AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — When we were students in school, we all had that teacher or coach we looked up to and went to for advice, and some seemed like an ever-present consistent at the school, helping others along the way.
Over at Palo Duro High School, one such man, Ike Avery, emphasized all those traits while he spent 26 years as a Palo Duro Don.
In 1970, Avery would be transferred to Palo Duro High School after already spending more than a decade in education teaching at Shamrock, at North Heights and at Carver.
For more than two decades, Avery would spend his time at PD as an assistant principal, molding and shaping young minds. Jay Barrett, principal at AmTech Career Academy who worked with Avery from 1993 to 1995, said even as things changed at Palo Duro, Avery was always consistent.
“It was great to see how he built up such a wealth of people, young people who went to him as somebody who made a difference in their lives,” said Barrett.
Mark Leach, another administrator who worked with Avery in the mid-90s and a former principal at Palo Duro, said Avery did everything in his power to make sure students succeeded.
“He knew the families, he knew their behaviors. He knew who stayed where,” Leach said. “Mr. Avery would go do home visits at five in the morning in North Heights, I would never do that. He knew that was the time to get ahold of those parents or find some of those kids.”
Ika Bly, Avery’s daughter, said that’s the kind of person her dad was.
“It meant a lot to him for everybody to just succeed,” Bly said. “At our family reunion, he started a scholarship fund for the kids of the family who graduated from high school, so we have a committee on that which he started because it meant a lot to him for kids to graduate high school and either get a higher education if that want too.”
Bly added family members have to fill out a form saying where they graduated from, and who their family members are and that form must be filled out on time to be considered. Bly added the scholarship money is presented during the family social night and the scholarship has been happening for over 20 years.
Bly added her dad instilled a sense of being kind and the importance of learning in her.
“To make sure that I can do the best that I can do and be the best person I can be,” Bly said. “To care for people. He made sure I got my education, that I paid attention in class, and believe it or not I was not going to do anything out of the ordinary because I knew dad was in the same school.”
Leach added Avery was always there if you needed a hand.
“He didn’t tell you what you needed to do, he let you figure it out. But he was there in case you fell. He was your safety net,” Leach said. “But he wasn’t somebody who expected you to do it the way he did it. Because Mr. Avery could only do it Mr. Avery’s way. But he guided you enough, so you could figure it out and do it your own way. That is so appreciated because everybody has a different style.”
In 1996, Avery would retire from Palo Duro High School leaving behind a legacy of love.
“You know if we could replicate Ike’s mentality, his demeanor, his love for his community, we could change the world,” Barrett said. “You know if you had people that had that kind of heart in them, you will be able to find solutions where people only found problems before.”
In 2003, Avery was inducted into the Don Hall of Fame, an honor that had previously been awarded to Palo Duro graduates only.
“Mr. Avery is Palo Duro,” Leach said. “You will never find another person in that community that cared more about the students and their successes than Mr. Avery and his commitment by his number of years that he stayed by choice at that campus to take care of those kids.”
Leach said when Avery went into the Don Hall of Fame, it evaluated what the hall meant.
“It’s not about where you graduated, but what you have done for that school,” Leach said. “So, I think it casted a new character on what the Don Hall of Fame represented. That’s pretty impressive.”
Bly said that on top of his love of Palo Duro, her father enjoyed gardening, his beloved 1959 Ford Fairlane and doing work at Mount Zion Baptist Church which he was a loyal member for 50 years and where he served as Sunday School superintendent, teacher and deacon.
Avery would pass away in August 2011 after a long battle with cancer.
Bly said even before her dad passed he was still concerned about the students of PD and would wear his Palo Duro Don hat proudly because he was so fond of the Dons and the school.