J. R. Avis
October 30, 1925 :: Dunlap, Iowa
August 17, 2018 :: Denver, Colorado
J. Ray Avis was born in Dunlap, Iowa, October 30, 1925 to George and Stazy Avis. He is the youngest of 9 children, 5 brothers and 3 sisters. Ray followed his brothers all over the streets in Denver developing his survival skills, salty language and playful personality. He is preceded in death by all his brothers and sisters.
Ray entered the Merchant Marine’s February 1944 exiting March 1945. He served on the USS Peoria Ship. He then enlisted in the Army 1946 and was sent to work on oil tankers from Panama to the Caribbean Island for one year.
Ray married Ida Mary Collom on March 14, 1946 and they had four children. Rick, Kathleen, Michael (deceased) and Cynthia (deceased).
Following the military, Ray worked at a grocery store for 12 cents and hour. His brother and best friend, Al Avis, worked in an upholstery shop. Ray also took a job at this shop. Eventually Ray and Al bought the business known as Avis Upholstery. The business and rental units supported their wives and 8 children between the two families.
Avis Upholstery gained quite a reputation with the designers throughout Colorado. It was their combined dedication to quality and craftsmanship that boosted their success and reputation. The business was sold in 1998 and Ray worked for the new owner……that did not last very long.
One of his favorite activities was going to Alaska every summer for many years. He fished all night at the Russian River and caught a salmon with his buddies George and Jean Weisbeck.
Ray was a husband/caregiver for Mary for many years. He entertained her with his love of singing, humming and whistling. Mary died in 1994; they were married 48 years.
On February 13, 1998, Ray married Susan Walker. Ray and Susan spent a number of years exploring the Colorado Mountains and traveling to Alaska for a month – going up on the Alaska Highway and coming back on the Alaska Ferry through the Inland Passage.
Moving to Susan’s home, Ray assisted Susan and her daughter Danae with the raising of Danae’s daughter Elaria who spent significant time in Ray and Susan’s home for a number of years while Danae worked. Many joyful hours were spent between them, with Grandpa twirling the jump rope for “LaLa” while she jumped, pushed her in the swing and played other fun games with her.
Susan and Ray attended Bear Valley Church together for many years. After making a profession of faith in Christ, Ray was baptized at Bear Valley in a “private service” with family and some church staff present.
Ray worked until he was 75, retiring with a bad right shoulder from cutting material for so many years. After retirement, he worked hard around the outside of the home in which he and Susan and Susan’s friend Nadia lived, building decks, mowing lawns and repairing things that went wrong. In spite of his bad shoulder and worsening peripheral neuropathy, he worked tirelessly for many years until working became a major challenge for him.
As Susan’s children Mark and Danae launched out on their own, he loaned them money at times to assist with their movement forward as adults. He also spent a lot of time with his grandchildren and great grandchildren from his long marriage to Mary, enjoying each moment he spent with all of them.
Yearly trips to Alaska became impossible in the last 3 or 4 years, as he had near death experiences from pneumonia and other breathing problems a couple of times while there. Other instances of serious breathing problems and mini-strokes causing gradual short-term memory loss also began to plague him, and his peripheral neuropathy worsened – all of these together finally forcing the end to his ability to drive. This was heartbreaking for him, especially since he had to sell his beloved truck.
In the years after driving, friends and family took him for breakfast and to their houses to visit. They also came to visit at our house. One of his favorite trips was to visit his brother Al’s wife Donna in her nursing home and assisted living facilities. Both Ray and Donna lived long lives, but suffered physical and cognitive challenges in the process. Ray especially loved to spend time with Eric and Tracy, Mitch and Cory, and liked going to breakfast occasionally with Pastor Rich!
Over the last two years, Ray’s health continued to deteriorate. Through all of the health challenges, he tried to remain positive, moving about the house on his walker, and continuing to try to do small jobs as they presented themselves. During the last year, caregiving has become an essential part of his life, and both palliative care first and then hospice care were necessary to give Susan a hand with the caregiving responsibilities.
Susan’s children, Nadia and other family members, took a turn at supporting Ray as his health continued to deteriorate. Nadia is especially to be thanked, covering for Susan who still works in her prison non-profit, taking turns staying at home for care coverage when there were meetings and other obligations.
Denver Hospice became his hospice provider in the last year, and supported he and Susan faithfully until his death on August 17, 2018. The last weeks were challenging, but provided times of smiles and working together at very difficult jobs, such as helping him transfer from his bed to the wheelchair to get to necessary locations in the house. Susan’s background with a Masters in Gerontology and caregiving experience provided a stable environment for Ray in the home. He did not want to go to a facility, and the family worked hard at keeping him at home.
His homegoing was sad but joyful at the same time. Life had become difficult beyond measure, and he told Susan two days before leaving this earth that he wanted to die – he was more than ready to go. He left this earth and landed in the loving arms of Jesus.