James D. and Elvie "Rusty" Avery have found something to keep away "the lethargy of retirement."
Where others in this desert community near Palm Springs, Calif., bask in the sun, the Averys bask in service. Instead of "getting away from it all" by traveling, the Averys let their travel trailer sit in one corner of their yard of sand and cactus shrubbery and they do the "rolling."The quiet, "down home" cuple are marathon visitors - he is home teacher to 17 families (with two different companions), and she and a companion are Relief Society visiting teachers to eight families each month.
Nearly every day their car can be seen winding along dirt roads past cactus plants and rocks. Where the road ends, they find their way down footpaths.
He was recently presented with a certificate by the Palm Springs stake honoring him for not missing a monthly visit to any family in 1987. Sister Avery also had 100 percent for the year for her families.
Avery, a retired Army officer, explained that home teachers are scarce in the sparsely populated Morongo Valley with its many retired, scattered and part-member families. Morongo Valley is part of the Yucca Valley 1st Ward, located eight miles away.
Recognizing the need for the families in Morongo Valley to receive home teachers, Avery went to Bishop James C. Campbell and volunteered to visit them. Bishop Campbell agreed and made the assignment to him.
Some families are visited by both Avery on his home teaching route and his wife on her visiting teaching assignment. So these families receive at least two visits during the month from an Avery. Among these families are Charlie and Mary Jane Raney. After contact by the Averys, the Raneys began attending Church again. Sister Raney later was diagnosed as having cancer. She received a blessing from her home teacher and her husband, who is now elders quorum president. After a recovery period, doctors said she was completely free of the illness.
The Averys joined the Church 14 years ago after vacationing in the small southern Utah community of Hatch. They found warm fellowship among the members there. Because of this fellowship, the Averys wanted to know more about the Church and requested missionaries to come to their home in Indio, Calif.
"We waited all summer for missionaries to come," he said. "We later learned the request card had been lost in a drawer. We were real golden; we were ready."
They were baptized, and immediately put to work in the Indio Ward. She later served as Relief Society president. "I was never so overwhelmed by anything in all my life," she remembered.
After Avery retired as a major from the Army Combat Engineers, he and his wife moved to Morongo Valley. This was their 32nd move in 14 years. This time, they said, they were ready to stay put, if not still.
The Averys also serve as foster parents for LDS Social Services. They often care for newborn infants or babies. "Jim takes care of them at night, and I during the day," Sister Avery said. "Service is very fulfilling - it gives us a wonderful feeling."