Upon entering Mrs. Caskey’s English 101 class in September of 1957, I discovered that she had arranged the seating in alphabetical order. Miss Bolton was in the second chair to my right, and I was delighted to greet her each morning. That seating assignment turned into a friendship, then an exciting romance and 52 fabulous years of marriage.
Since we both were education majors, Avonnell and I had several other classes together, especially in the School of Education. Avonnell had wanted to major in religion to enter the mission field, but her parents insisted she major in education — just in case she needed a teaching job. I had surrendered to the ministry while in high school and felt the Lord calling me into the ministry of religious education, so an education degree was the perfect foundation.
Just before Thanksgiving 1959, our paths crossed on the steps of Pat Neff. Avonnell said, “Well, Bill Ballou, now that I’ve seen you, my Thanksgiving is complete.” That was the encouragement I needed. (Avonnell later admitted that she said the same thing to three other boys, but I was the only one who bit.) We began to date after Thanksgiving and our wedding date was June 25, 1961, one month following her graduation.
As we moved from church to church, Avonnell became “the trailing spouse.” She taught fourth grade in Arlington; reading and second grade in Waycross, Georgia (where they were quite excited to have a teacher with a Baylor degree); fourth grade in Meridian, Mississippi; fourth grade in Amarillo; and fourth grade in Abilene. She also taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School and led workshops for other teachers and ministers’ wives.
Through her career in teaching, she was never without the mission field she had always wanted.
Avonnell’s dad was quite an entrepreneur and had the financial ability to pay for her Baylor education. I worked at Sam Coates Café while at Baylor and had financial assistance from the University. Through the years, we talked about making a substantial gift to Baylor to express our gratitude for all Baylor had given to us, but we never seemed to have the extra funds.
Following Avonnell’s death in 2013, our children, Betsy and Will, agreed that we should use some insurance proceeds to establish an endowed scholarship in the School of Education to honor the memory of our wonderful wife and mother and to help others who felt called to the mission field of teaching.
I told Avonnell frequently that I had such a deep love for Baylor University, because it provided a world-class education and introduced me to the love of my life.
Thank you, Mrs. Caskey.
— by Bill Ballou ’60