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Some thoughts about a long time friend

June 11, 2016

My friend Evan Scharf died in February 2016 and he left instructions that he wanted me to officiate at his funeral. The remarks below were given by me on February 13 in Flagstaff AZ:

It is quite an honor to be asked to officiate at this service and quite humbling. Ever since Sue called me I have been thinking about why Evan might have suggested me as the minister. One of the first things that came to mind, of course, was that, technically, I am a minister and have been for over 40 years. But I should be quick to add that my credentials are from the Universal Life church and, if you don’t immediately recognize that name, I will confess that it was actually formed back in the 60s as a way to avoid income taxes. There was a theory that you could form a church and write off many of your personal expenses, including your home as a parsonage. Well, that theory did not stand up over the years but, as far as I know, my credentials are still good.

A much more substantive reason for Evan to ask me to perform this role is that we both seriously considered going to a seminary to become real ministers. Evan and I shared very similar views on theology and philosophy. I first considered the ministry when I was at the Air Force Academy and developed a very close relationship with the protestant chaplain. However, as a way to follow through on my plan, I began a more academic study of religion and, unfortunately, I discovered that I simply did not believe some of the Lutheran doctrine that I had learned in my youth. That caused me to begin a multiyear search for another religious home and I finally settled upon the Unitarian Church about 40 years ago and I have been a fairly regular member ever since.

Because Unitarians tend to be very liberal in their political views, none of my friends ever showed up at my Unitarian Church……except for Evan. His joining me there was one of many “connections” that endeared me to him over the years.
More broadly, I think Evan and I shared philosophical views. Certainly this was true of our political views. We were both strong defenders of liberty and frequently found ourselves aligned with the same candidates and attending the same political meetings. As just one example, when Sue called me to let me know that Evan was in hospice I was attending a conference sponsored by Hillsdale College, a very conservative college and the only college in the United States that refuses all forms of government aide. This would, of course, endear the school to both Evan and to me. We were both longtime supporters of the Goldwater Institute and Evan founded the Scharf Norton center for litigation, a center that I might point out, has produced the most recent appointee to the Arizona Supreme Court, Clint Bolick. Evan’s center has also won many court suits which protected the liberties of a variety of people and also achieved significant national recognition.

And, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Evan met Sue at one of these political events right here in Flagstaff. Arizona State Treasurer Clark Dierks and I and several freedom lovers had formed the Arizona Economic Forum back in the early eighties and our signature event was always a weekend meeting in June here in Flagstaff at Little America.
Evan was a loving and kind man and it is certainly fitting that we are celebrating his life on the day before Valentine’s Day.
Just a little more on our philosophical connection. Even though Evan had a very prestigious academic pedigree, including Harvard Business School, like me, he had considered studying philosophy instead. In my case I applied to Arizona State University to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy when I left active duty at Williams Air Force Base. However, ASU thought my undergraduate GPA was too low so I wound up pursuing a master’s degree in business, the same as Evan, a few years later. In the meantime, I was reading the same philosophers that Evan was reading; Ayn Rand, John Locke, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard, Friedrick Hayek, Frederick Bastiat, and many others. These authors were our heroes and provided the grist for many excellent conversations.

The wonderful thing about our friendship is that we learned from each other. One of the most significant concepts that I learned from Evan was the concept of self-ownership. The concept is too detailed for our discussion today but, suffice it to say, that it is a very fundamental concept to those who love liberty and I am thankful to Evan for introducing me to it. For my part, one of my earliest conversations with Evan had to do with the Goldwater Institute. Our director, Mike Sanera, had recently resigned and started a new organization that Evan was considering joining. As one of the founders of the Goldwater Institute, I had wrestled with the same decision and I believe I convinced Evan that he could be more effective working with the Goldwater Institute.…I am proud to say, that turned out to very true. Evan’s legacy will carry on there for many years.

But, enough of philosophy and politics and religion. Evan and I shared some less “heavy” interests too; such as a love of cowboy boots, especially those manufactured by Lucese. We, of course, shared an interest in guns (don’t all conservatives) and one of my most cherished possessions is a Smith & Wesson 38 caliber pistol that I purchased from Evan. The gun had some particular personal significance to Evan but I am embarrassed to confess that I cannot remember what it is. Maybe I will find it later in some notes.

In my planning for this event I must confess that I worried too much about little things. Sue seemed to be very confident in my abilities to officiate at this event because she had seen me in leadership roles at the Arizona Economic Forum and also at a libertarian dinner group that Evan regularly attended and that Chet Anderson and I founded. However, I told Sue that I was much more confident in those roles because I was determining the agenda. In trying to come up a meaningful service for Evan I was much less confident. What to wear……I decided that I should wear my Adam Smith tie and my Goldwater Institute lapel pin since these represent organizations and ideas that were meaningful to both of us. Also, as I stood in the bathroom yesterday looking in the mirror and trying to decide whether I should shave the beard that I usually have, the conventional conclusion came to mind, that is, it seemed more respectful to shave. However, as soon as I started shaving off the beard, I realized that I would no longer resemble “The Most Interesting Man in the World” You know….the one who rarely drinks beer but when he does he prefers Dos Eques. Evan and Sue and I had made a joke of this because there was a life size cardboard cutout of this most interesting man at their country club and we had taken a picture of me next to this life size figure one night when we were having dinner there together. However, as you can see, I realized the mistake too late.

Also, as I was preparing to come up to Flag I was wondering what hat I should wear….the National Rifle Association hat or the Ron Paul 2012. I decided that the freedom philosophy was more important than gun ownership (although both Evan and I would agree that the second amendment is in the constitution to defend the first amendment) so I decided on the Ron Paul 2012 hat. Both Evan and I would have loved to see Ron win in any of his presidential races (1988 as a Libertarian or 2008 or 2012 as a Republican). It would have also been wonderful if Ron’s son Rand Paul could have done better this year. But,….Evan and I both believed that, as Thomas Jefferson said, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” and I will be thinking of Evan as I fight on for those causes that we shared.

One of the few interests that Evan and I did not share was dogs. Mary and I are cat people. (Ironically, the name of our favorite cat was CATO, the same name as Evan’s favorite dog.) However, I am counting on some of you to cover these areas of Evan’s life that you shared. I should have mentioned earlier that, when Sue asked me to officiate at this gathering, I was pleased to hear that she preferred a very informal service. This is similar to the kind of service that I would prefer for myself. I hope that some of you will share stories about Evan because I realized many years ago that no one has the complete picture of another person, even if that someone is a spouse or a lifelong friend or a member of the family. We all have a slightly different relationship with Evan and it is wonderful to be able to share these experiences. It is only sad that such sharing is only done at the time of a death. It makes me realize that we should always take time to say things to people that are on our mind. A quote that comes to mind is that “things that go without saying so even better when they are said.”

That great philosopher Wil Rogers gave the following advice to a speaker “never pass up an opportunity to sit down and shut up” so I will do that and ask that some of you share your thoughts about Evan.

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