Endowment Giving: Avory and Lois Johnson

Endowed Giving: Lois and Avory Johnson

Avory and Lois Johnson devoted their lives to creating things that last.

Whether it was their 64-year marriage until Avory’s passing on Aug. 22, 2013, at age 83 or their 36-year Hutchinson business or their avocation of classic cars and Avory’s commitment to helping the Cosmosphere restore the Liberty Bell 7 — they dealt in the enduring.

Avory and Lois grew up in the Arkansas City area and met in high school. Avory attended junior college for a year while he waited for Lois to finish high school so that they could then get married.

The couple were wed Sept. 4, 1948, in Wellington.

Avory eventually joined the Air Force, serving from 1951 to 1954 in Korea and Texas. He was an instructor and aircraft mechanic. After the service, the Johnsons moved to Wichita, where Avory worked as a service technician in trailer sales for a mobile home company.

They moved around with the job, and in 1960, arrived in Hutchinson. In an ephemeral world where owning a business comes with potentially big risks, the Johnsons defied them and opened AVS Camper Center, retiring in 1997.

In addition to cultivating a love of cars — they owned Thunderbirds, Corvettes and an antique Ford pickup and belonged to various vintage automobile clubs — they also cultivated a love of giving.

Avory’s devotion to volunteering at the Cosmosphere gave him the chance to call upon his Air Force background and blend it with space history, according to a story published in The Hutchinson News shortly after his death.

“During his time helping with Liberty Bell, Avory was definitely more than a volunteer,” said Jim Remar, Cosmosphere president and CEO. “Avory was an integral part of the restoration team. I know Avory was very proud of his work on LB7.”

The couple also served The Salvation Army of Hutchinson for many years, and Lois held a board post. Lois once recalled, in a story to The Salvation Army, hearing her uncles, who served in World War II, talk about the nonprofit serving free doughnuts and coffee to soldiers. She also remembered the organization helping neighbors who lost their home to fire. She praised the good The Salvation Army does.

Lois passed away July 12, 2017, at age 85, but that commitment to giving continues through a fund established at Hutchinson Community Foundation that will help support The Salvation Army, First Call for Help, the Cosmosphere and the Reno County Emergency Fund. Their gift will also create an endowed fund to support emergency medical services and training of students to become EMTs or paramedics in Reno County.

“It speaks volumes about someone’s love and passion of an organization when they chose to leave a portion of their estate to that organization,” Remar said. “I know the Johnsons believed in the Cosmosphere’s mission. The pride they had for the Cosmosphere was evident any time you saw the Johnsons, either here or in town.”