Avis’ life started up north in Seattle, born to Clyde and Goldie Wilson, the family moved to Montana, “Up Joplin way,” said Avis, where her father was given an opportunity to try his hand at farming. The family wheat farm only last a couple of years as there was a drought going on. Getting advice from the local Blackfoot Indians located around Sweet Grass Hill, they were advised that the rain would not return for the next seven years.
“We had to drive 50 miles just for drinking water,” she recalled. “No one wanted to drive the old truck, so mother did.”
With limited prospects, the family made their way back to Seattle, where her father found work in the timber industry.
“Dad worked for the next 55 years at the mills,” Avis said. 'It never did rain for those seven years, and Dad moved us on to South Bend.”
Avis grew up in a prosperous area with all the active mills in both South Bend and Raymond. Her schooling was expedited when she arrived and was placed in the third grade, she also passed over the fifth grade. “I had a very exciting life I thought.”
Doing well in school and on the Honor Roll, a car accident at age 14, slowed her down a little. “My parents wanted me to get back as soon as possible, but I struggled a little.”
Avis took the classes she could and also took action.
In her senior year, Avis, along with a schoolmate, petitioned the school so that they could be cheerleaders. “Well we did it, and after that they have always had girl cheerleaders.”
Avis graduated South Bend High School in 1931, but continued to study for another year catching up on what she had missed. “Classes like Latin and algebra. I also took shorthand and secretarial skills. I got a scholarship to attend Wilson’s Modern Business College in Seattle. It was from the South Bend Journal.”
Business College did not start right away as Avis had to wait for another student’s scholarship to expire. “My parents didn’t know that I did not have a way to Seattle to go to the business college. I walked down the hill and was able to get a ride to Chehalis. And from there, a couple of guys in a Tastee Doughnut truck let me ride with them all the way to my aunts home in Seattle.”
The ride ended with Avis's aunt inviting in the chauffeurs for coffee, who repaid the favor with a few doughnuts. “I never saw those two gentlemen again. I started working as a housekeeper until it was my turn to attend the college. I went for the next 18 months and got my business administration degree.”
Next she took a civil service exam and landed herself a job with the city of Seattle. Avis married her first husband, Al Edelbrock, in 1938 and had three boys, Gary, Mark and Craig. Edelbrock died of a series of heart attacks after the couple had been married for 31 years.
Her time with Al was peppered with her working for the mayor’s office in Seattle, and she retired from that position. “I worked for a couple of Mayor’ s, but mostly for Mayor Earl Millikin. He liked to dictate long letters to his buddies in Kansas.”
Recalling some of those days, Avis remembers a lunch that was a little cloak and dagger.
“President Franklin Roosevelt was visiting doing things with the Civil Defense,” Avis said. “After one of the meetings, the mayor said that he would take the boys to a local establishment and that I should take the “old lady” to lunch.”
That old lady was Eleanor Roosevelt.
“I called down for a police car, and we took a secret exit to the street,” she said. “I tried to find an out of the way place, because I knew that if we went to a more popular place that she would get mobbed and we would not be able to get lunch.”
An Italian restaurant was chosen and the two had chicken, “cause that is what she liked,” and they spoke family.
“She talked about her grandchildren, especially one called Buzzy.”
When she was not busy entertaining visiting dignitaries, she attended local circuses and Ice Capades shows, or being approached by a suspected Russian spy.
“The mayor advised me that she was offering money trying to get information about Army troop movements,” Avis said. “But she never did make any offers to me. But I did have to deal with her being around for a while.”
Avis stayed a widow for 12 years after the loss of Al, and eventually meet Reg, who took her to Oregon in 1985.
“Reginald Charles Stanley Miller, he went by Reg,” she said. “He taught me how to golf.”
Reg also succumbed to a heart attack in 1992 and Avis continued in the McMinnville home for another three years and in 1995 moved to Rochester, where she had friends. Avis moved back to South Bend around 2012 after a short stay near her son Gary in Salem, Oregon. “I really did not like it down there, and wanted to get back up north.”
Avis is an avid Seahawk's fan and does not miss a game. The Alder House will be holding a reception for Avis for her 100th birthday this Saturday from 1-5 p.m.