Leo Rex Avera (1924 – 2014)

Leo Rex Avera and Edith Opal Tracy

Rex Avera Birth and Childhood

Leo Rex Avera was born on 18 December 1924 in the small town of Foss, Washita County, Oklahoma. His parents were Robert and Lola Avera.

The township of Foss was initially established as ‘Turkey Creek’ in the late 1890s but a flash flood washed the town away on May 2, 1902. The settlement was re-established on higher ground and re-named Foss. The town grew quickly, its population reaching close to 1,000 by 1905. But by the time Rex Avera was born the town was in economic decline, losing out to nearby cities of Clinton and Elk City.

As the town declined families moved on and by the taking of the 1930 census we find Rex Avera at six years old, living with his family in Sentinel, Washita County, Oklahoma. He shares the home with his parents and his 76-year-old grandfather Thomas Avera.

At some point during the 30s or 40s, Rex’s father opened a movie theatre named The Rex. Robert ran the theatre until 1945 when it was sold.

According to the 1940 census records, the Avera family is still living in Sentinel in both 1935 and in 1940. We see this because the 1940 census asked for a limited amount of back data for 1935. This brings up an oddity in the way the data is collected. Tom Avera, Rex’s grandfather died in 1940, presumably before the census data was collected. This means he has no entry in the 1940 census, consequently, there is no additional information about his whereabouts in 1935, unlike the rest of the household. It’s actually quite possible that Tom was still living with the family in 1935 but we’ll have to find other evidence to confirm that.

It’s also worth noting that the initial entry in the 1940 census indicated Rex was married and this has been replicated in many online family trees and digital records. But at age 15 this is unlikely and closer inspections of the census show the ‘M’ has been crossed through.

World War Two

During World War II Rex Avera was unable to join the army due to being judged ‘IV-F’ (unfit to draft) on account of his poor eyesight. Sometime after 1942, Rex went to work at the newly built Clinton-Sherman Airforce Base in Burns Flat, Washita County, Oklahoma. The base was established as the Clinton Naval Air Station and consisted of four six-thousand-foot-long runways, three hangars, twenty-four barracks, and numerous temporary facilities.

Some thirty-five hundred officers and enlisted men served with the Special Task Air Groups in the operation of aircraft drones and glider bombs.

Marriage of Rex Avera and Edith Tracy

According to Edith Avera’s memoirs ‘Avera-Tracy Family Trees and Pictures‘, Rex and Edith were ‘speaking acquaintances’ until Rex asked her to the Junior-Senior Banquet. Two friends then asked them to their church, which they began to attend. Subsequently, on 20 May 1944, Rex Avera married Edith Opal Tracy at the home of Amy and Albert Trent in Sentinel, Oklahoma. Grace Ellis, Edith’s sister, and Amy Trent were witnesses.

Married Life

After the end of World War II Rex began farming although he supplemented the income with other jobs when times were hard.

In early 1945 Rex’s parents sold the Rex Theatre they owned and moved to Clinton, Oklahoma to run the Hudson Car Agency. In the fall of the same year, Rex and Edith moved into an apartment at the back of their house. Edith was pregnant with their first child.

Rex had been sowing wheat in late October. According to Edith, he asked that she hold off their daughter’s birth until he finished the first crop. He finished sowing the seed on October 27, and their first daughter was born in the early morning of October 28th, in Sentinel Hospital. ‘I did it’ Rex claimed.

Robert and Lola sold the Hudson Car Agency in 1947 and moved back to their former home in Sentinel. They bought a farm three miles north and one and a half miles west of Sentinel. Rex and Edith moved into the farm and worked it for almost all of the next fifty years. Rex’s second child, a son was born in 1948.

In 1950 Rex and Edith hit hard times. For a while, they quit farming and moved to a house on Fourth Street in Sentinel. Their daughter started school in Sentinel. Her first-grade teacher was Blanche Thomas, who was also Rex’s first-grade teacher. In her memoir Edith notes:

We farmed and Rex worked at Burns Flats base or other jobs in winter time to make ends meet. We were really broke about 1950, and no work at Burns Flat or anywhere. Rex and Guys Willis went to Altus Air Force Base to try for work. They pooled all the money they had to join the union. The first time they had ever worked union. The rest of the dues were taken from their salaries. They left home by four A.M. every day, and didn’t get home until nine or ten at night. They worked six and sometimes seven day weeks. They were paid $1.25 an hour. Boy! that was a life saver.

Edith Avera.

In 1950 the Altus Air Force Base was serving as a scrap yard for hundreds of World War Two aircraft. June 1950 saw the onset of the Korean war and by 1953 the airbase had been re-activated by the airforce for a range of cold war missions.

Rex and Edith’s second son was born in 1951 and a second daughter in 1953.

After finishing at the airbase Rex moved to Freeport, Texas around 1953 working for Dow Chemical. The work must have been good because he considered moving the family to Texas. His mother, however, was upset that her family would be so far away. Lola and Robert had by now bought five farms in Sentinel and managed to convince Rex that farming was going to improve. Rex quit his job at Dow and the family moved back to the farm northwest of Sentinel.

Rex and Edith continued to work the farm as their family grew and left home. They retired from farming in 1995 and moved into an apartment in Elk City. Later, they moved to Edmond, where three of their four children and many of their grandchildren lived. They continued to live together for many years until 2014 when Rex fell ill. Rex died on the 24th of September 2014.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com, 1930 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002), Ancestry.com, Year: 1930; Census Place: Sentinel, Washita, Oklahoma; Roll: 1938; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0026; Image: 1069.0; FHL microfilm: 2341672.
  • Ancestry.com, 1940 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), Ancestry.com, Year: 1940; Census Place: Sentinel, Washita, Oklahoma; Roll: T627_3340; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 75-24.
  • Ancestry.com, Global, Find A Grave Index for Non-Burials, Burials at Sea, and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), Ancestry.com.
  • Ancestry.com, U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005), Ancestry.com, City: Sentinel; State: Oklahoma; Year(s): 1994 1995 1996.
  • Ancestry.com, U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), Ancestry.com.
  • Edith Avera, Avera-Tracy Family Trees, and Pictures (Oklahoma, Self Published, Dec 2002), Stewart-Ricketts Archives.
  • Ancestry.com, U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 1 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Ancestry.com, Record for Rex Avera. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=USpublicrecords3&h=238338834&indiv=try.
  • Edith Avera, Avera-Tracy Family Trees, and Pictures (Oklahoma, Self Published, Dec 2002), Stewart-Ricketts Archives.