Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Loses RC Pioneer and Local Businessman
By Jason Islas
February 27, 2013 -- Colby Evett, owner of Evett's Model Shop in Santa Monica and the inventor of the multi-toned transmitter and receiver, died Saturday February 16. He was 92.
Former Lookout columnist Vince Basehart once referred to Evett as “the Elvis of the RC hobby” because his multi-toned transmitter, which revolutionized remote control technology, afforded him celebrity status in the RC hobbyists' world. (“Model Store,” November 2007)
But his reputation for technical expertise meant that he would get attention anyway.
“One day, someone brought in a magazine all the way from England,” she recalled. “And there's a picture of Colby holding up a battery.” He didn't remember when the picture had been taken.
“He had on the same shirt that day that he had on in the picture,” she said.
Evett was born in South Carolina to Dora May Leopard and Samuel Edward Evett on March 9, 1920.
When he made his way out west, he landed a job with McDonnell Douglas Aircraft, at the time, one of the country's leading manufacturer of airplanes.
Then, the war broke out and Evett's expertise in building planes meant that he wouldn't be drafted for combat. Instead, he became a foreman on Douglas' assembly lines where he met his first wife, Mary.
Toward the end of the war, Evett did do a stint in the Navy
Once he returned, Evett decided he wanted to go to work for himself and use his expertise for something he loved, so he opened his model shop in January 1948.
“His shop is so unique,” said Lori Whitesell, his neighbor of 18 years. She recalled taking her children into the Evett's shop.
“Since they've been little kids, we've been going to the shop,” she said. “The service he offered to the community was great.”
Kids and adults alike can find virtually everything at Evett's. There are model tanks, trains and cars. There are even models of the lunar landing module.
Generations of students from neighboring John Adams Middle School have popped into Evett's shop to ask for help on projects.
For many, “that was their first experience inside an old-fashioned hobby shop,” Whitesell said.
And Evett was certainly the man to ask for help with all things mechanical.
“He would get calls from all over the world from hobbyists that were looking for very specific parts and very specific expertise,” Whitesell said.
He was always willing to share his knowledge.
“He could tell them how to make the cars work and make them work better,” Yvonne said. “He was always willing to do anything with the kids.”
Luke Orrin, who worked with Evett at the shop over the last year, said, “My knowledge really expanded while Colby was here.
“There was never a question I had that he couldn't answer,” he said. “We're going to do everything we can to keep his legacy alive.”
Gene Duarte, a 15-year customer of the shop who recently became an employee, echoed Orrin's sentiments.
“Any questions I had about RC (remote control) planes,” he said, “I could ask Colby and he would tell me.
“Colby and Yvonne are definitely two of the best bosses anyone could ever work for,” he said.
Evett's first wife, Mary, died in 1996, succumbing to Alzheimer's. He married Yvonne about four years later and the two ran the shop together for 13 years.
“We put a lot of living into 13 years,” said Yvonne, who was 66 when she met the then 80-year-old Colby.
Though he maintained his enthusiasm for his work and his family, Evett's health began to deteriorate.
“One day, he said, 'This is a miserable existence. When it's time, let me go.'” Yvonne recalled Evett saying.
When Evett broke his hip, the doctors told him he would likely not survive the surgery.
“He told me to go away so he could talk to my daughter,” Yvonne recalled. “He told her, 'I may not make it through this surgery, but tell your mom I love her.”
Evett survived the surgery but eventually succumbed to lingering pulmonary problems.
He is survived by his wife Yvonne, son Robert Alan Evett, daughter Cathy Jean Evett, grandchildren Cheryl Palacio, Timothy Gomez, Matthew Riley, Trevor Riley, Jeremy Riley and seven great-grandchildren.
There will be a visitation on Friday, March 1 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral Services will be on Saturday, March 2 at noon in The Little Chapel of the Dawn.
For more information, call Gates, Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy at (310) 395-9988.
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