The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 13, 2012

Former homeowner donates lot, leaves behind message of hope

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

JOPLIN, Mo. — Before May 22, 2011, life had been good to 2630 S. Wall Ave.

Homer Miller’s parents were the first to live in the charming, Craftsman-style bungalow built of Carthage stone in 1938 by local contractor Floyd Fryer.

Homer was born a year later. He soon walked the gravel street a few blocks to Irving Elementary School, and later rode his bicycle to South Middle School. His uncle, for whom he was named, lived across the street at 2702 S. Wall Ave.

Homer Miller would move out when he turned 21, but his father and mother would remain in the home until their deaths. Now 73, Homer owns Homer’s Hearing Aids.

Tomie Avant, a Carl Junction attorney, eventually moved into the home in 2002, and took on projects to make it her own: She pulled out carpet to reveal original hardwood floors, painted the kitchen and front bedroom, and sewed cushions for the swing on the long front porch.

Her mother, Eloise Lamoreaux, and stepfather, Gale, moved into the house across the street — the one that had been owned by Homer’s uncle. It was easy to have them close by when they wanted help with a TV remote control or needed a jug of milk to be picked up from the store.

The tornado leveled it all.

Avant relied on her daughters, friends and church family to help salvage what they could, and eventually found another place to live.

“I loved it here,” Avant said last week of life at the corner lot. “Absolutely loved it. I have vivid memories of how it used to be.”

She then gestured to where her home used to sit.

“I couldn’t build here myself,” she said. “I just couldn’t take on all of that, dealing with builders, codes, everything.”

Avant was watching with tears in her eyes as volunteers raised walls on a new home being built on the lot — the Habitat for Humanity home that will belong to Ed and Angela Kunce. Avant is affiliated with the “Justice League,” a group of attorneys, law enforcement officers, court clerks, judges and others who are sponsoring the home’s construction. She chose to donate the lot to the project.

She also left a message of hope for the new owners, written on a 2x4 that has already become part of the front wall of the new home.

“God bless you and your wonderful family. I pray that you have as many happy memories in your home as I did in mine. My love and prayers go to you and your family.” It was dated “10-8-12.”

Avant said she also kept a piece of the original home for herself — Carthage stone salvaged from the rubble.

“I want to use it some day to build a fire pit at my new place,” Avant said. “Or to build something. I just couldn’t let it go.”