Ada residents are saying good-bye to local icon and innovator Ralph “Fireball” Evans.
Evans ran a successful real estate business in the area for many years. Most Ada residents knew him as an innovator in the athletic arena.
“He was a runner’s runner and a great weight lifter,” said Pontotoc County District Judge Tom Landrith. “He was probably 40 years ahead of his time when it came to weight lifting and running.”
Evans began Ada High School’s weight lifting program and Ada’s Fireball Classic was named after him.
Duard Thomas, a friend of Evans’, said Evans and other Ada High School athletes began lifting weights in the back of Ada Candy Company, owned by his father. After co-writing a weight lifting book with Elvan George, former Ada High School and East Central University football coach, Evans helped begin Ada High School’s official weight-lifting program in the 50s.
The Fireball Classic began in 1968 when Evans and some friends ran a half-marathon July 4.
“Sometime in the mid-70s is when they changed it to the 5 kilometer and 10 kilometer runs and started calling it the Fireball Classic,” Thomas said.
Evans stayed active late into his life.
“He stayed active probably into his late 60s and 70s,” Landrith said.
Evans’ friends knew him as a jokester.
“He was a fun-loving character,” Thomas said.
Landrith said he loved to play practical jokes.
“He once put chocolate Ex-lax into a half-gallon of chocolate ice cream and bet Coach (Dorsey) Reirdon he couldn’t eat that whole carton of ice cream,” Landrith said.
It wasn’t the only time Reirdon fell victim to Evans’ jokes. Evans once replaced Chiclets in a box with Feenamint laxative gum and Reirden, who was an assistant football coach at Ada at the time, got his hands on the gum.
“The urge hit him at half-time of a football game and he didn’t make it back up to the press box until after the game,” Thomas said.
Thomas said Evans was infamous for putting laxatives in food.
“You never ate anything that Fireball brought you,” he said.
Evans’ friends knew he loved Ada High School. To many, however, the nickname “Fireball” was a mystery.
“Even people that have known him longer than me back into the early 50s really don’t know how he got his nickname,” Thomas said.
One idea is that Evans got the nickname from a piece of candy at Ada Candy Company called “The Fireball.”
“One guy thinks that because Fireball always had one of those in his mouth when he was younger, that’s where the name came from.”
Evans died Sunday, July 17 at his home. Services are 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Church.