He Loved to Cook When He Wasn't Fighting Fires

January 24, 2002

Robert Evans of Franklin Square showed his mother, Christina Serafin, a shocking videotape three or four years ago, she said. He sat her down in his Franklin Square home and insisted she watch the tape, which showed him skydiving - something she would "never have allowed him to do," if she had known, she said.

The two were always "very close," and had spent countless nights sitting across dinner tables, be it at Evans' favorite Albertson Italian restaurant, La Parma, or at home, with Evans cooking shrimp scampi or chicken cordon bleu.

The meals were always delicious, but slightly overcooked, Serafin said. But it was Evans' enthusiasm, not his culinary prowess, that had his mother coming back for seconds. "He loved to cook so much," she said. "But he would always leave things in the oven a little too long."

Evans, 36, a member of Battalion 6, Engine Co. 33 in Manhattan, is presumed dead in the terrorist attacks of Sept.11. His mother spoke to him briefly the night before, she said, and had planned to call him the next day, but wasn't able to.

Born in Mineola in 1965, Evans attended Public School 33 in Queens Village and graduated from H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square in 1983. He worked various jobs, including a service technician at Pitney Bowes, a business equipment manufacturer in Manhattan. Because he was dissatisfied with the work, his mother urged him to take the New York Fire Department test, she said. He joined the FDNY seven years ago. "I wanted him to take these tests because I saw that he was unhappy with what he was doing. He loved working with the fire department," she said.

Evans' older sister Jeanne called her brother her "partner in crime." She remembered family road trips to Florida, the two of them in the back seat asking "Are we there yet?" every 15 minutes. "We wouldn't even be in Staten Island, and we'd start asking," she said.

Voted "boxer of the night" by the Daily News in 1986, Evans boxed in the Golden Gloves and sparred with "The Flushing Flash," Kevin Kelly. Although she was supportive of her brother's pugilistic endeavors, his sister never attended one of his matches because he wouldn't let her. "He used to say I would beat up his opponents for hitting him," she said. "I was always very protective of him. If anyone ever laid a hand on my brother, I'd be right there, and vice versa."

The number 33 was a recurring theme in her brother's life, his sister said. He went to PS 33, served in Engine Co. 33, and the address of St. Catherine of Siena Church, where his memorial service was held, is 33 New Hyde Park Rd. "It was really eerie," she said. "I really don't know what it means."

She remembered her brother's dimply smile and "enveloping" personality. "He had the greatest smile in the world," she said.

His mother said she remembers her son for his compassion and genuineness. "He was always a very, very good person," she said. "He loved his family, and we loved him. I miss him very much."

-- Nick Iyer (Newsday)