakota State Arboretum.  Many are still used in landscapes across the United States today.
Norm was a natural born teacher. He enjoyed the decades he taught and advised students at SDSU, lighting the spark of curiosity for his students by sharing his knowledge of plants and appreciation of nature.  He also loved to educate anyone who would listen to his contributions on television with “Garden Line,” listen to “The Great Afternoon Smorgasbord” on Brookings Radio & “Dakota Midday” with South Dakota Public Broadcasting, or read “Garden Q and A” in the Argus Leader. He was granted Instructor Emeritus status by the SD Board of Regents at his retirement from SDSU in 2004.
After he retired from SDSU, he focused on his bucket list. He visited National Parks, Wildlife Preserves, Rain Forests, and Botanical Gardens. While he did not roam far from home often, when he did, he took the road less travelled. Norman was a deeply spiritual person who was curious and never lost his sense of wonder about the small gifts from Mother Nature and our planet. He had a soft spot for animals and birds, and a deep love for all growing things, and was an avid photographer his whole life. Pets knew to hang out at his feet for stray treats. He disliked the interstate highways but loved Sunday drives and the scenic route. He did not like riding bicycles, dancing, or computers. He loved SDSU Ice Cream, Nick’s Hamburgers, Coca-Cola Classic and all things salty, sweet or chocolate. He had a charming smile and a sense of humor with a little mischief in it. He was a voracious reader of too many genres to count, but he especially loved historical fiction, history, travel and nature writing. In a world marked by so many people seeking to be noticed, Norm stood out by not seeking notoriety. He was talented at what he did and imparted his skills and knowledge freely to all who asked. He was a visionary ahead of his time, who painted with longevity in outdoor landscapes with trees and plants. He had a discerning eye for textures and colors that he brought to every garden in which he was involved, no matter how small or large.  He will be missed deeply by his family and friends and those whose lives he touched.
He was preceded in death by his parents Gustav and Elsie Evers, his brothers Carl and Ewald, and his sister Alice, nephews Donald, Brian, and Gus Evers. Norm is survived by his wife Dianna, his daughter Heather Cwach(Jack) Stilwell KS, and son Colin (Heidi) Evers Brookings SD,  grandchildren Marissa, Jackson, and Rachel Cwach, Connor, Logan and Rylan Evers, his younger brother Don (Diane) Evers of Lake Benton, MN, sister in law Jan(Magee) Evers of Jackson, MS, cousin Mildred (Giese) Dauman of Bloomington MN, and several nieces and nephews.
Memorial donations may be made in Norm’s name to a Botanical Garden or an Arboretum that has inspired you, or to the National Arbor Day Society.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks”  – John Muir
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