MUSKOGEE, Okla. - The community is mourning the loss of accomplished, retired educator and city councilor Avalon Reece at the age of 89.
“She had the opportunity to touch lives and make a difference. And she did make a difference," said her niece Carolyn Hickman.
The home they shared is still covered in plaques, certificates and articles honoring Avalon's achievements.
“I remember making a pledge to myself, I’m going to break her record for longevity. It never happened," said colleague, friend, and former Muskogee High School Principal Cedric Johnson.
A Muskogee native, Reece taught in the city for more than 40 years.
First at Manual Training High school, the city's school for black students in the days of Jim Crow.
Eventually she moved to and retired from Muskogee High School.
“She always had the students at heart. The students' welfare came before anything else," Johnson said.
Local and national organizations deemed her a "Distinguished Educator," "Inspiration," and Hall of Famer.
But as her family and friends remember, trailblazing wasn't easy.
“I thought about how courageous she must’ve been back in those times when integration was just fresh," said Ward 3 city councilman Derrick Reed.
She was the first black woman elected to the city council.
"Now you have this black woman on the city council with all these white guys and they can’t dominate her. That in itself was inspiration," recalled Cedric Johnson.
But above everything else she was about family.
“She meant next to the world to me," said her niece Carolyn Hickman.
The two would often sit on the porch, every person that passed by a friend of "Aunt Avalon's."
“Muskogee was her family too. It wasn't just the blood relatives, but Muskogee," Carolyn recalls. "I know God. She didn’t just pop up in the community, she didn’t pop up in our family, but she was like a tree planted and I’m so grateful she was planted during my lifespan.”
Reece's funeral services are scheduled for next week.
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