Ava Gay (nee Smith) Britton was born the youngest of two children of Hunter Isaac Smith and Jeannette (nee Rutledge) Smith, December 7, 1929, two miles north of Caledonia, on the Caledonia Stock farm. She was named for her grandmother, Ava Elizabeth (nee Sutton) Rutledge and Aunt Gay (nee Smith) Harrison.
Ava graduated from Caledonia High School in May 1947 and began teaching elementary school, September 1947, having passed the county teachers exams her senior year of high school. She taught her first year in the Potosi School District, a one room school, at Pond Creek, Bonne Terre. Ava taught the first three grades for three years, then moved to Mineral Point second grade for two years. This began her teaching career of over thirty years.
On August 5, 1948, she was united in marriage to her childhood friend and sweetheart, John Thurman Britton, son of Rev. John Leonard Britton and Allie Mae (nee Wilkerson) Britton at Piggott, Arkansas. John was teaching at Cadet and they made their first home at Pond Creek, near where they were teaching. They continued teaching until John enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, during the Korean Conflict. After basic training, John was assigned to Kessler Air Force Base, Biloxi, MS, where Ava joined him and where their first daughter, Patti, was born. Jane was born four years later in Lincoln, NB. After John’s service, he went to work for ITT Gilfillan and worked for them twenty years taking Ava and their family many directions.
Ava continued her work on a degree in Elementary Education and teaching where-ever they went. She taught in the Potosi school district, Avery School; Omaha, NE; New Baltimore, MI; Vilonia, AR; Memphis, TN; Lindsay Air Base, Wiesbaden, Germany; Orlando, FL; Van Nuys, CA; and her last nine years were back in Missouri at Crawford County R-2 Elementary, Cuba.
She received her Associate Degree from Flat River Jr. College, Flat River while John was in Korea. She attended eight different colleges to obtain and Elementary Education degree and a Master’s degree in Special Education, both from the University of Arkansas, Conway, AR in 1966 while teaching and raising their two daughters. Ava taught school for over 30 years and retired in 1983 to join John in the funeral home at Steelville, where they worked together until December 2005, twenty-three years, and they also spent fourteen more years together helping the family at Country Kitchen in Cuba!
As an infant, Ava’s parents had her christened and dedicated to the Lord. At ten years old, she made a profession of faith, was sprinkled and became a member of a church. But when she began dating the son of a Baptist minister, she realized that she was lost. On May 19, 1946 on her knees at the altar, Ava accepted Christ and made a commitment to follow Him. That young man became her husband, the minister, his father baptized her and became her pastor and both she and John served the Lord together. For sixty-six years they began their mornings with prayer together.
Ava was a faithful member of the First Baptist Church of Steelville for many years. She was also a member of the Retired Teachers Association of MO, Eastern Star, the Daughters of the American Revolution along with the Steelville Chamber of Commerce where she was involved in community activities. Ava was also very involved in the Meramec Music Theatre in Steelville alongside her husband, John.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Hunter Isaac Smith and Jeannette Smith; her loving husband, John Britton; brother, Jim (Verla) Smith; parents-in-law, Rev. John and Allie May Britton; brother-in-law, Alfred (Barbara) Britton; sisters-in-law, Marie (Rev. Harry) Darst, Delorce (Rev. Freeman) Gibson, Beulah (Charles) Akers and Opal (Joe) Wilkerson.
She will be sadly missed by her two daughters, Patti (Bruce) Campbell and Jane (Steve) Eads all of Cuba; four grandchildren, Stephen Eads, Jason (Lesa) Eads, Jonna (Jeff) Leonard and Jennifer (Ryan) Smith; seven great-grandchildren, Britton Smith, Isaac Hunter Smith, Ella Eads, Harrison Eads, Elijah Eads, Samuel Thomas Leonard and Ava Leonard; brother-in-law, Don (Madeline) Britton of FL; sister-in-law, Erma Lee (Dr. Darrell “Jack” Holley) of O’Fallon; other relatives; and many friends.
Due to the COVID 19, private family funeral services were held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, August 18, 2020 at the Britton-Bennett Funeral Home in Steelville with Rev. Jesse Parrott officiating and Patti Campbell reading the obituary. Special music of “Great is thy Faithfulness” and “It is well with my Soul” was sung by Jennifer Smith, Jonna Leonard, Patti Campbell and Jane Eads. Memories were shared by granddaughters, Jennifer and Jonna.
Committal prayer and interment were in the Caledonia Methodist Cemetery, Caledonia.
Honored to be casket bearers were Stephen Eads, Jason Eads, Jeff Leonard, Ryan Smith, Steve Eads and Bruce Campbell.
The Family was served by the Britton-Bennett Funeral Home of Steelville.