Knowing someone through only a reputation or because of their accomplishments often leaves a lot of questions. So when James Avery came to East Texas this week, so did hundreds of other people. The opening of a his new store in Tyler brought back a lot of memories for a lot of East Texans. Many who appreciate his work already know that it was about 50 years ago Avery began crafting a unique style of Christian jewelry.
But there is a lot most do not know, like when, after a stint in World War II, Avery described himself as a disruptive, obnoxious agnostic. That, he says did not change until his first wife walked out on him.
"This was the first time in my life that I realized I was not in control, that I was not in control of my life. That there were other people that have something to say about my life and how I live it. And so I sought help and I came back to the church, back to Christ's vineyard," says Avery.
While teaching at a Colorado University, Avery decided it would be a powerful personal statement to make a cross to wear. His design drew immediate interest on campus.
"So I made a couple of crosses for these guys and took them over and they said, 'Gosh this is great. Thank you. How much do we owe you?' And I said, 'Nothing.' It was my pleasure," remembers Avery. "And one of these big guys, I saw tears in his eyes and I thought, 'Gee, Avery, now what do you do?' But, anyway, that was kind of a beginning of thinking, maybe I could turn my life and do something worthwhile that would be meaningful to me and meaningful to others."
And so James Avery, the jeweler began. But things were not always that easy. Avery moved to Texas to be closer to his children. He began making jewelry in an old garage in South Texas.
His first catalog was only 16 pages with just a few Christian pieces. Today that catalog has now grown to 1,100 current designs as well as 40 retail stores scattered across the southwest.
Almost a third of his inventory is still designed with a Christian theme. Avery says his is a faith-based company, a faith that he says transcends all he does, to make something important for someone else.
"They say to me, 'Mr. Avery, the question, do you think when you started in the garage it would end up like this?' Of course not, Of course not. The only thing I think each day is doing a better job today than I did yesterday in whatever I do, my life, whatever. It's not too interesting I think"
"I don't do this so I can hear these stories about myself and what a great guy I am and all that garbage. I do this because I know its important to others."
Clint Yeatts reporting, firstname.lastname@example.org