“Better days are comin’,” Everett Donald Hunter would often say. That day came for him on Jan. 10, 2019. At home on Saint Patrick’s Road, surrounded by the love of his earthly family near and far, Everett made the journey to join his beloved deceased mother, Laura Vasey Hunter, father, Donald James Hunter, brother James and sister Loretta (Donald) Soland.
Everett entered this world at home on the family farm on Bull Valley Road in McHenry on Feb. 15, 1927, the third of six children. He is survived by Vera Wingate of Crystal Lake, Marie (David) Payne of Hartland, and Robert Hunter of Sterling. “Evie” had fond memories of attending Clemens Country School, taught by his adored teacher, Eileen Fitzgerald. His Uncle Joe encouraged him to go to college, but Everett wanted to teach himself, and teach himself, he did.
Everett was the epitome of a hard-working, generous, resourceful and innovative farmer whose brilliant mind, always restless, led him to master many trades and skills.
His early years were spent working the dairy farm with his father, Donald. As a teenager he taught himself to weld, and after moving to Hartland in 1948, Everett established Hunter’s Welding & Machine Shop – a country blacksmith shop on the farm, repairing and retro-fitting whatever broken machines the farmers brought by. Many winter months were spent heating plowshares to an orange glow in the blast forge he built, then pounding out the worn metal on large trip hammers that made one heck of a noise!
In his “free time” (between milking cows after dinner and before breakfast), Everett taught himself to roller skate, and then taught others to roller-waltz and trick skate as the “roller rink cop” of the Woodstock Roller Rink at the age of 21.
On Oct. 28, 1950, Everett married Anna Herdrich, his pretty farm girl neighbor – who became the love of his life, best friend, and life partner for the next 68 years. Together they raised five children: Tony (Janet) Hunter of Wauwatosa, Wis.; Pat Hunter of Bement; Judy (Glenn) Craver of Libertyville; Dan Hunter of Boulder, Colo.; and Evelyn Hunter of Hartland. He had 10 grandchildren: Todd (Sarah) Hunter, Ryan (Laura) Hunter, Joyful Hunter, Charity (Darrin) Rogers, Jeremy (Brittany) Hunter, Lisa (Bret) Armstrong, Laura Craver, Ariel, Jack and Ellie Granat; and 11 great-grandchildren: Norah and Hazel Hunter; Charlotte Hunter; Reece, Rhylie and McKenna Erdman; Elise, Addie and Via Rogers; Gabe Hunter and Keira Armstrong.
Everett went on to create a variety of metal fabrication businesses, pulling together several neighbors to cut, bend and weld tons of steel to fabricate various products, some of which still sit in his old workshop. Always the inventor, he invented one of the first mechanical barn cleaners, which became the template for a mass-produced version. In 1960, he invented one of the first anti-syphoning stock tank floats, commissioned by the Board of Health – a design that would eventually be used by farmers worldwide. Everett taught himself to repair engines, and in his 40s had a successful small-engine repair business. His eldest sons remember him building go-carts and hot-rod tractors from whatever spare parts were laying around and making dune buggies by cutting up old cars. Everett found time to invent things and then to play, and his children enjoyed that time spent with him. He hosted hot, dusty go-cart races at the farm on Sundays – an event enthusiastically attended by the local policemen – many men called Everett their friend.
In 1972, Everett started a tire repair business with his good friend, Al Fischer, a business that grew to two trucks and three counties. They would go to farms and into the fields to repair tractor tires or just install new tires on huge tractor tire rims – hard work, ask anyone!
When asked by Bohn’s Ace Hardware to sharpen their saws, Everett taught himself to sharpen anything with a blade and, with his wife, Ann, established a multi-county “saw route” of customers, always charging a fair price or “bartering” as he loved to do.
When most men are thinking of retiring, Everett mastered woodworking, computer design and sign-making. He and Ann created Hunter’s Custom Hand-Carved Signs, a woodworking business that drew customers nationwide seeking him out for a custom hand-carved sign – a business that he shared with his youngest daughter and namesake until his last days. Many of his signs still stand today.
Everett was a staple of the community – a man who local men leaned on to help them in hard times, 24/7. He served as a justice of the peace, he plowed snow for the township, he fixed bridges in the middle of winter, and at the age of 21 he cleared the woods to create the grounds for the future McHenry County Fair. He spent the next 50 years of his life supporting MCF, serving as board member, vice president of the fair board, superintendent of the tractor pull, and woodworking judge.
In his later years, Everett loved to share his knowledge and experience. He taught a small engine class at MCC, he judged woodworking at the McHenry County Fair, he led Hartland Piston Pushers 4-H Club, teaching future mechanics to build small engines, and taught children and adults alike how to turn a wooden bowl on the lathe. In his last years, Everett loved teaching basic carpentry and fence building to the volunteers at Mulberry Hill Farm Animal Sanctuary, his daughter Evie’s sanctuary, and he offered priceless, seasoned advice on how to care for her animals.
Everett loved visits from his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved animals of all kinds – especially his racehorse “Chief” and dog “Spooky”; he loved to drive through the mountains of Colorado, to snowmobile, to cross-country ski, to bike, to canoe, to woodwork, and he loved to fix things. Everett was forever coming up with a new and better way to do things – the wheels of his mind never stopped turning, day or night.
Everett’s shop was the local place for a Pepsi or Mountain Dew and popcorn in the summer, coffee or hot chocolate and mouse-chewn candy from his candy machine in the winter, free advice, and “shooting the breeze” for anyone who stopped by. In celebration of Everett’s wonderful life, we will be “shooting the breeze” in his shop on June 29 from noon to 3 p.m., when it’s warm enough to get the go-cart running and the strawberry ice-cream cranking. For anyone interested in helping us celebrate Everett, feel free to stop on by and share some memories of the “good ol’ days.”