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Christopher Gilfillan Avery

April 26, 1946 - December 4, 2020

Christopher G. Avery, 74, of Lakewood, CO and Rockland, ME, died Friday, December 4, 2020 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident as three robbery suspects fled the scene of their crime.

The middle child of Gilfillan and Anne Meding Avery, Chris was born in New York City and grew up in Laurel Hollow on the North Shore of Long Island. The Averys were members of the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club. Chris enjoyed recalling to friends his memories of watching fellow member Eleanor Roosevelt strolling down the hill to go swimming in Long Island Sound. It was at this club Chris’s lifelong love of sailing was first sparked. Chris became an accomplished sailor and participated in many races around the country including the Mackinac Island race.

Chris attended The Gunnery School in Washington, CT, and Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY, where he is remembered by classmates as being an excellent hockey player, skier, and steadfast friend.

After graduating from Hackley, Chris attended the University of Colorado, Boulder. He liked to tell the story of visiting the campus to see a girlfriend prior to attending CU. “I found out she wasn’t for me but attending CU was,” he said.  He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity where he forged lifelong friendships. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Chris returned to CU to complete an MBA in marketing. Chris’s early career took him first to Xerox, then to Diebold, Coors, and TCI. After working with several Denver area media companies, Chris retired in 2015.

In 2005 Chris was introduced to Kathryn Severns by a mutual acquaintance. They shared a remarkable number of common interests including a passion for cooking and entertaining. Their relationship flourished and on New Year’s Day 2007 Chris proposed to Kathryn. They were married in June of that year. Friends often describe their relationship as “soulmates.” His wife, Kathryn, agrees.

While on vacation in Rockland, ME, in 2013, Chris and Kathryn fell in love with the town and decided to look for a second home there. While out scouting properties, they came across a home with an ancient, massive oak tree in the front yard. Kathryn spotted the “for sale” sign next to the tree and insisted that they stop. Chris was less than enthusiastic about the property which desperately needed major renovation. Kathryn was undaunted by the prospect. They purchased the home and Kathryn renovated it during the summer of 2014. It would be the longest time in their marriage they were apart. Chris began contemplating retirement, and the property became the focal point of Chris’s plans. The couple rented the property during the summer’s high season and enjoyed it themselves during the shoulder seasons flanking the rentals.

Like many retirements, the first year was difficult for Chris as he struggled to find new daily structure, friends, and activities to fill the hours previously occupied by work. This led his wife to write a book about their experience and all that they learned about planning for the non-financial aspects of retirement.

It was during this time Chris joined a discussion group in Rockland, Maine. There he met and enjoyed discussing world events with an interesting group of attendees with remarkable backgrounds and insights. He was not afraid to express his opinion, but he sought to be respectful of the opinion of others. Chris enjoyed the group so much he started a similar one in Colorado in 2019. Chris was passionate about education as a path forward in life. He mentored several students through the University of Denver’s Bridge Project and was quick to offer guidance and assistance to young people seeking to better themselves. He had friends across a wide social spectrum and evaluated people by their character and life choices rather than their circumstances. He loved cars and was a Porsche and classic car enthusiast. Chris was an avid reader of books and periodicals and studied classical guitar. His quick wit, insatiable curiosity, engaging personality, and passion for people and politics will be greatly missed.

Over the past year, Chris was writing a book about the positive effects of gracious behavior and how the current lack of civility in social interactions has destroyed graciousness. The book was near completion. It will be completed by his wife and his writing coach and published early next year.

Chris was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Alan.  Chris is survived by his wife,  Kathryn Severns Avery, of Lakewood, CO; father-in-law, William Severns of Lakewood, CO; his brother Bramman Avery (Mary K Young) of Cabin John, MD; nephew Bramman A. Avery and nieces Jordan Isabel Avery and Judea Ashley Hill; his step-brothers Bill Flanigan (Kathy) of Carbondale, CO, Ted Flanigan of Glendale, CA and nieces Sierra Apple Flanigan and Skye Selina Flanigan of Snowmass, CO, Russell Flanigan (Hermine) and nephews Jake (Mollie), Ayden, and Kieran of Burlington, VT; niece Suzanne Czerniak (Sasha Hayes-Rusnov) and grand-niece, Ellie, of New Haven, CT; brother-in-law Richard Czerniak (Lia) and niece Lily of Shrewsbury, MA; sister-in-law Amy Lindsey of Shepherdstown, WV, niece Emma Lindsey-Severns, of Lakewood, CO;  nephew Geoffrey Lindsey-Severns of Denver, CO; and nephew Griffin Lindsey-Severns of Shepherdstown WV.

A statement from Kathryn Severns Avery:

The senseless killing on Friday, December 4, 2020 of my husband, Christopher, in his car by three robbery suspects fleeing the scene of their crime has struck a nerve and opened the hearts of many in our community. The compassion and support expressed by complete strangers on the Lakewood Police Department’s Facebook page, along with posts on personal Facebook pages by my friends and family members, is breathtaking and heartwarming to me.

It is easy to torture ourselves as we read and think about this event by pondering what would have happened if my husband and the three suspects had each made different choices. My husband simply chose to drive to pick up some groceries, an innocent, every-day task. The robbery suspects chose to commit a crime and drive recklessly that day, endangering others.  Every choice has a consequence, either positive or negative and each choice we make affects our next choice by reinforcing that decision and outcome. Simply put, a bad choice makes the next bad choice easier just as a good choice increases the chance of making another good choice. Far too often our choices are mindless. Now is the time to change this and to become mindful of our choices and the effects they have on ourselves and others.

We all feel helpless in such a moment of tragedy, but what can we do? Make better choices, even when they are difficult. I choose to not have this experience ruin my life and to find a way to honor my husband by inspiring others to make positive choices and changes.

My grief, and the grief of those who knew and loved Chris, is overwhelming. But taking action gives us a sense of being in control. With so many others suffering from the economic devastation of the pandemic, losing jobs, and experiencing financial, food, and housing insecurity, as well as facing COVID and non-COVID related illnesses, we all can honor my husband’s memory by finding a way to reach out and help others who are hurting.

Donate to a food pantry or non-profit of your choice in memory of Chris. Share your good fortune, talent, and skills with someone who needs them. Listen, really listen, to others with an open and caring attitude, seeking to understand rather than to be understood. Make a choice to take action to make a difference and think of Chris when you do. Turn a collective sense of helplessness into a powerful movement for good. Nothing makes you feel better faster than helping someone else. There’s so much wrong with the world right now. Let’s use this senseless tragedy to do something right.

The jobs of being first on scene and of notifying a victim’s family are most likely the hardest jobs on earth. I would like to thank all those who assisted my husband and the team from the Lakewood Police Department who had the horrible task of notifying me that my world had just been shattered. Your compassion and professionalism are exemplary. My sincere condolences to all those who witnessed this horrific accident. I hope time heals this painful and traumatic memory.

My journey forward from this tragedy is just beginning. During this holiday time of year that should be filled with joy and hope, I ask you to join me in making mindful choices and changes so my husband did not die in vain.


Condolences

3 Responses

  1. Carol Marie Maus says:

    Dear Kathy, I send you my deepest sympathy & condolences. Although I I am sure you will never get over the loss of your dear Chris, I hope that the initial healing of your heart does not take too long. I wish lots love love and peace during this sad time! Most sincerely, Carol Marie

  2. Maureen says:

    Beautiful beautiful message, Kathryn.
    I am so sorry. Chris sounded like a great person, in all that he did, with a great heart and a perfect love of life.

    My husband passed this year, too. A mistake by an MD.
    40 years of marriage. VERY sad, too. He had lived a great life like Chris. I forgave, as am an RN and Doctors are human. Very very hard, tho as life is sometimes NOT FAIR!!!
    :] This is my first Christmas alone. Different for sure! I will dedicate my life to helping others as you suggested!

    Please accept my apologies and as we all move on, in all of our personal paths, I will be thinking of you, as I move on also! May God Bless you and yours on your PATH!

  3. Ann Leibee Clarkin says:

    Beautiful words in both. What as wonderful man Chris was! My heart wraps around you Kath!

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