MILTON — Mourners came together to pay their last respects to late State Senator Greg Evers at his funeral service Tuesday at the First Baptist Church of Milton.

“Greg was so wonderful and so helpful that even though I didn’t live in his district I said, ‘Greg, let me adopt you as my representative,’ ” said Fort Walton Beach City Councilwoman Diane Keller, who attended the service. “He had a really caring personality. You could approach him with an issue and he took it to heart.”

Keller was one of among hundreds of people who packed the church to pay a final Farewell to Evers, who was killed in a vehicle accident Aug. 21. 

A farmer who called everyone — including men — “sugar,” Evers was also a staunch Republican who advocated for the Second Amendment, small government and criminal justice reform.  He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2001-2010 and in the state Senate from 2010-2016.  He even made run for Congress, but lost to 1st District Congressman Matt Gaetz last year.

“Greg Evers and I had been friends for 16 years. We debated bills together, fought for Northwest Florida’s priorities together, and he was someone who, even after we had run for the same position, would give me council, advice and friendship,” Gaetz said after the funeral.  “Gosh, it wasn’t three weeks ago that we were on the phone praying together about something. He will be deeply missed as one of the elder statesmen for our community and one of the great leaders in Northwest Florida’s history.”

A fifth-generation Floridian, Evers was born to high school sweethearts John Robert Evers and Rhanalda Jequita Holley Evers on June 16, 1955. Nicknamed “Bull” by his childhood friends, Evers grew up on his family’s farm in Munson, where he learned how to grow cotton, peanuts, soybeans and wheat.

“Greg entered public office as a farmer and exited as a farmer; he never became a politician,” said Gerald Edmondson, a farmer and friend of Evers who spoke at Tuesday's funeral and took a moment to praise how he fertilized his strawberries at Akers of Strawberries in Baker. 

Evers didn’t begin growing strawberries until 1991 when he took over the Baker Farm Center and began growing them out of the shed until it grew into what is now the popular pick-your-own strawberry farm on Melton Road, where the politically minded agrarian would use his highly cultivated Southern charm to woo families as they picked his strawberries.

“He enjoyed people eating his strawberries and his 'almost famous' strawberry shortcake,” Edmondson said.

State Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala was one of many local and state officials at the service.

"Greg Evers was the real deal," he said. "What you see is what you get. Full of compassion. Full of Love. Also very direct, and these relationships affect the whole state, really."

Evers is survived by his parents, John and Jequita Evers; wife, Lori Weems Evers; children, Stephanie (Anthony) Barlow, Jennifer (Kendal) Wallace, and Robert (Marley) Evers; grandchildren, Alli, Rex, and Reece; brother, Eric (Michelle) Evers; sister, Kay (Tom) Dawson; nephews, Kyle (Lindi) and Christopher; niece, Kaylee; and great-nephew, Grayson.

Evers' family asks that in lieu of flowers, people can make donations to the Greg Evers Florida’s Heroes Memorial Fund at www.eversmemorialfund.com.  The fund is used to provide scholarships to the children of Florida's law enforcement and fire rescue personnel who have fallen in the line of duty. 

A private graveside service was held for Evers at the Beaver Creek Baptist Church in Baker after the funeral.