Even if you didn't know Ann Evans, she would probably seem familiar. As a Montgomery County police spokeswoman for 14 years, she was often the person telling residents about crime in their community.
She was buried Monday, at age 40, two months after a heart transplant. That the hundreds of mourners at her viewing and funeral included numerous reporters, television producers and news photographers--honoring her life, not covering the story--says much about who she was and how she did her job.
Police and the media have a complicated and often contentious relationship. Police often seek publicity to get the public's help in solving crimes. But they also worry that talking too much to reporters or releasing too much information to solicit that help could jeopardize their investigations.
Reporters, wanting to know as much as possible as soon as possible, aren't shy about complaining when they think that police are keeping information from the public.
As someone caught in the middle, Ann Evans walked the line with grace.
When she answered a question with "I don't know," she always immediately added, "But I'll find out and call you back." And she always did.
That's not to say she didn't occasionally duck a question. But if she answered with, "I really can't tell you," reporters believed her.
With the media operating around the clock and with crime the most-covered local story, police spokesmen are called at all hours with questions: What about that report of a shooting that just came over the police scanner? Can the chief do an interview for the morning show? Is it true what the wire services are reporting?
Evans returned calls to her pager--at midnight, during dinner, on her days off--with a cheery "Hi, it's Ann, what's up?" Last winter, shortly before she entered the hospital to begin the six-month wait for a healthy heart, she called a television reporter from home to see how she could help line up an interview for a story.
She never lost her sometimes dark but wonderful sense of humor, the kind that helps police officers and police reporters stomach a daily diet of bad news.
When she returned to work after surgery for repair of a heart valve two years ago, she looked slimmer. She laughed off compliments with something like, "Nothing like a little open-heart-surgery diet to shed a few pounds."
Few doubted that she would be back. Sure, she'd undergone a major organ transplant. But she was young. She had so much hustle. And in the most grim situations--a murder scene, a bad car accident--she was always so calm, almost laid back, in control.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly why Ann Evans garnered so much respect and genuine fondness among so many in the media.
Maybe she shared the belief in the public's right to know. Maybe she merely had a kind heart toward frantic reporters. Or maybe she just took pride in being a pro. It was probably some combination of all three.
Whatever it was, it made her one of the best, and she will be greatly missed.