100 and Counting

MALVERN - Carrie “Avis” Jones isn’t surprised that she’s lived to be 100 years old.
It’s in her genes.

“My mother lived to be almost 103.  She came from a family of 10 children and almost all of them made it up to that area,” Avis said. “There’s a lot of longevity in my family. Dad had five aunts that were from 95-99.”
Avis, who has won two separate battles with breast cancer, will officially reach the century mark Sunday, April 3, but she’ll be celebrating all weekend, starting with an open house Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at the Malvern Community Building. Family members will be coming to Malvern from as far away as Alabama to help mark the occasion. Avis has five living children, 17 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and 29 great-great-grandchildren (with two more on the way).

Avis is a fixture in the Malvern community.

She was born on a family farm near Creston, Neb., on April 4, 1916, where her father, was a dray man.
“He had a team (horses) and a wagon,” Avis recalled. “He met every train that came into town and then hauled everything that went to each store in Creston.”

One of Avis’ favorite childhood memories is riding in the wagon with her father to meet the train.
She said the need for a dray man declined when businesses started using trucks to deliver goods and supplies. In 1930, when Avis was in the eighth grade, her family moved to Mills County, near Strahan. She continued her education through the 11th grade at Strahan Consolidated School.

It was during her high school years when Avis met the love of her life – Clair Jones. They were married in Missouri in 1933. Avis said Clair farmed for a short time, but later worked jobs as a mechanic, school custodian and a Mills County road maintenance man.

“We had six children – three boys and three girls,” Avis noted. “My husband always said he had a perfect hand for playing cards – a full house and three of a kind.”

In 1952, after Avis and Clair had raised their six children, Avis began working for the Malvern School District as a part-time custodian. The job eventually became a full-time position. In 1973, she transferred to the school district’s hot lunch program where she became the baker, making everything from cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls to pies, all from scratch. She retired from the baking position in 1981, a year before Clair died, but continued to work with the school district as a substitute teacher. Her 51-year working relationship with the district ended in 2003 when she officially retired at the age of 87. Through her work in the school system, Avis made many friends in the Malvern community, but she’s also known for her active involvement with the Methodist Church, where she’s done everything from baking pies and communion bread to serving at funeral luncheons. She’s donated her baked goods to the Malvern Volunteer Fire Department and other local organizations and she was an original member of the Malvern Senior Citizens group and Red Hat Society. Avis has given up driving, but still makes it to church every Sunday thanks to her son Don. Her favorite hobby is crocheting afghans, but she also enjoys reading, baking and canning. Over the years, she’s made more than 100 Christmas ornaments for friends and family members and cans over 100 jars of fruit, jellies and vegetables every year.

“My son Don and I have a pact,” Avis said. “He raises a big garden and I can it. We’re still using potatoes and a lot of stuff from last year’s garden.”

Don Jones is one of Avis’ five living children, along with Harold Jones of Malvern, Bob Jones of Birmingham, Ala., Janet Donelson  of Calamus and Marie Donelson of Davenport. Daughter Nancy Irvin (Oklahoma) died in 2011.

Avis said she’s had a “great life” and is looking forward to celebrating her birthday this weekend with friends and family.

“I’ve enjoyed life. I still do,” Avis said. “I have a few little health problems, but I don’t let anything get me down. I’ve had cancer twice and survived it. That’s great.”

The Opinion-Tribune

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