Arrangements for Donald Ray Avery, 85, of Whitharral, Texas who passed from this life at a Levelland, Texas hospital on Saturday, December 24, 2016 will be held at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, December 28, 2016, at Krestridge Funeral Home Chapel, Levelland, Tx. Visitation was held from 6:00-8:00 pm on Tuesday, December 27, 2016, at Krestridge Funeral Home. Burial was held at Whitharral Cemetery.
Don Avery was the fifth child born to R.E. ”Bob” Avery and Elsie Roach Avery, arriving on this earth one mile south and 1 1/4 miles west of Whitharral, Texas in a half dugout during a flood on April 18, 1931. Two more children were born after him. He learned young how to make a hand on the family farm, working before and after school each day. Don graduated from Whitharral schools in 1948 after eleven years of education, skipping the fifth grade. He participated in all sports at Whitharral, lettering in football, baseball, basketball, and track. Behind God, family and friends, sports was his great love. Always a loyal Panther, later in life Don was elected to the Whitharral School Board. After graduating high school, Don took a job in the oilfield as a roustabout near Levelland and moved to a hotel there at $7 per week rent. He worked twelve-hour days for $1 an hour. In 1949, he moved to Odessa to be the instrument man for the Reed Roller Bit Company, repairing instruments used on oil well drilling rigs.
On October 4, 1950 at age 19 years, Don joined the U.S. Air Force and went through boot camp at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas. He went to airplane engine mechanic school there and was then transferred to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, assigned to the 43rd Bomb Squadron as a crew member on a B-50 bomber in July, 1951. From this base, Avery was sent on temporary duty to seventeen countries. He was in London when Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1952.
Once Avery’s squadron took off during a storm on a mission from Thornbrough AFB, Cold Bay, Alaska to drop a live atomic bomb in the ocean for a test. They lost two engines on take-off, so the commander circled back and set the plane down, locking the brakes. When it stopped, the plane was less than ten yards from the ocean cliff. Another close call came when Don was the crew chief and his plane landed in the Azores to refuel during a flight from England. They were to fly out from the airfield in a group of about twelve B-50 bombers, but his plane burst into flames on the second engine upon take-off. With oil spraying on the machine gunner window, it was impossible to see whether the fire extinguisher had done its job. Avery kicked out the top turret and stuck his head out to visually see if the flames were extinguished. He flew many missions from Arizona and then transferred to Spokane, Washington to work on B-36 bombers. Avery was honorably discharged from there in 1954.
Don immediately enrolled in Texas Technological College in Lubbock in September, 1954 receiving $110 a month on the GI Bill. He majored in Agriculture Economics. At that time there were 3,400 students enrolled at Texas Tech and half were veterans. Don joined the Tech Veterans Club and became the Commander his sophomore year. He pledged Kappa Sigma fraternity his junior year and was Lt. Governor of Circle-K International, governing the region including Oklahoma and about a third of Texas. He was also a member of the Board of Student Organizations and the Saddle Tramps.
He started dating Lois Ann Collins from Goodland, Texas (near Morton where she had graduated from Three Way High School) and they married his junior year. In the summer of 1957, Don took a job as an entomologist for Wood Chemical Company in Lubbock. Their first child, Donna Faye Avery, was born July 18, 1957. Don graduated from Texas Tech in December, 1957 after only three years. He remained a devoted Red Raider and member of the TTU Alumni Association for life.
After graduation Don, Lois Ann and Donna moved to Morton, Texas where he was the manager of Wood Chemical Company with a company car, expense account and $400 a month, the best job offered by the Ag-Eco Department in 1957. Lois Ann’s parents, Faye and Effie Collins, lived and farmed near Morton. Don was baptized into Christ in Morton. Then on March 27, 1959, Lois Ann gave birth to Bobby Ray Avery at the Cochran Memorial Hospital in Morton. Those were happy days for the little Avery family.
Don then took a job as the manager of Hawkeye Spraying Service based in Goodland, Kansas. During that time he had to leave on temporary assignment to Oklahoma for about thirty days. When he returned, he moved his young family to their new home in Littlefield, Texas. During this time he defoliated lots of crops and sprayed a lot of cotton for insects. On October 24, 1960, Jimmy Wayne Avery was born and Lois Ann had her hands full. Don left the chemical business in 1961 and went to work for his best friend, Oscar Power, selling insurance for C&I Life. He told Oscar he did not intend to sell insurance for a living, so this would be temporary. By 1963, Don was rookie of the year and continued selling life insurance for many years.
As was Don’s custom, he jumped into community involvement in Littlefield with Littlefield Lions Club (later as President), becoming a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and a Little League coach.
Then Don got the opportunity to move his young family to his home town, Whitharral. They bought a home 8 miles south of Littlefield and the children went to Whitharral schools. He continued selling insurance full time, playing golf, baseball coaching, Boy Scouting with his sons and serving on the Whitharral School Board. After their children graduated from Whitharral High School, Don and Lois Ann also farmed about 1800 acres for several years.
On January 1, 1986, Don was sworn in as Hockley County Judge. As County Judge, Avery served as Chief Executive Officer of Hockley County operations as well as presiding over misdemeanor criminal and small civil cases, probate matters and appeals from the Justice of the Peace Court. He also served on South Plains Association of Governments (SPAG). He retired after 2 terms, with constituents referring to him as ”Judge Avery” the remainder of his life. In retirement, Don Avery remained active. He served on the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature representing Hockley County, where he was directly involved in the state legislative process.
Judge Don Avery lived a life of service. He served his community in many capacities as mentioned. He served his family and friends, always ready to help shoulder a burden, hold a grieving hand, or share his wisdom in times of need. All who knew Don witnessed this kindness. Don Avery was a devoted husband, a loving father and a friend to all he met, whether he was previously acquainted with them or not. Above all, Don Avery was a devout Christian, choosing to live the life that God requires. His earthly home was Whitharral, Texas. But Don has moved to a home of unimaginable splendor. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Don was preceded in death by his parents R.E. ”Bob” Avery and Elsie Roach Avery, four brothers (Bill, Glen, Robert and Rex), one sister (Opal Avery Graham), parents-in-law (F.J. and Effie Collins).
He is survived by his wife, Lois Ann (Collins) Avery; children, Donna (Vernon) Wheeler, Bobby (LaNita) Avery, and Jimmy (Valerie) Avery; grandchildren, Nikki (Drew) Douglas, Nate (Kyna) Wheeler, Blake (Ashley) Wheeler, Jace Avery, Ben Avery, Ellyn Avery, Cole Avery, Brandon Avery, and Avery Avery; great grandchildren, Gage Wheeler, Sadie Wheeler, Lyla Douglas and Hayes Wheeler; brother, Dewayne (Pat) Avery; sister-in-law, Patsy Jackson-Christopher (Randy); and brother-in-law, Jim Collins. And numerous nieces and nephews.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to the Whitharral Cemetery Fund, P.O. Box 1566, Levelland, TX 79336 OR to http://www.lionscamp.com/