OCEAN PARK BLVD — Community members are invited to say goodbye Saturday to longtime Santa Monican Colby Evett, a business owner and model airplane pioneer who died this month.
Evett died in his home Feb. 16 of complications from pneumonia that he contracted after a successful surgery to repair a recently-broken hip.
“He was an independent person all his life,” said Yvonne Evett, his wife. “I wasn’t ready, but he was.”
He passed just a month and a half after his model shop, a Santa Monica institution, celebrated its 65th anniversary in town on Jan. 5.
Already frail and coping with a lung disease, Evett spent four hours with family and friends who had come to recognize both Evett, his accomplishments and the role that the store played in their childhoods.
“He rose to the occasion and enjoyed every minute of it,” Yvonne Evett said.
Evett was born March 9, 1920 in South Carolina. He moved to Santa Monica for the Golden State’s burgeoning aviation industry and landed a job at the Douglas Aircraft Company, where he worked for 13 years.
His first wife, Mary, opened Evett’s Model Shop in 1948 when Evett was still working at Douglas. After seven years as plant foreman, he left the secure and lucrative position to run the store full time.
“I spent a life playing with my hobbies,” Evett said in January.
Evett did more than play.
He was one of the early pioneers of radio-controlled airplanes, which he considered the wave of the future. Evett describes the technology in a video released last year on Vimeo called “Colby and his planes.” It took him five years to develop, he said, although he never sought a patent.
Evett also helped to establish a flyers club and mini air field in the San Fernando Valley.
While Evett was well known outside of Santa Monica, he also made a splash closer to home.
Dozens of people flocked to the store in January to celebrate its anniversary and position as the last model shop in Santa Monica. Evett’s Model Shop had existed in its spot on Ocean Park Boulevard since 1955, and many who towered above the seated Evett remember when they were too short to look over the shop’s glass countertops.
Evett was also honored by John Adams Middle School for years of helping children build their mousetrap cars, a project assigned to every eighth grader.
“There were different styles you could build,” said Lori Whitesell, a parent in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and neighbor of the Evetts. “He gave pointers on how to put the thing together. Every year, Yvonne and Colby would order tons of components for the kids.”
She remembers Evett as a quiet, solid neighbor who helped her son learn how to fly his remote-controlled helicopter. There were benefits to being his neighbor.
“Inevitably, the thing crashed a bajillion times in our home, and we could take it to the shop and have Colby repair it, or I could drop it off at the house,” Whitesell said.
Yvonne Evett has committed to keeping Evett’s Model Shop open as long as she can with the help of two employees.
“I will carry on,” she said. “The best thing I can do to honor his memory is to keep his store open.”
Those who wish to pay their respects may visit the Little Chapel of the Dawn at 1925 Arizona Ave. between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday. Funeral services will be held Saturday, March 2, at noon at the same location.