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Local News

An Extraordinary Life: Plainfield couple lived by their priorities

Bill and Shirley Avery were devoted to their faith, family and Plainfield

Because of Bill and Shirley Avery took their Catholic faith so seriously, the St. Mary Immaculate Cemetery in Plainfield has a Lourdes grotto.
Because of Bill and Shirley Avery took their Catholic faith so seriously, the St. Mary Immaculate Cemetery in Plainfield has a Lourdes grotto.

Bill and Shirley Avery took their Catholic faith so seriously, they had a Lourdes grotto built at the cemetery of their church, St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield, in 2012.

The couple, who had visited Lourdes and Fatima, two very important sites to many Catholics, wanted to bring the spiritual blessings of the experiences to their own community.

Their daughter, Becky Avery-Zintak of Plainfield, said she drove them “all over Naperville and Lemont” so they could study different grottoes, which helped them in their planning.

The grotto was completed in 2012, with stone from Avery quarries, Becky said.

The grotto includes statues of Mary and Bernadette, an altar and two benches for people who wish to pray. The church dedicated the grotto at the Memorial Day Mass in the cemetery in 2012.

Becky isn’t certain what inspired her parents to create the grotto.

“My mother loved the movie ‘The Song of Bernadette,’ so maybe that had something to do with it,” Becky said. “They were just so happy the project was completed in their lifetime,” Becky said.

Bill, who was 78 when he died in 2013, and Shirley, who was 83 when she died March 2, served their church in other ways, too.

For instance, Bill also was a member of the Knights of Columbus Good Shepherd Council #5573, and Shirley was active with St. Mary’s Council of Catholic Women, Becky said.

“They were wonderful people,” Becky said.

Faith and family first

Becky said they placed high value not only on their Catholic faith, but their family and Plainfield.

They had four children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and they were “active in their lives and went to all their events,” Becky said. When the children were young, Shirley volunteered at the parish school.

Bill was a den father for the Boy Scouts. Shirley also participated in her children’s activities, including Plainfield High School band, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and horse showing, according to her obituary.

Bill and Shirley often told their children and grandchildren how much they loved them.

“They’d show our pictures around and tell everyone how proud they were of us,” Becky said.


Becky said Bill and Shirley also were proud of their heritages. Shirley was from a big Catholic family that could trace their history back to 1848. Bill’s father, Jesse, was one of nine children who had grown up in a sod house in Kansas, Becky said

As a young man, Jesse came to Plainfield because he had an uncle, Charlie, who was running the gravel company down at Legion Lake in Plainfield, where they were pulling gravel out to build roads, Becky said.

Uncle Charlie died shortly after Jesse began working for him, and Jesse took over the gravel business, Becky said. The company then became Avery Gravel Company.

“My dad being the oldest son; he and Clyde Avery, my dad’s brother, are the two that took over the business from Jesse,” Becky said.

Bill and Shirley also were devoted to each other.

Bill graduated from Plainfield High School in 1952. He met Shirley Drendel while playing in the Naperville Municipal Band and married her at SS Peter & Paul Church in Naperville on June 16, 1956, according to his obituary.

“My mom moved to Plainfield when she got married,” Becky said. “My dad never wanted to leave Plainfield. They were very committed to Plainfield. They wanted to share with their community; they wanted to help Plainfield. They gave so much back to Plainfield.”

In turn, Bill converted to Catholicism for Shirley, Becky said.

In addition to serving as the longtime owner and operator of Avery Gravel Company, Bill was a member of the Concrete and Aggregate Association, according to his obituary.

In later years, Bill and Shirley also owned the Super Wash of Plainfield.

As a boss, Bill was “the best,” Becky said.

“He knew the men, he knew their families,” Becky said. “When someone was hurt, he’d help them. He was just a salt-of-the-earth person. And he was very active with the Jaycees and the Knights of the Columbus.”

During the holidays, Becky and her siblings would help their parents deliver turkeys and hams to people who needed them, she said.

Two of Bill and Shirley’s favorite pastimes were square dancing (they belonged to the Joliet Squares Dance Club) and driving their 1909 Model T in Plainfield parades or one of their other vintage cars at Plainfield Cruise Nights, Becky said.

“They loved to cruise downtown and socialize with the people who had their cars parked down on Main Street,” Becky said.

One very special car was their 1954 black and white Oldsmobile Holiday; its license plate said MEMREES, Becky said.

This car was similar to the one Bill and Shirley drove when they took Route 66 from Joliet to the West Coast on their honeymoon, Becky said.

“When they were married 50 years, they retraced that trip,” Becky said.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122

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