I worked with the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas in San Antonio about ten years ago. At the time, I was a new member of the Diocese living in Corpus Christi. By way of background, the headquarters of the Diocese is in San Antonio, and it occupies a lovely campus in Alamo Heights.
I was involved in several activities for the Diocese. I fine-tuned a case for support for a retreat center expansion campaign, conducted advanced research to bolster a somewhat over-solicited existing donor base, and I was charged to help bring a prior major gift campaign to a conclusion before a new one could be launched.
One of my tasks was to organize and implement a private dinner for leading donors to the aforementioned major gift campaign. The event, to be held at the San Antonio Country Club, would thank them for their support and introduce them to the concept of a new campaign.
The staff of the Diocese was overloaded with existing work. I was asked to “go it alone” on the event. That was a bit of a tall order, but luckily, the San Antonio Country Club staff were very accommodating. We printed and mailed invitations (the old fashioned way), and I found a way to take all 500 RSVPs personally, by using the amazing telephone answering platform, Grasshopper. Key volunteers helped determine the menu and to decide upon the layout of the event. An agenda was developed, speaking assignments were made, and the necessary equipment was rented.
I began setting up the event mid-afternoon. It was quiet at the Club, with few interruptions. I had compiled the RSVP list and prepared name tags. I was relieved members of the Diocesan staff would be on hand that evening to check in each guest as they arrived.
Little known to me, the Club staff had also checked out the RSVP list. They had their favorite Club members and wanted to see if they would be attending. One name caught their eyes: James Avery.
“In the summer of 1954, James Avery started his jewelry business in a two-car garage with about $250 in capital. He built a small workbench, then bought a few hand tools and scraps of silver and copper. It was his desire to create jewelry that had meaning for him and his customers as well as having lasting value.”
The company he built has lasted more than fifty years. “One man’s dream has ignited the passion of an extended team carrying a product, a set of values, and a commitment to doing all things well across our land.”
James Avery served as an advisory board member to the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. I had met him at meetings, and he was exceptionally gentle and low key. I had no idea the effect he had on those in the community at large.
When the Club staff saw James’ name on the RSVP list, they were surprised and they became excited. It was as if Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones was attending. I admit, I have always liked James Avery’s jewelry, but I had never seen such overwhelming admiration and excitement regarding one person’s pending presence. And as we checked-in our guests that night, the staff kept checking in with me to see if he had arrived yet, so they could see him in person. “Is that him?” “Is he here yet?” Keep in mind, we had many stellar guests arriving that night. But only one got this kind of attention.
Clearly, James Avery was then – and he is now – a “rock star.” I will always love remembering how such a quiet, understated man was seen as such a wildly popular celebrity. James Avery Super Star.
Two weeks after I wrote this article, James Avery passed away. To read memorials about this wonderful human being, follow this link.