Eugene Russell Avery

GRATIOT LAKE – Eugene Russell “Bud” Avery, of Gratiot Lake, Keweenaw, passed away Wednesday, March 5, at the Evergreen Retirement Community in Oshkosh, Wisc.

He was born February 28, 1928, to Charles and Alice Deckerhoff Avery in Detroit, Mich. Bud attended Detroit schools and was an excellent athlete. At 17, he enlisted in the Army and served the remainder of WWII in the States as a “bedpan commando.” He earned degrees from Wayne State and University of Michigan, and taught in the Detroit system for over 25 years, first at Ives Elementary and then at Hanstein School. Bud was a tough but beloved teacher, winning the “My Favorite Teacher” award twice, as well as “Detroit’s Best Teacher.” As recently as last year, former students sent him notes, often with photos of their children and grandchildren, thanking him for his influence and support.

A confirmed bachelor until his late 30s, Bud met the love of his life while visiting a buddy in Detroit. He leapt over the fence to introduce himself to the pretty woman gardening in the backyard next door, and he married Janet Morrow (Aller) on October 10, 1964. Together they had Laurel Beth Avery-DeWitt (Ian Avery-DeWitt), of Oshkosh, Wis., who was Bud’s beloved “Prinny.” Bud was also a great dad to Janet’s other children; Betsy Morrow Aller (Andy Kline) of Kalamazoo, Vicki Aller Bennett Luker (Rich Luker) of Fairview, N.C., and Bruce Aller (Allison) of Upton, MA. Bud and Janet enjoyed camping with the children, gradually moving farther north each trip. A friend in the Detroit teachers’ bowling league told them of a fishing camp for sale up in the Keweenaw, and during their spring break in 1970, they snowshoed in to see what would become their beloved summer cottage at Gratiot Lake.

A bout with cancer led to Bud’s early retirement, and he and Janet moved to Gratiot Lake in 1980, one of three couples who were first to live there year round. Bud enjoyed his many friends at the lake and was also close friends with many at Michigan Tech’s Dept. of Humanities, where Janet taught for ten years. Bud was a fierce fan of MTU hockey; he and Janet were regulars at MTU’s hockey games, and he was famous for chatting with the players (many of whom Janet had taught) wherever he ran into them. Bud and Janet were advocates for the environment, and as co-founder of AWAKE (Association Working Against Keweenaw Exploitation), Bud helped protect Bete Grise from over-development and demanded clear information about mining activities proposed in the western Upper Peninsula. At the lake, Bud was always busy; he got up in the wee hours to snowblow the driveway so Janet could get to MTU; he cheerfully helped out, and was helped by his neighbors with many projects; and, as time went on, he was Janet’s caregiver and “sous chef.” After Janet’s death in 2006, Bud continued to live at Gratiot Lake. He (and his family) were grateful for continued support and friendship from his many friends, especially Ray and (the late) Donna Peck, former son-in-law Ed Kraai, helper Matt Downey, and Pat and Bruce Wagner.

Following a stroke in 2009, Bud moved to the Evergreen Retirement Community in Oshkosh, near his daughter Laurel Avery-DeWitt. Laurel and her husband Ian took loving care of Bud until his death. Bud also came to love his other “family” – the staff at Evergreen – who invariably treated him with respect, humor, and obvious affection. On Wednesday, March 5, Bud passed away peacefully, with his loving daughters and staff nearby.

In addition to his children, Bud leaves three grandchildren, of whom he was very proud, Maxwell Eugene Avery-DeWitt, Daniel Bennett, and Abigail Bennett. Also surviving are a dear sister, Karen (Jim) Bresnahan of Powell, Ohio; and their children Belinda, Jim, Chris, and Tim.

Arrangements have been handled by the O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home of Hancock, and the family is grateful for their kindness. The family also sincerely thanks all those at the Evergreen Retirement Community who cared so well for Bud over the last five years. There was no funeral; a celebration of Bud’s life will be held this August at Gratiot Lake. Donations in Bud’s memory can be made to the Evergreen Retirement Community Foundation, Oshkosh, Wis., the Michigan Tech Huskies Club Endowed Scholarship (4922) Fund, or to the Gratiot Lake Conservancy.