Donald Warren Avery – Founding Rotarian

By | September 25, 2014

1960 Founding member of Tustin Rotary Club and Member ever since, Don Avery passed away earlier this month.  Back in 2009 Sharon Avery provided us with a little background on Don’s life so far.  We Declared January 29, 2009 Don Avery Day  Here is that article…

Don Avery

Donald Warren Avery

by Sharon Avery

Donald Warren Avery started life back in Dover, North Carolina on
March 14, 1922. Since his parents did not give him a name at the moment of his birth, the doctor registered hin as Emule Avery. It wasnʼt until he was in his 40ʼs or 50ʼs that he found out about it and had the County change it to Donald instead of Emule.

When he was two, his parents moved to the farmhouse that he would grow up in. It had a huge Old Oak tree in the front yard that was about 20 foot around at the base. There was a chicken house, wash house, a well, the barn and tobacco barns for holding tobacco and grading it. They played baseball in the front yard. From June to September or October the family was busy with the picking and grading of tobacco.They could get 60 cents a pound for the best grade leaf, down to 6 cents a pound for the poorest grade. The trash was thrown in the pig yard.  When the filter-tip cigarette came on the market, most of the flavor was filtered out and to restore it, they had to use all the grades from best to trash to bring the flavor back to filter cigarettes. After that, grading at the farms was no longer done and the farmer would roll up his entire crop and take it to the warehouse in Kinston. The pigs no longer received old and tired tobacco leaves. And it was no longer necessary to grade the tobacco; just bring all you had to the big tobacco warehouses in Kinston.

As for food on the farm, you killed the pigs in late fall, rendered out the lard, cooked up sausage patties and layered it all in barrels for the coming winter. You ground your corn into meal at a mill. You stored potatoes in straw, and with cornmeal , sweet potatoes, sausage or pork and collard greens, you were set for the winter.

Don and his brother used a crosscut saw to cut wood for the stove in the kitchen. He was the middle of five children with two sisters. Three are still living, and Donald is the oldest. He attended a “real” school from lst thru 12th grade, worked at Pennyʼs in Kinston and also in the tobacco barns. He was in the Male Chorus.

Sharon Avery - Dave Smith - Don Avery - Doris AllenIn 1940, when he was 18, the war had begun and he joined the Navy. After boot camp in Norfolk, he was sent on a fancy cruise ship in a first-rate cabin to Los Angeles. He had a wonderful time in luxury. Then he boarded a “real” ship with a hammock down near the shafts and rudders. He was sent to Seattle and to the “Idaho” which sailed to Pearl Harbor. In the summer of 1941, the “Idaho” left Pearl for the north Atlantic to search out subs. Itʼs place was taken by the “Arizona”. I am glad he went to the Atlantic instead of staying tied up in Pearl Harbor. I might not have become Mrs. Don Avery. Don was then transferred to the new “Indiana”, and stayed in the Pacific for most of World War II, with only six weeks of leave in the states.

At one time while in the South Pacific, the night was very hot and sticky and the men wanted to sleep on deck. As the BMC, Don told the men that they had to sleep below decks anyway. During the night the “Washington”, in moving around during the dark, sliced across the bow of the “Indiana”, leaving a gaping hole. Everything that was on the top deck got swept overboard into the water. They had to limp back to Honolulu for repairs. Many of the men later came up to Don and thanked him for making them sleep down below!

He quickly went up in the ranks, He served on other ships and had many duties, from checking out ships that were to go into mothballs to going up to the islands of Adak and Attu. At one point, while in Alaska, his job was to catch crabs, cook them, and then throw them out the window into the snow so they could cool. He also served as a Recruiter in Montana and twice captained Mine Sweepers off the coast near the island of San Clemente, just past Catalina.

After 20 years in the Navy, he left and went into Life Insurance with Jefferson Standard in Long Beach, driving from our home in Westminster. This was before there was a Garden Grove Freeway. He later opened a branch office in Tustin, just across the street from where Jim Kane has his Funeral Home now. He left Jefferson to go with Occidental until they were sold.

Don Avery - Gayle Whipple - Sharon AveryHe then went to work for “Keypack”, where he was given a briefcase with a keyboard in it that would let him talk directly to Atlanta, giving him the information that he needed for clients. He covered nine Western states and Hawaii. He enrolled many schools in the Keypack programs, including five systems in New Zealand. In 1983 as Keypack was having its best year IBM came out with its computer and that was the death of Keypack. They never recovered. Now Don was free to do his own thing, and he did – he retired.

In 1960 Don got together with some other businessmen and started the Tustin Rotary Club. He became their third president. Later, after we both retired, they asked him to be president again and I encouraged him, thinking that we could do a better job now that we were retired– so he took it and it was my fault!

While visiting a Maui Club, we were introduced to starting the meeting with the Four Way Test, and Don decided to use it at his meetings too. He has had almost 37 years of perfect attendance, but a fiveway bypass in 2005 caused him to miss a day. He has greatly enjoyed his time in Rotary and looks forward to Thursdays.

Don and Sharon AveryIn 1961, Don met a blond at the Newport Yacht Club at a meeting of the Beachcombers. He asked several people about her and asked her out for “coffee”, which lasted several hours. They just seemed to click and got married on February 17, 1962 in Newport Beach. He has kept the same wife for 47 wonderful years.

We have lived in Westminster and Tustin, first in a four-plex on Myrtle and then for 35 years on Falmouth before building on my Motherʼs lot down in Balboa Island. I do not plan on breaking in a new husband, so will keep him for another 47 years.

-Sharon Avery