Avis Marie Hernwall High passed away suddenly on June 3 in Little River, SC, where she was convalescing. Avis was a nurse, teacher, caregiver, community volunteer, avid reader, puzzlemaster, Scrabble ninja, and lover of the natural world. She especially loved birds, who will miss her daily feedings, and loved cats, but kept the two separate.
Born in Eagle Bend, Minnesota, to Cora Anderson and Arthur Hernwall, she grew up on the family farm with her older brother Oscar. She was a caregiver from an early age; as Avis said, she was a “hired girl” at 14, tending a chronically ill neighbor mother and her children. Her independence and drive for advanced education were noteworthy for its time. After high school, Avis attended St. Barnabas Hospital School of Nursing, and received her RN in 1952. She went to the UK to nurse in 1957, then returned to Minnesota to practice, and received a U. S. Public Health Service Traineeship in Public Health Nursing at the University of Minnesota in 1961, and a B.S. degree in Public Health Nursing from U. Minn. in 1962. In 1970, Avis moved down to Chapel Hill, NC, to take a position as instructor in the University of North Carolina School of Nursing. Avis received her MS in public health nursing in 1971, and continued working as student health nurse, caring for students at UNC, for the next sixteen years.
Her next-door neighbor in Parkwood, near Chapel Hill, was David Buren High, who patiently courted Avis until she finally consented to wed in 1981. They shared a love of travel, nature, and education and had many adventures with Elderhostel. After retiring, they moved to the High family homeplace in Whiteville, NC, where they built a house next to Buren’s mother, Ruby, and Avis installed bird feeders at every window. She was known for her handmade cards and handwritten correspondence. She even taught herself Swedish in order to communicate with her relatives in the old country. In addition to helping Ruby navigate her final years, Avis was very active in the Grace Episcopal & Christ the King Lutheran Church, and as a volunteer supporting Hospice and adult literacy programs in Columbus County. After Dave passed away in 2010, Avis lived independently with her cat Penny, and managed the High homeplace until she was hospitalized in March.
Avis is survived by nephew Marvin (Patricia) Hernwall and niece Maureen (Steven) Bumgarner, nephews James Forrest(Elaine) Riggs and Brett (Pandora) Riggs, and their families. She was predeceased by her parents, Arthur and Cora Hernwall, brother Oscar Hernwall, and husband, David Buren High.
Because the uncertain times and current conditions prevent mass gatherings, memorial observances for Avis will be held at a future date when it is safe to assemble. McKenzie Mortuary in Whiteville will care for interment in the Whiteville Memorial Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, friends and family can remember Avis by observing and cherishing nature, and taking care of one another. That’s what she’d do.
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