Lee was one of the kindest persons you would ever meet. He was friendly, helpful, considerate and enjoyed the company of others. No matter what the occasion he would be quick to lend a hand, “let me help you with that”, he’d say. He always seemed relaxed and at ease with himself. Rarely would he criticize or express his dislike of any person or situation.
However, there is one exception to all of these positive qualities and that was the issue of how to make the perfect cup of coffee. You see, around here whenever we gather there will be a pot of coffee and tea also but Lee drank coffee. The trouble is some prefer a mild brew, which was Lee’s choice, and others like it strong and fragrant. He wouldn’t hesitate to let us know if the coffee wasn’t to his liking. Lee’s death leaves a significant vacant space in the community of St. Mark’s.
The poet and preacher, John Donne, says it like this, “Any man or woman’s death diminishes me because I am involved in all humankind, therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
The death of one person affects an entire family and community. There is now and empty place where that loved one used to be. So there is real purpose in coming together today, it is comforting to honor the deceased, to acknowledge and share the grief, to tell the stories, to celebrate the life of Lee Avery—husband, father, brother, grandfather, and great grandfather.
Joyce said whenever she suggested going out to an event, or visit friends, Lee would always say yes, sure. Joyce asked, “Don’t you ever say no?” Lee thought a moment, and said, “You’ll know when I do.”
Lee enjoyed a full and active life. He served in the Merchant Marines and the Marine Corp, was an accomplished electrician, loved a good game of golf, rarely missed watching the Mariners and Seahawks, belonged to the Moose Lodge, and was a faithful member here at St. Mark’s.
In the words of the Gospel reading from the Book of John, we hear Jesus speaking to his disciples, his closest friends, as he says, “Let your hearts be at rest, do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust and believe in God, trust also in me.”
Jesus speaks tender words to his companions as they gather for this farewell meal, the Last Supper, in Jerusalem on the night before he would be betrayed, arrested and handed over ot the authorities. Jesus knows what is coming, that his death is imminent and the lives of the disciples would be forever changed. They have been with Jesus for the past several years, how can they go on without him? Of course, they are extremely fearful and troubled. Then Jesus assures them that he will neither abandon them nor leave them orphaned. “I go to prepare a place for you,” he says, “so that where I am you may be also.” We hold to that promise, God’s presence will be with us now and forever.
It has been said, “Death is only a horizon and a horizon is only the limit of our sight.” We know these dwelling places in which we now live are only temporary homes. The physical body dies but that is not the end of life, our spiritual being lives on into eternity.
All those qualities you loved in Lee, his gentle nature and quick smile, the joy he received from your presence and his spirit of love remains always with you. Thanks be to God. AMEN
I only really knew Lee Avery for about the past 10-11 years here at St. Mark’s. But I know he was a faithful member here for a good 35 years or so, after marrying Joyce. He served on our church board, was its Senior Warden for a few years in the 1990s, and did many other things to support Joyce in her own church work over the years.
Lee was within a year of the same age as my Dad, so he for me was sort of a surrogate Dad at times. Since my own Dad lived away in Florida and then Indiana and I saw him rarely, Lee became the one I could talk to about things I would like to with my Dad—sports and other things he was doing, and also see how he was doing health wise as compared to my Dad. I was even able to be with him for a few hours once a few years ago when he became ill and went to the local hospital for tests (when Joyce was away at a Clergy Conference).
Lee was a good friend to me when I first retired in 2007. He invited me to play golf weekly with him and his friends at the Oaksridge course in Elma. I was easily the youngest of that group, but Lee risked that I would fit in with them. I enjoyed myself a lot, met some good and interesting people, and saw how well one can still play golf into age 70s and even 80s. For a season we had a lot of fun together and I learned a lot about Lee and his friends and interesting things about this area that I never would have otherwise. We golfed a few more times after that, always meeting at his house, and then riding around the course in his cart, complete with heater as needed. Whenever I saw Lee at church, I would greet him and ask him how many golfers he had seen that day, whether it was 80 degrees and sunny, or 35 degrees and sleet.
I know it from looking at church records while preparing our 100 year anniversary history book a few years ago that Lee was for a long time the “Mr Fix It” person for our church. He probably worked on and repaired everything here at least once, and some things probably several times. At one time there was little money available here for upkeep, but Lee would keep things repaired the best he could. Somewhere along the way in the late 1990s, he designed the rope pulley system setup for our church bell in our bell tower, and also made various improvements to the kitchen.
2003 is when all things changed for St. Mark’s building improvements, and Lee had a big hand in it. In the back of our church is our entry, which used to be a dark wood cold entry space with dark doors (almost always closed) leading into the church. Lee decided to remodel that space by replacing all of the dark wood with nice sheetrock and light paint, installing nice double glass doors, making it a nice place to greet people. Seeing how well that came out, we learned you can do a lot with some money and a few good workers with vision and time, and that started the church on a long remodel campaign over the next several years.
In the summer of 2005, we did a large parish hall addition, mostly done by a local contractor, and Lee was there almost daily coordinating with the workers while also working on other parish hall improvements. He and Joyce replaced all of the parish hall, office and kitchen windows, I helped him move some doors in the parish hall for the office and sacristy to the hallway to make the large parish hall room wall less chopped up, and they painted and cleaned up the office and sacristy so they would be more useable for everyone.
In 2008, after I had retired and felt more empowered to work on things at the church (initially with Lee’s help), we painted the kitchen and replaced all of the windows in the church. Lee continued to help with repairs over the years as he was able, along with helping paint in the parish hall. In fact, just a week before he died, he and Joyce repaired (surely not for the first time!) some of the laminate edging on our kitchen counter. Lee was truly one of those quiet faithful servants for God and our church!