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Please feel free to share stories that you have about Nate here.  Eventually, we would like to have the stories and condolences bound into a book for the family.  Also, if you have photos of Nate that you would like to share, you can Email Me and I will be happy to upload them to the site. Thanks for sharing.

116 Comments

    • Parker and Austin Montfort
    • Posted August 20, 2012 at 5:42 pm
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    Nate breaking me out of the ER when they were going to make me spend the night and letting me drive the Pinzgour home in kindergarten. Block parties and back yard bbq’s. Parking the Pinzgour on mom’s front lawn. Skateboards, big fires, and lots and lots and lots of laughter.

      • Parker and Austin Montfort
      • Posted August 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm
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      Oh – and teasing Joel Rohrbough if he knew how to do my knee surgery – his reply was he read “surgery for dummies the night before, how hard could it be” I like how they all teased and made me feel more comfortable when in the hospital.

      Austin remembers amping the music and listening when they were on the boat, playing at the lake with all the kids (which included Nate), driving the pinzgour and racing up the climbing wall

  1. Nate walking out of the O.R. into the recovery room holding a tiny baby he had just done surgery on, the infant cradled in his arms sucking on Nate’s finger as a pacifier. Priceless.

      • Julia Heersche and Don Massman
      • Posted August 21, 2012 at 7:15 am
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      What a great story.

  2. Dr.Avery was very softspoken in comparison to myself and my southern ways. In caring for a patient while he was placing ICP, I guess he caught me trying to nose into what he was doing and he turned to me, grinned and said in the most horrible imitation of ME, “how’s that look Shoogguuuurrrrr” Thank you for the friendship, my condolences to the family and coworkers.

  3. I have known Dr. Avery for seven years and I have known him to be compassionate, hilarious, and philosophical all in one breath. I was lucky to have a lengthy conversation with him recently about providing excellent patient care. I can honestly tell you he had the respect of his colleagues as well as the community. You will be greatly missed. I can’t even believe you are gone!

  4. About 6 years ago at the Flagstaff Cooperative Preschool we were cleaning and reorganizing the classroom. Nate was one of many parent volunteers. He kept asking questions how do I organize this, where do I put that. When another parent said just clean it and put it back neatly, it’s not brian surgery. He laughed and said now that I can handle.

    • Don and Jeanette Baker
    • Posted August 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm
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    He always called my lovely 65 year old wife and my 69 year old self “kids” when he saw us, as in “How are you kids doing?” If we weren’t doing that great, we were always doing better after talking to Nate. It had nothing to do with his great skills as a doctor, but it had a lot to do with his even greater skills as a neighbor.

    • Don and Jeanette Baker
    • Posted August 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm
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    I was out in the street with a hand shovel after a huge snow storm trying to clear parking spaces for my wife’s Bunko party that night when Nate passed by in the Pinzgauer full of kids and waved. About 10 minutes later Dr. Steven Ritland showed up in his quad snow plow also full of kids and said with a smile on his face something like, “I have been ordered to assist you by Dr. Nathan Avery.” In about 5 minutes we had curbside parking.

  5. Ammo Can = “The Groover”. Thanks for that one Nate!

    • Amy Peterson-Millis
    • Posted August 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm
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    I was a brand new nurse and had no idea who Nate was the first time we met. He asked me where I worked and I told him. He said “Oh I work at the hospital too!” Mind you, this was about 9am, we were going to cut Christmas trees, I believe he was wearing Carhartt overalls and drinking a beer. 🙂 “What do you do?” I inquired, never once crossing my mind he was a nuerosurgeon. “I operate on people’s brains,” he deadpanned. Sure sure. It took a lot of convincing that this down to earth good old boy was really a surgeon. I had the honor of recovering his patients for almost ten years. He was equally at home in scrubs, overalls or swim trunks.
    Speaking of swim trunks,I loved picking his brain on all the top secret hiking spots at Lake Powell. The last one he gave me (sworn to secrecy of course)took about 20 minutes of map drawing, googling and photo showing. Nothing was rushed with him. He loved the lake. To see him at the lake was to truly see him in his element.
    We played in the Marshall dodgeball tournament this summer. He kept trying to buy our team a rounds of beer. Why was he so eager to get us liquored up? We played his team next of course! It worked. We lost. 🙁

  6. I met Nate easily 20 years ago when I was new to boating and he was newer. We met at some river guide function or another, and we kept running into each other from time to time, the way river guides always do. He was always smiling, sweet and mellow. He seemed like the kind of man and the kind of guide that a lot of guides wish they were. At Georgie’s 80th birthday party at Hatchland, he tried to teach me to swing dance, brave soul. He may have lost a few years off his feet on that endeavor. He was patient and humorous and very very kind. When he left the river to go become a doctor, I thought to myself, “Of course, what else would he do?” Every so often we’d run into each other on the streets of Flagstaff, or at the Wing Ding, someplace like that. Every time he said hi and smiled it was as though he hadn’t aged a bit and was still that skinny kid at Hatchland with the big blue Cadillac and the seriously good swing dance moves. You made this town a better place, Nate. I hope you’re swing dancing your way around paradise right now.

  7. Every appointment has provided me with a special memory or story….

    My first appointment – I knew he must truly be the absolute kindest man in the world when he tells me that I’m “young and healthy” (I was turning 40 and have more pounds than necessary)

    He also confesses to me during my first appointment when he’s providing me my options for fixing my disc “obviously I like surgery…I’m a surgeon”

    And he was an amazing surgeon…which I told him more than once….but at my follow-up he made me promise not to tell anyone (he shared that he’s so busy….then again….I have no doubt he’d never turn anyone away)

    I couldn’t keep it a secret what an amazing doctor he was…I had to bring in my husband (who’d been to 6 doctors with no great results). Dr Avery was the first to not jump to surgery but rather wanted to look further for an answer.

    My last appointment….just this past April – I had to return – I was so nervous to see him as I re-injured my neck and believed I had done so jumping an 8 ft wall during a 5K….I wasn’t nervous about the injury…I was incredibly guilt ridden that I had ruined his work.

    The look on his face and grin was priceless….he just walked in and began shaking his head and says (acting as though he couldn’t believe the note written on my chart) “what is this about an 8 ft wall?”.

  8. I first met the Avery family while I was a backcountry ranger at Grand Canyon National Park. Valeen was hiking with all the kids down in Clear Creek, I believe it was, and Thad had picked up a big agave stalk and was imitating Moses, parting the seas at the bottom of a rocky arroyo. From that inauspicious beginning sprang a friendship with this remarkable family, whose homes, and hearts were open to so many.

    Nate was blessed with a rare combination of personal warmth, practical, hands-on, tinkering mechanical ability, a brilliant intellect, and disarmingly low-key wry humor. I can remember discussing the intricacies of working on car brake systems, his enduring love of the Canyon and river running, his hospitality when I came through town for a conference, and how he went out of his way to connect when I was driving across the country to relocate in Washington, D.C. That generosity of heart and spirit was carried forward through many years, and is a big part of what made him such an effective neurosurgeon and healer. I join many others in saying I’m the richer for having known him, and grieve along with an entire community the loss of a truly great man and friend.

    • Jill and Bill Babb
    • Posted August 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm
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    I believe that Nate saved the life of my husband, he has done two different surgery’s and both have been life changing,we owe so much to him. We pray that Nate is in Heaven and that his family finds strength through our precious Jesus. Words could never take away the pain you are feeling but if you hold tight to Jesus and his words you will be ok. We never knew anyone but Nate in your family but know that you are all special because of the way he talked about you, How blessed you all have been to have him in your family. We will continue to pray for strength for all of his precious family.

    • Joy, Kelly & Jakey Cooper
    • Posted August 20, 2012 at 9:48 pm
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    Nate would check up on Jack after his heart attack. I would come home from work and find Nate and Jack hanging out in the living room listening to Van Halen on vinyl drinking brewskis and talking & laughing. Several years later and just last year Nate gently told me with tears in his eyes that this was the end and did I know how much my husband cherished me and to enjoy every last minute. I did just that, Nate and please make sure Jack knows how much I loved him back. You two fine men enjoy the kingdom of heaven. That much you deserve. Annette and I truly know how very lucky we are. Jack & Nate’s children will never forget the impact their wonderful fathers have had on their lives. And I hope they grow as kind and loving and adventurous as their Dads were.

  9. reading all these wonderful stories about dr. avery make me sad that i did not know him better. 🙁

    rebecca, cat scan

  10. I mostly remember Nate from Newell/Avery writing trips to Flagstaff when I was in elementary school. Our mothers would write and we would go ride battered BMX bikes in the woods, look for arrowheads, explore the ice caves, or throw boomerangs in vacant fields. Nate was five years older than me and I looked up to him. He taught me how to part and “feather” my hair (a nice 80’s look)! The stand out memory: sitting on the back row of church while Nate drew various pictures of toilets that had arms and legs. One toilet had a spoon in hand and was scooping tasty servings out of the toilet bowl…we were trying not to laugh out loud!

    I told my kids tonight, as we were driving up to float part of the Bear River near the Oneida Narrows, about comments I had read that accompanied the newspaper article. I described the stories people posted detailing little kind acts and extra things Nate went out of his way to do for neighbors and patients and explained to my own kids what a joy that would be to leave that kind of legacy behind for people from all aspects of your life.

    I only wish I had known Nate as an adult and had had the chance to run some rivers together. Thanks Nate. Thanks to the entire Avery clan for showing us all how to live a little better.

  11. Nate would always sit in the back of the medical school auditorium with a pad of paper, a cup of coffee and his mechanical pen. While most of us was furiously taking notes during lectures, Nate would be doodling. Many of us doubted his success in school, with his carefree attitude, his appearance and being a “doodler” but Nate absorbed everything. I was amazed at how easy school was for Nate. Finally years later I came upon a Time Magazine article “Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention By John Cloud, Feb. 26, 2009” which explains his study method. He was revolutionary even back then. That’s Nate!

    He was a simple man with God blessed talents. Always humble and always “real.” I’ll miss you until we meet again pal.

    • Jason, Becky, Eric, and Raleigh Poulter
    • Posted August 20, 2012 at 11:55 pm
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    Pharmacists can tell you who the best doctors are by simply observing their prescription writing habits, so in 2007 when my husband’s rare and deadly cancer returned after 19 years in his spinal column, I was relieved when Dr. Hales informed us that he was going to have Dr. Avery join him in the operating room. The list of things that could have gone wrong seemed endless and included everything from infection to paralysis, as the tumor was very invasive and pressing on his spinal cord. I can’t recall if we simply didn’t realize the gravity of the situation or if we were still in shock, but what I do remember clearly is that we were confident the outcome would be nothing less than miraculous and spectacular.

    The first time I met Dr. Avery, he appeared in my husband’s hospital room along with Dr. Hales as they made rounds together after the surgery. What stuck in my head was how he hung back, leaned against the wall, and observed the conversation from the other side of the room without saying much of anything. My first thought was that he was either tired from his workload or just a serious and/or shy kind of guy by the way he often stared at the floor in silence. Later, as I reviewed the various exam/operating notes, it suddenly struck me that somewhere along the line while he was brushing up on the case and prepping for surgery, he was certain to have come across what I kept noticing: the various references to the type of cancer we were dealing with, the location/severity of the tumor, and the fact that my husband was a relatively young, healthy, married man with a 2 1/2 year-old son and 8 month-old baby girl at home waiting for him.

    Looking back, I can only imagine the pressure one would be under, even as a neurosurgeon, when faced with the task of operating on somebody the top experts in the soft-tissue tumor world referred to as a “remarkable patient” and said that even they were “astonished by the long clinical course” because that’s typically code for: “this guy’s on borrowed time and we can’t believe he’s actually lived this long”.

    Dr. Hales and Dr. Avery were in the unenviable position of trying to salvage what seemingly couldn’t be salvaged, but they faced it head-on in a small-town hospital without even flinching, and that takes some guts. From the laminectomy report: “At the point of having exposure, Dr. Nate Avery came in and was primarily involved in excising the tumor.” My best guess now (since we knew Dr. Hales better than Dr. Avery) is that all the time he was staring at the floor, he was probably in utter disbelief that things had gone so well and also pretty darn relieved! It’s a rather humbling thought that such a wonderful, talented human being was himself so very humble and brave enough to take his best shot at presenting our family with the gift of a healthy husband/father who was able to get up and walk the halls of the hospital as he recovered from surgery.

    We are so very sorry for your family’s loss and can only imagine the pain and sadness you all are experiencing. I wish we could say or do something to make this tragedy easier to bear, but as that is impossible right now, I will say our hope for you is as time passes and the sorrow subsides, you will have opportunity upon opportunity to clearly see just how many people Dr. Avery helped to heal and live better lives. You will be in our thoughts and prayers as we are so grateful to be among the beneficiaries of the trademark qualities that are now part of his legacy.

  12. The coconino county found a cadaver and nate was asked to give his expert opinion on the cause of death. One night he comes in with a bag and pulls out a skull. He hands it to me and says I need this scanned. He mentions that he will need to have it 3d rendered. Then he adds I think this will be your easiest patient yet Megan. I typically deal with patients who are combative, altered, and or unresposive.

    Megan Kinlacheeny ct tech graves

    • Lisa Christensen Havens
    • Posted August 21, 2012 at 7:13 am
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    We walked to seminary from the junior high every day in 9th grade. Nate would always do something crazy. One day he threw snowballs at the passing cars. We all got in trouble for that one.

    • Justine Winchester
    • Posted August 21, 2012 at 9:25 am
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    I recall Dr. Avery’s face when he came into a small room prior to operating on my father’s brain after a terrible fall. His calm demeanor eased me and my mother as we were sobbing and fearing the worst. He explained his approach and was on his way. My father remained comatose for a week and a half after that surgery, not responding to any commands and showing no sign of improvement. We were preparing to let him pass, and the pressure of finalizing a decision was encouraged by the other doctor’s assigned to him. One evening, Dr. Avery came into my father’s ICU room while me and my mother sat at his bedside. We spoke in the waiting room. That meeting with Dr. Avery changed our lives that day. Dr. Avery told me and my mother that he believed my father would recover based on similar cases from his experience. We were completely surprised by his confidence as so many other professionals contradicted Dr. Avery’s words. Regardless, he granted me and my mother a sound mind that evening as we drove back to Cottonwood. For once our minds weren’t filled with the notion of saying goodbye to what remained of my father on that hospital bed–instead that there might be hope he would have the opportunity to live a decent life again.

    My father woke up eventually and recovered a great deal. During the long road of recovery and the countless times we recollected this experience, my mother always referred to Dr. Avery as an angel. My father met with Dr. Avery several months after leaving the hospital. He recalled his wide smile when my father shook his hand and said, “You’re the man responsible for making this meeting happen.” Dr. Avery saved my father’s life and I will never forget the positive impact one good soul had on my family.

    • Gwen (Wendy) McGaugh Groth
    • Posted August 21, 2012 at 9:28 am
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    Nathan in his open-air Cadillac with bull horns on the hood. 🙂

  13. I was a patient of Dr. Avery’s. He did 2 surgeries on my spine. He was very caring and always took his time to talk. He was also very funny! I remember him joking with me and my husband right before one of my surgeries over a Scrabble game we were playing. He said “never play Scrabble with a brain surgeon. We can make a word out of any letters!” Then he looked at the letters I had and just laughed!! When I heard the news of his death, I immediately prayed for his wife and children. I prayed for God to bless them and give them peace. He knew I was a mom and we spoke of our children and families many times during my visits with him. Because of the care I received from Dr. Avery, I am a better mom without pain and I am very thankful! God Bless the Avery family!

  14. I have very fond memories and multiple stories, but one that stands out the most is….

    I went to see him for my 2 week post op when he told me that he thought about me over the weekend becuase he wanted to make a cake for his wife, (i am a cake decorator). Nate and his wife, Annette, had decided that they thought the family was spending unecessary money and wanted to teach the kids about spending so they came up with a plan that for 1 month they would not spend any money on unecssary items. He said if the kids were invited to a birthday party they would have to make a hand-made gift to take. The only thing that he didn’t factor in was it was February and it was Valentines Day! He decided to bake a cake for Annette and decorate it himself, only it was a chocolate cake with white icing. Annette walked in the kitchen he said and asked him what are you doing he preceded to tell her that Julie would be so disappointed right now if she saw this mess. Nate told me that Annette told him that he should have froze the cake first and he thought she was out of her mind. I remember him asking me “I have a point to prove to Annette, how in the heck do you ice a chocolate cake with white icing without it looking like mashed up oreo cookies?” I told him “You need to freeze it first, why?” He just said “Crap, hold on I will be right back.” When he came back into the room he said he had to go and apologize to Annette, she was right! We both laughed, i asked him “Why he did not call me I would have made one for him, he said that would have been cheating on the pact they made not to spend any money on eachother!

    I will miss nate very much! He did cervical spine surgery on me in Feb, 2011. Without him I would have loss the use of my right arm, prior to surgery I had already loss 55% of it and 24 hours later I was back to 90%. He was an amazing man, I will miss his stories and hugs whenever I would run into him. He always remembered me and would say “look at you Jules, are you sure I even did surgery on you?”

    RIP NATE AVERY!!!

  15. What a kind soul. My son was in a horrible snowboarding accident 6 months ago in flagstaff and was in Dr Averys care. He was so kind and giving to us And helped us through a very scary time….bless his soul…and love to his wife and children, for they had a wonderful man in their life for too short of a period of time..may god watch over you

  16. Almost a year ago in a journey of worry and confusion over my son Silas’s condition we were introduced to a wonderful local neurologist called Dr. Avery. He quickly became my hero, assuring me that Silas no matter what would be okay because he had loving parents, and telling me in his gut that he felt Silas was okay. We had a follow up appointment as Silas’s symptoms became more complicated and he again looked at Silas and told me – he was okay – whatever it was it he thought it was benign. He couldn’t say certainly but his intuition told him – things were okay. He had quirky ways. He held Silas upside down at one point and then smiled and told me that’s how he used to hold his daughter and that she too was “lazy” like my son and hadn’t liked to hold up her head. He had such a way of making you feel like even if something WAS very wrong you would be able to handle it and make the best of it. Each appointment he brought personal experiences with him about his Dad or his own kids or whoever he had to tell you about to make you feel like you weren’t crazy and somehow he understood. I remember leaving the building in happy tears and telling my husband Wes that we felt like God used doctors hands and what a huge blessing it was that we had such a wonderful doctor in our small town. Yesterday we heard that Dr. Avery passed away in a drowning accident. My heart aches for this whole town – he was such a valuable member – but mostly for his family who he clearing loved and who were his best and favorite accomplishment. I always hoped I’d run into him somewhere so I could tell him his gut was right. Silas IS okay. He has a disorder that he’ll outgrow. I don’t know how he looked at a child with symptoms that looked so awful and just knew he was fine – but he did… he had the gut of one of those special one-of-a-kind doctors who is in it because he was born for it – not because he wanted to be rich. Wherever you are Nate – you were SO important to us for the time we had you!

  17. Maureen, and Avery Family,

    I am very sorry to hear of your loss it was quite a shock to me. I am Rick and Yvonnne Valdes’ sister and I was also a long time patient of Maureen’s. I also used to be a patient care technician/unit secretary in the ICU and Dr. Avery was always so humble and kind. The one thing that I will never forget is that I always had a back up pen for him when he came in to make his rounds and chart on his patients as I knew the first thing that he would ask me for was a pen. I always made sure that it was a spare pen as well because 9 times out of 10 he would leave the unit with the pen. There were times that it was hard to read the doctor’s writing when I was transcribing the orders and every once in a while I would have to ask the doctor what they wrote and Dr. Avery would never mind if I stopped him to ask him what he wrote even though he may have been busy.

    Your family is in my thoughts and prayers

  18. My husband had nck surgry 2 years ago and was fortunate enough and lucky enough to have Dr. Avery as his surgeon. The day before his surgery, Dr. Avery assured us that all of Mike’s pain would be gone, and it was. We have never had the feeling of being cared for so well as with Dr. Avery’s compassion, bedside humor and manners. Dr. Avery asked Mike what he did for a living and Mike said we had a little BBQ joint in Sedona. Dr. Avery laughed and said he would have to come eat there and give Mike his opinion! After having eaten lunch there with his assistant, he smiled and with his dry humor said, “Pretty Good Stuff!”. That was a great compliment coming from him. Although we did not know him on a personal level, only patient-doctor visits, we certainly shared laughs together with this great man. Dr. Avery would be the kind of guy anyone would want as their friend and next door neighbor.
    Our sincere condolences to Dr. Avery’s family – our prayers and thoughts are with you. Mike and Dee Sally

  19. My Nate Story: I have been blessed to have been brought into the “Avery World” in the last two years. I have worked alongside Annette a school, but did not know Nate as well. Last November I ran my 5K at a race in Phoenix where Annette, Mo and Sarah ran the 1/2 marathon. I was with a different group of women who also ran the ½ marathon. As we all know a 5K race goes much faster than the 1/2, so I finished earlier than my friends. I walked over to the 1/2 marathon finish line to wait for my group when I ran into Nate and Aaron. As always he was so welcoming and nice, greeting me like a long lost friend. As we were chatting Nate was keeping a close eye on the finish line. His face lit up when he saw Mo heading toward the finish line; he began cheering for her with enormous excitement. A few minutes later same scenario, we were chatting, he was watching the finish line. When he saw Annette his face filled with pride and love. It was so clear how much he loved her. He was cheering so loud for Annette. It was a beautiful moment to witness.

  20. I worked with Nate for six months on the neurosurgery service in Salt Lake. He was a great surgeon, and a good man. I have a lot of good memories of him as a kind person with great perspective. I have two stories about him that I will never forget:
    1) While doing a craniotomy together with a medical student, he asked the medical student if he knew what kind of doctor he wanted to be. The medical student chuckled and said, “Well, really like girls, so I think I want to be an ObGyn.” Nate was quiet for a minute and then said, “I don’t know how to explain this to you, son, but its not like the Swedish bikini team comes in every day and says that everythings fine down there but they just want you to look at it.”
    2) He had some textbooks he wanted to give me. I drove over to his house post-call and sleep deprived to pick them up. While trying to back out of the driveway, I bumped into his pickup truck with my jeep. I felt terrible, and he just laughed and complained that I got some paint on his rust spots.
    My heart goes out to the family, this is a terrible loss.

    • Mike Tulloss & Family
    • Posted August 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm
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    Nate and I were drinking coffee early one morning at his Bed and Breakfast in Telluride. A guest who was sure Nate was the one serving the bagels and ceral, turned out to be a nurse. After a lengthy discussion, she stopped and asked, “Do you mind me asking what you do for a living?”. Nate responded without hesitation…”Trust me when I tell you that no one finds more humor in this than I do but… I’m a brain surgeon.” She glanced at me and asked ” what are you… a rocket scientist? I’m not sure she believed us?

    • Connie Beingessner
    • Posted August 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm
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    In March of 2008 I had 2 lumbar surgeries with Nate, and they both were 2 1/2 weeks apart from each other. My husband and I went to Flag for the follow up, and when Nate walked in and we began conversation about recovery I had mentioned to him that my left butt cheek was smaller than my right. My field of practice is personal trainer. So Nates response was ” Connie at your age (42 at the time) do you really care what your butt looks like?” and I said “yes don’t you?” Nate was 1 year younger than me. He stands up and says “I don’t have a butt” I said “at least its the same.” I told him when I sat up one day I about fell over, so he did not believe me so I stood up and told him to put both hands on my butt and feel the glutes, and I could not squeeze my left. Meanwhile my husband is just rolling his eyes, and we were all laffing…. Time passed and I saw Nate here at our Page Safeway store and I happened to be behind him in line, and said hello and it was followed by a hug, and how are you, and I always would say “great thanks to you!” He looks at me and says “how is your butt?” and we both started laughing !!! Nate we will miss seeing you behind Frank and Vivians houseboat while we kayak!! You were sooo amazing to everyone. I can’t stop shedding tears for you and your family…you are so missed. And yes Thanks for giving me my life back!!

  21. Recently I was telling Nate that Aaron wanted me to go to a Rush concert. I explained that there are a few Rush songs that I really like, but I was not a devout Rush fan, and really wasn’t interested in going. Nate seemed unwilling to accept that I could only like Rush a little bit, and said that surely I knew the song “The Trees” and c’mon, didn’t I agree that the lyrics were amazing? He commandeered a nearby computer and insisted that I sit down and listen to the song. That is, listen to him SING the song. Every. Word. Occasionally he’d stop, making sure I was giving the song my full attention, and to make sure that I knew there were only three band members making all of that music. It was great…such a character.

    So, Nate, here’s to you. I listened to “The Trees” again and I’m coming around to your way of thinking. They are good lyrics. Maybe not Tom Sawyer good, but good ;). I suspect that every time Aaron and I hear these lyrics from now on we’ll sing out loud, think of you and Annette, and smile:

    “There is unrest in the forest/There is trouble with the trees/For the maples want more sunlight And the oaks ignore their pleas./The trouble with the maples(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)/
    They say the oaks are just too lofty/And they grab up all the light/But the oaks can’t help their feelings/If they like the way they’re made/And they wonder why the maples/Can’t be happy in their shade…”

  22. I was in pain and had lost the “life” in my life. I loved to kayak and hike, but knife-sharp agony was taking all my fun living away. A friend suggested I see the amazing Dr. Avery. My husband went with me for my consultation and I was surprised to meet this tall boyish guy who drew detailed pictures of my spine on the examining room table paper. When I commented on how young he appeared to be, he drew himself up another inch or two and announced, “Well, I am almost 40!”

    Not only did he repair my fractured vertebra, he restored my life and introduced me to paddleboarding. We had paddleboard races in the lane between our boats in the marina (which he always won), and he let me try out his beautiful hand-crafted board which he designed for speed.

    I referred so many friends to him that he complained he would lose time at the lake if I sent him any more patients, but he never turned anyone away.

    God bless you Nate. I am so fortunate to have been one of your miracles.

  23. Two Nate stories:

    1. One day soon after Kenton died, Nate picked me up in his pinzgour to go for a run at Buffalo park, and with his crooked little impish smile and a devil-may-care glint in his eye, he said “watch this!”, and proceeded to drive one of the front tires up onto one of the barrier rocks at the border of the lot, so that the front end was precariously perched with one tire up on this 3 foot tall rock, the other tire dangling uselessly suspended in air, and the entire rig was tilted at a rakish angle, seemingly a butterfly’s breath away from toppling over, with me on the downstream side. “Isn’t that cool ?!?”, he proudly asked. “Yeah, Nate” I replied, “that’s really cool. Now, ya wanna get me a ladder?” He laughed, jumped out, and always the gentleman, opened my door for me while I fell out on the ground!

    2. After Brian, his mom’s husband died, she said to me at his wake “Well…I guess you know what this means…it means you and I are gonna have to be the co-founders of the “Kick-Ass Widow’s Club”!. It was with much shared joy that Nate invited me over so he could teach me how to make his mom’s famous bread. Completely unscientific and wildly non-specific about the measurements, I tried to mentally gauge how much one of Nate’s handfuls of flour would translate to. He was so proud to be sharing some of his mom’s love, and all the while, Maddie, who was about 2 or 3, was walking and dancing on the kitchen counter, walking through the flour we had sprinkled out to knead the dough in…her hair a wild tangle of blonde curls, falling in her eyes,and Nate said that his mother’s revenge for all his wild days was for him to have to raise her incarnate in Maddie. He scolded her more than once to not walk thru the flour and to get down, but she and I both knew he didn’t mean it, that he secretly loved it and was NOT going to enforce it…needless to say, there was more than a tiny measure of Maddie in the flour that went into each loaf we made that day!

  24. Dear Annette,

    What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Nate, is love. When I hiked rim to rim with you a couple of years ago, I was gifted with a look into Nate Avery. On a pit stop to the canyon, Nate declared his love for the Arizona land. I saw miles of dry, baron rock and sand. He saw and felt beauty and a sense of home.
    Even with a fever, he didn’t let a rim to rim opportunity pass by. He drove with a car full of women, loving every second of it, and when he decided not to hike because of his fever, he lovingly drove us to the trail head before dawn, and chased your cute hiking skirt around letting the world know that he would follow your hiking skirt to the ends of the earth.
    I learned about how he had made his mother’s casket. And witnessed his deep love for his family and friends, and life.
    I walked away from meeting Nate, knowing that I had encountered a one in a million.

    I ache for all of us who were fortunate enough to share a slice of Nate.

    Last month a friend of ours passed away from battling cancer for several years. She left a loving husband and three children equal in age to Cora, Thad and Maddie. Stacey knew the end was coming, and she was fortunate to have some time to plan and set the tone for the initial loss. She asked her husband to share this quote with family and friends when she passed. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

    I find that quote incredibly powerful, and full of love, and I see Nate in it.

    Please know that I am thinking of all of you during this challenging time, and sending you all love and peace.

    Much love,
    Meg
    (Kris Downs’ sister)

    • Elizabeth and Lew Carleton
    • Posted August 23, 2012 at 6:54 am
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    We first met Dr. Avery when he was doing his fellowship in Utah. Our son was 2 years old, had just come home from Primary Children’s Medical Center after spinal surgery and had to be re-admitted to the hospital due to complications. Dr. Avery happened to be on call when we came back through the emergency room and we immediately felt at ease with him after having negative experiences with the prior surgeon. He became our advocate with the neurosurgical team and helped two very scared parents feel better about a second surgery and hospital stay. Our son is now a healthy 13-year-old.

    We moved to the Phoenix area two years ago and had to find a new neurosurgical office for our son’s check-ups. We found out Dr. Avery was practicing in Flagstaff and there was no question in our minds that we were going to make that drive every other year, even if our insurance company told us there were doctors closer to us. He welcomed us as if only a day had passed since he’d last seen us instead of 10 years.

    Our thoughts are with his family and the medical community in Flagstaff. Dr. Avery will be missed.

  25. Dearest Dr. Avery’s family, please allow me to send our love and condolence to you. We have never met but my brother, my parents and I are with you all this time, from Canada, China, and Delaware, respectively. Please let us know if we could do anything for you anytime.

    (I had tried to type this message early this week but had to stop half way many times because my words are failing to express how much we love Dr. Avery, and also because I could not control my tears from falling onto my keyboard. Every drop added a taste of bitterness into my sorrow and refreshed my memory of the sweetness that we have experienced from knowing Dr. Avery.)

    Dr. Avery save my brother’s life two month ago. I remember the incredible surgery he performed. The day before the surgery, the emergency nurse told me that my brother is getting the best surgeon here. She is more than right. Dr. Avery is the best of the best. He took great patience explaining the X-Ray and the MRI results in details to us. He assured us that my brother would walk soon. From that moment on, no matter how hopeless it had seemed in the first month, I stubbornly stick to Dr. Avery’s words, “Because Dr. Avery said my brother will walk, he will! I do not allow anybody to doubt it and tell my brother other options”. I trust Dr. Avery’s diagnostics and believe in his magic. I do, rightfully so: now my brother is practicing walking in the rehab hospital!

    I remember every word he had said. His words are soft, his heart is light, and his humor is dry. A real gentleman in heart, he came across down-to-earth humble when relating to people.

    Before the surgery, I waited anxiously outside ICU when Dr. Avery and his colleagues walked by. Noticing me looked absolutely miserable and sad, he introduced me to his colleagues “She is a physics postdoc. She is smarter than us”. I immediately protested that I could never be as smart as a neurosurgeon. Quickly, he gave out a witty smile, “We do not know Higgs particle”, he said. “Actually, neither do I”, as soon as I replied, I realized that I no longer sank into my sorrow. His humor reminded me my passion for my career, and even rekindled a bit of my sense of humor. I find an encouragement coming subtle and indirect like this much more powerful and long-lasting. Thank you, Dr. Avery.

    A surgery is like a marathon; a surgeon unavoidably became exhausted after each intensive operation. But Dr. Avery is always full of fun and comfort to the patients and their family. In the hospital hallway, my mom expressed concern that Dr. Avery and his team worked too hard, he quickly pointed to his assistant, “I work hard, he doesn’t”. then he gave out another witty smile. Immediately, our concerns dissipate into laugher.

    Another day, I asked the nurses if they could shave my brother’s hair to reduce the chance for infection. “We need your brother’s permission”, they told me. I appreciated their consideration for my brother’s privacy. The question is how could I get an unconscious person’s permission? Troubled, I turned to Dr. Avery for advises. “From my experience, it is best to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Soft and low-key as he spoke and dry as his humor always is, I sensed a great heart-felt support. He really cared. When he was around, my nerve was always in peace.

    Negotiating one-month’s astronomical medical bills with several offices has been very stressful because, proud as I am, I have never asked a favor (not to mention many) from people regarding money. It took a lot of courage to lower oneself. But things took a turn as soon as I got in touch with Dr. Avery through his secretary Cheryl. “Dr. Avery said he only want you to remember him if you ever get rich or famous”. When Cheryl was kindly passing the message from Dr. Avery with laughter, I smiled at his humor again and immediately became all tearful. Before, I only knew Dr. Avery has the magic to turn one’s tears into joy. This time, I found his magic of turning one’s joy into tears: grateful tears. Like Andersen’s little girl, I was asking for a “match” in the “snow”, Dr. Avery generously gave us a whole furnace.

    A good surgeon does his duty. An exceptional surgeon goes beyond his duty to touch people’s heart, once and for a lifetime. Of billions of people, I am more than blessed and honored to have met Dr. Avery. Thank you, for being our hero and for living a life example of legacy and humanity. We will always remember you, whether you are on Earth or in Heaven, whether we will become poor or rich, whether we will stay unknown or become famous. You are always in our hearts. Your dedication and you spirit will be carried along our journey into everything we do. We love you and miss you dearly.

    • Thank you for sharing that incredible story! I’m so grateful you got to meet Nate and experience the wonderful person that he was and continues to be in our lives! He is truly amazing and missed so much. Our hearts are just shattered.

  26. Dr. Avery performored brain and neck surgery on my 15 year old daughter Rachael. After recovery she was crying in pain. Dr. Avery tenderly wiped the tears from her cheeks, held her hand and kept telling her to “hang on, this will make you stronger.” His love and compassion shined through in every detail.
    He also liked to brag that his paddle board was better and faster’s than his sister Mo’s, and teased that the back of his board was all that she ever saw because he was always ahead of her.

    • Frank Chavez M.Ed.
    • Posted August 23, 2012 at 11:38 am
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    My condolences goes out to the Avery Family. It is of great sadness when I learned of Nathans passing Sunday.

    I First meet Nathan when I was a Bartender for my Father, and he was a River runner for Hatch…The tradition was to end a river trip in downtown Flag with a drink or two or…
    Our paths crossed again in 2001 But this time as his patient. Dr Ritland referred my case to Nathan. Nathan and I recalled the days of downtown and how it has changed. After my first surgery he advised me to take it easy. I took him you know me…Drive fast take chances, and we parted laughing….
    Our paths crossed again 2004 when my back went out…I called him on his cell on Friday evening about my condition, He told me to call in the morning…end results he told me that he had a bed and morphine waiting for at emergency and that I would see him there. After surgery Nathan entered my room with a very serious and stressful look on his face. one that I had not seen often. I just had surgery and I could not move my legs..I thought the worst. We had idle talk about the surgery, then out of nowhere he pulled out a surgical glove with a small hole in it and said…during surgery I pinched/pricked my finger so I am pumping you with extra doses of antibiotics to prevent infection….I started to laugh out loud and said..is that all, I though you were going to tell me I’m crippled. He then started to laugh…as we talked further I saw the stress and concern wash from his face…when he released me from his care he told me to live life to it fullest and to the best of my ability. Don’t worry about how the surgery has placed limitations on my body, just live life and continue to do the activities that make you happy…He paused and told me , you will have surgery again, it is all a matter of time. When it is time don’t let anyone else cut you, call me, I will get you back to Flagstaff and put you back together. He gave me four year, but I gave him seven before I saw him again, and had plans to see him this year. It was obvious that he genuinely cared about my well being.

    How would I define Nathan: Good friend, an aviator(called him after he crashed in Texas), River runner, Doctor, compassion, genuinely cared about his patients, happy, cheerful, Father, Husbands, inventor, and an asset to first and foremost to his family and friends. Although you are off on another adventure, we will all miss you……..Rest in Peace!

  27. I met Dr. Avery last year when my nurse husband suggested that talking to him about a chronic neck problem might be beneficial. Am I glad I took the advice because Dr. Avery was the first person in 15 years to figure out exactly what was going on with my neck! I appreciated his suggestions and thoughtful ideas because neck fusion was a terrifying prospect for me. I remember one of my office visits in particular when he looked at me and said, “I know you are hurting and I can do this whenever you want.” Those words meant a lot to me and I truly think he understood what I had been dealing with. Even though he won’t be doing my surgery, he gave me the courage and the plan to make myself better. And his humor along the way didn’t hurt. What a wonderful soul.

  28. Dr. Avery was my sister’s doctor and the doctor for my youngest nephew, Nic. As far as I can tell, he saved both of their lives.

    My nephew was just shy of being 16 when Dr. Avery tood a tumor out of his brain. Although it was benign, the size of the tumor and the close proximity to his brain stem both could have killed him. It is odd to say that we were lucky with the circumstances surrounding his getting a brain tumor, but we were. Dr. Avery was a blanket of calm confidence holding an extraordinary intellect. And he saved Nic’s life.

    A few years later, my sister’s eight-hour back surgery post-op had gone terribly wrong. I drove her back from Phoenix and although I was surrounded by nurses, it just seemed as if things were terribly wrong. Dr. Avery made a house call. A HOUSE CALL. In 2009. He was so kind and calm when I was clearly and unequivocally the most frightened I have ever been, in seeing the condition of my sister. He was just buckets of cool and I never got to tell him that or to thank him. How grateful I am that he saved my people. And in large part, they are still here because of him.

    To his family and his darling children, I am so very sorry for your loss. Your father was an extraordinary man. To his friends who knew him longer and better, you know he was an angel amoung us.

    “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there; I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am the sun on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft star-shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there; I did not die.”

    Mary Frye

    • Cris and CZ Ballard
    • Posted August 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm
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    Nate did spinal surgery on my husband in Dec. of 2011. I was sitting in recovery with my husband one night at the hosipital and Nate came in to check on him and visit. We were talking about the car he was restoring with his kids and he said the car meant very little, it was the time with the kids that was so precious to him. He would not have traded it for anything. He loved his family so much!
    Also when my husband was in surgery with Nate and I was in the waitng room at the hospital worried sick about him, with lots of other worried families waiting for news of their loved ones, the phone in the room would ring and a call would come for the waiting family to go see the person who had surgery and they would get up and leave. The phone never rang for me. Nate and Rob came in face to face, gave me a hug, and let me know everything went well and walked me to where my husband was. They were the only doctors I saw do this that day. They really care about their patients and their families.
    CZ and I are so very grateful for the privilege of knowing Nate. My hope is that everyone who knew and loved him will find comfort in the happy memories they shared with him. He was a gift to all of us.

  29. Avery Family-I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Nate was a special person who touched many lives with his kindness and profession. I worked in ICU for many years and he always came in before 8 to do rounds on ICU patients. As I see him entering ICU on the camera, I quickly scramble for a cheap unwanted pen because I knew I would not see it again if I let him borrow a pen. One day he told me, Well-you are partially at fault for your pens disappearing because you know I walk off with pens but yet you still let me borrow it. I said yes because you are the Doctor! He was always nice and smiling. We will miss him alot! Thanks Nate for the wonderful memories and laughs.

  30. The University of Kentucky Emergency Department is where I met Nathan. I didn’t know him as “Nate”. I loved the person he was… What a wonderful addition to our crew, i thought. I was a nurse in the ER. He talked about his wife and his eyes sparkled as he spoke. He was incredibly talented and I loved working a trauma with him because we would go and speak with family members together and he always handled them with such compassion. Many years have passed and I have often wondered where Nathan was and if he returned to Flagstaff after residency. There were only a handful of residents that I thought of frequently and Nathan was one of them. My heart is broken for the premature loss of his life and for his family’s loss. May God ease your suffering and know that I was so touched and privliged to get to work beside him when he was a “newby”.

  31. I was 7 yrs. old and Dr. Avery fixed my chiari malformation. I so wanted to go home after the first night in the PICU. Dr. Avery said no, I needed to stay about a week, so I fired him. He wasn’t there when I fired him but when he walked into the hospital he heard from several people that he had been fired by one of his young patients. He walked into my room and said “It is all over the hospital that you fired me.” I said “Yes, cause you won’t let me go home, I really want to go home.” He sat on my bed and talked to me like I was an adult and we made a deal. I did what he asked of me and he let me go home the next day.

    I am only 12 now and I have seen over 30 doctors. Some I still remember and some I don’t. But Dr. Avery is one I will always remember. He was very special to me and to my family. RIP in Dr. Avery, you will be missed.

  32. When I knew Nate, he was not a neurosurgeon or big-wig Flagstaff doctor. We were just two kids in our twenties, loving life on the river and having fun. It is odd now to read posts referring to him as Dr. Avery. To me he was, and will always be, just Nate.

    I met Nate when I worked for Glen Canyon Environmental Studies and he worked for Hatch. We dated in 1990 (I believe that was the year). Unfortunately, my memory is old and disjointed, but I never forgotten (and have always thought fondly) of the time we spent together. These are the memories I have of my time with Nate.

    Driving around in his homemade convertible Cadillac. He loved Pantera, “Cowboys From Hell.” The time he pulled me on a Hatch trip while he was rigging at Lee’s Ferry and somehow managed to get me on his commercial trip with nothing but the clothes on my back. When we were on the river at the same time, but on a different schedule, he would always leave notes for me in the hidden, ammo can mail boxes. He was always stubbing his toes on rocks. He was in his friend’s wedding and everyone was decked out in their finest cowboy garb. Even the bride was wearing all white cowboy attire from her hat to her cowboy boots. I was definitely out of my element, but he made me feel so welcome and comfortable. His quick witted sense of humor and always at ease mellow good nature.

    One of our last encounters together as a “couple”, we met for dinner and he told me a good friend’s boyfriend had passed away (or been in an accident, I can’t remember exactly), but that he really wanted be there for her. I remember thinking as he left that this person was clearly very special to him. If memory serves, I believe that person was Annette.

    Nate and I lost touch over the years, but I have always thought about what a sincere and honest person he was. Always ready to help out others. The most easy going and modestly funny person I have ever had the pleasure to know. The world has lost a very dear soul and my heart goes out to Annette and their children.

    • Gillian Ferris Kohl
    • Posted August 24, 2012 at 7:15 am
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    Nate operated on my spine almost 3 years ago when my cervical discs began to deteriorate so badly that I was in constant pain and I couldn’t use my right arm properly. Couldn’t even hold a coffee cup. I kept putting off the surgery because I was so scared. But one day Nate told me, “Gillian, I care about you and you’ve got real problems here that I’d be happy to help you with. But on a scale of 1 to 10 of what I do, you’re about a 3.” That was all I needed to hear and scheduled the surgery immediately. Only Nate Avery could have made spine fusion surgery and a subsequent bout with C-Dif an amazing experience. My heart aches at his absence. All my love to Annette, kids, family and extended family.

  33. I had the good fortune of getting to know Nate through work in the ICU and Recovery Room over the last 7 years.
    ‘Hey Girrl’ he would always say with a great big grin on his face- my day would instantly get better just with that smile.
    One day he was teaching me how to make my own stand-up paddle board. “It’s easy.” He says, while drawing me pictures and looking up photos on the internet. “I made one for Annette.” And I’m thinking, ‘why would a neurosurgeon want to take the time to make his own paddle board? I don’t think he’s strapped for cash.’
    But that was Nate. He was patient, and kind, and he got everything he could out of life.
    Nave Avery was an example to us all: Be a better person, live life to its fullest, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
    I will miss you Nate. I’m so glad to have met you.

  34. He told me I’d be back now what Nate? He was so proud of his 2-inch stitch on my hip where he’d removed some bone for my neck. I had asked him nice to please don’t make a mess and he said he spent more time stitching that than the rest of the surgery. He also yelled at me for walking around the hospital without my neck collar ‘What are you doing for gods sake?” But in a good way not in a hostal way. It was an honor to be among his patients.

    The world is a much smaller place now

    We’ll miss you

  35. Gosh, I first met Nate when I was a new police officer here in Flagstaff. I responded to a loud party disturbance and there he was. Over a foot taller than me with a beer in hand saying “what’s up”?. He told me that he was partying with river buddies. He gave me his name and I asked him if he was Val’s son. That was our link! I told him regardless that he had to keep the noise down, his response, “Dude, really?” My response, “Dude, yes!”.

    I spent alot of years working with Val and Mo at the NAU “Expanding your Horizon’s” conference. I often ran into Nate in the community to which he and I always called each other “dude”. He used to mockingly put his arms in the air and act like I was arresting him (always with the public in sight). We would crack each other up with laughter and end up hugging one another.

    Unfortunately, but fortunately I became one of his patients. (I wouldn’t have anyone else touch my spine!)He came into my room in his office and said “Dude, what happened?” He proceeded to draw my injury on a piece of paper, (I called it his “Picasso”) I actually still have his drawing which I had him sign. Despite the pain I was in, we still cracked each other up. He was mostly worried that he wouldn’t be able to fix my injury and then would have to answer to his mom and Mo.

    After the surgery he came in and had to confess that he accidentally dropped a small piece of my hip bone on the floor. I asked him if he used the three second rule and used it anyway, his answer “how’d you guess?” He would come to my hospital room to visit and “take a load off” by sitting on my bed and “hanging out”. With him I always felt comfy, happy and safe. This was a career ending injury and he called me several times at home post surgery to see how I was dealing physically, mentally and emotionally with the career change. What doctor does that? Nate, my dude, did!

    Thanks for the memories Nate. I truly believe your mom was there to meet you. Lake Powell?Cookie Jar will never be the same. To Annette, you have the greatest gift in having the children to get you through. Mo (Maureen), Thad and Chris, and the extended family wishing you much comfort and support during this time. Our Mt. Town is better having had Nate in our lives. Thank you, Asqwali-“thank you in Hopi”=Dinah G.-Retired FPD Detective

  36. I saw Nate as a patient last Thursday and we made a plan to once again fix my broken neck. You don’t trust just anybody to mess around with your spinal cord but I never doubted he would fix broken me. He restored the disintegrating discs in my neck on Halloween, 2011 and very happily, I was all better. Then on Thanksgiving 2011 I stepped up onto a curb and smashed my head into a tree branch. (A branch carefully disguised as leaves.) When I went back to tell him how the neck he had fixed was once again broken, he logically doubted. He is was a man of phenomenal intelligence. Two x-rays showed nothing but it hurt and I persisted. When a cat scan showed I had broken a facet on one of my cervical discs, he called me…..”Janece, I wanted you to know, I just served myself up a large dish of crow but that’s OK because I need to eat a dish of crow every now and then to keep myself healthy.”

    With an economy of words, not unlike Abraham Lincoln, in one sentence, he validated my doubts, fear and pain. And a doctor who admits when he is wrong is of value far beyond his weight in diamonds, plutonium or even the razor blue skies and cliffs weighted with centuries that we really value here in Flagstaff.

    I was blessed by his exceptional surgical skills, a respect too infrequently shown for patients under our care and his friendship. To share any one of these three things with another person is a gift; to have all of them contained within the same person is nothing short of a miracle.

    Nate’s death doesn’t make any sense. Our heads are all spinning trying to understand. We’ve all thought it…“the good die young“…but frankly that just irritates me; we want him here, with us. Why? What is God thinking, for crying out loud? The only thing making sense to me is God is giving us all a wake up call. Nate’s life was exemplary; he has set the bar high and we all need to wake up and follow his lead. His life can and will live on in each of us. Not to get all sacrilegious, but perhaps those of us in the medical field should ask ourselves at times, “What would Nate do?” He was a gift dropped into each of our lives and I like to think he will be watching the ripple effect as each of us carry him on in our hearts and do better, like he did.

    Annette and kids, thank you so much for sharing him with us. I know having a doctor as husband and dad is in no way easy; you are in my prayers. God bless you all.

    Nate, you run the river and laugh ‘til your gut hurts; you deserve nothing but joy!

  37. I was a patient of Dr. Avery’s. He performed spinal fusion on my lower back 9 months ago. I thank God that I was referred to him, as the best surgeon to see. I had a fondness towards him from the moment I met him. He was compassionate and kind. Reading the stories here, I now know that he was a fun loving guy and was truly enjoying life. I am sad for his family and friends that he passed so soon. Nate’s passing is a loss to humankind.

  38. When I first came to Flagstaff as a Biology professor in 1989, Nate Avery was one of my first students in Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, a senior class for pre-medical students. A handsome young 20 year-old in cowboy boots and hat who excelled academically and rose to any challenge, it was a pleasure to have him as a student in my class.
    Imagine my surprise when, 7 years later in 1996, I arrived in an ambulance at the University of Kentucky Hospital with my father, who had just suffered a major thalamic stroke, to find that Nate was the resident on duty that night. Nate brought me back to the computer and patiently showed me the MRI scans of my father’s brain and explained the prognosis. It was so reassuring to have Nate there at that stressful time. I will never forget this bright young man and reassuring doctor.

  39. when i was a junior in highschool, i visited kayenta, arizona for my second time. during my free time on sunday, april 3, i fell off a cliff and was lifeflighted to flagstaff medical center. seven years ago, nate avery performed late night brain surgery on me with the intentions of cleaning me up so i wouldn’t look so bad when my parents came into town the next morning. i was sure to be dead. the next morning i was still alive but barely clinging. for around 11 days that was the story-dead by morning, dead by night. finally the good doctor avery decided i was going to live and began the process of waking me up. it has now been over 7 years and i am fully functional with an emotions/personality brain injury. thank you Lord and thank you Dr. Avery!

    • Joel and Cyndy Crowley
    • Posted August 25, 2012 at 9:03 am
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    Dr. Nate was my saving grace almost six years ago. My husband, Joel, was undergoing treatments for cancer at the time, when I encountered the most debilitating pains down my neck and left arm. Our first meeting was when he called me into his office to discuss my MRI results. He started to ask questions about my left leg, and didn’t seem to care much about my “arm on fire”. When he pulled out the X-ray, it showed a herniated disc pushing into my nerves in the neck, but also pushing back into my spinal cord, causing paralysis to my left leg. He told me he had good news and bad news. The good news was he could “Fix me up good as new”. The bad news was I would have to wait 5 more days for the surgery because he would be at a conference in Denver to receive an award for a design he invented for children’s neck injuries. I handled a few more midnight ER visits and waited for the miracle doc to return. He operated the morning he got back to Flagstaff. I thank God for sending me a guardian angel named Dr. Nate Avery and I thank him each and every day for giving me my life back. We will forever miss the compassion-Nate person he was, and his dry wit humor will linger in our memories always. Nathan, may you now enjoy Life Eternal with God in Heaven, and may all the lives you’ve touched in your short time here be part of God’s woven tapestry. We wish your family and friends peace in the coming days, as they begin to heal. We will miss you. Thank you from the Crowleys.

  40. It was 8 years ago when I had the incredible opportunity to follow Dr. Avery around as a college student considering medical school. Not knowing anything about me, he went out of his way to let me be his shadow, both in his clinic and in the operating room. He graciously wrote me a letter of recommendation and actually gave me fashion advice (believe it or not, and more than once) that was pivotal in getting me into medical school. My first day at his office I showed up in a pair of jeans. I thought they were nice, no holes or anything. He quickly brought me into his office and told me that it was inappropriate attire to wear during clinic, on the other hand he said, “don’t look like a million bucks then your patients won’t feel comfortable around you.” Then it was time for my interviews and he told me to wear a khaki skirt and white shirt, and “roll up your sleeves” he said. I went to my first two interviews like this and realized everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing suits. I came home and told my school advisor about my interviews and she about fell on the floor when she realized what I had done. So I immediately went out and found a suit to wear to the rest of my interviews. Well I was fortunate enough to get accepted to two schools… and they were the two schools that I had worn what Dr. Avery told me to wear.

    One of the memories that has impacted me the most was when he spent 20 minutes talking to a patient about her condition describing every detail. She left and came back ten minutes later and said, I’m sorry I stopped listening…” I fully expected any doctor to give a quick summary or tell her to come back later at the end of the day, or schedule another appointment. Instead, in the hallway, Dr. Avery spent 30 minutes (which in neurosurgeon time equals about 3.5 hours) carefully re-explaining, stopping every so often to make sure she understood, her condition and prognosis. He had the ability to make each patient feel like they were his only patient.

    My favorite Nate-ism is as follows:

    Dr. Avery to patient: “This is good for you, bad for me.”
    Patient: “What do you mean doc?”
    Dr. Avery: “Well it looks like you don’t need an operation, and I like to operate!”

    What I learned from Dr. Avery cannot be taught in medical school; first and foremost be honest with your patients, humor is the best medicine, and above all do what you love. No matter how chaotic medicine can be, its never too busy to make someone more comfortable, to make someone laugh or to share your knowledge with a young doctor. And.. per Dr. Avery “come back home to practice, because then you will know everyone, and you can get free food.” 🙂

    To Dr. Avery’s family, your husband/father/brother has been the most influential person in my life. I am so sorry for your loss, but so grateful that someone like him even existed.

    • Whitney Sheen, M.D.
    • Posted August 25, 2012 at 10:34 am
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    I met Dr. Avery for the first time back in 2003 when mutual friends connected me with him. I was 19 years old, a sophomore in college, and very interested in the neurosciences and medicine. He kindly agreed to let me hang out with him on my spring break that year. I remember my first day in clinic with him. He seemed so tall, with thin rimmed glasses and a focused seriousness. My initial feelings of intimidation were gradually assuaged throughout the course of that first day as I watched him work his magic with each of his patients. By the end of the week, the feeling had transformed into one of highest respect and admiration, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to come home to Flagstaff and be a neurosurgeon with Dr. Avery. At the end of my last day with him that eventful week in March, 2003, he called me into his office to speak with me. I remember walking in and seeing him pouring over a huge neurosurgery text, fiddling with the model for the plate he had invented with both hands. He turned to me, handing me the model, and said, “I invented this.” I held it in my hands, having no idea what I was looking at, but awe-inspired nonetheless. ‘Wow,’ I thought to myself. ‘He is so young and he’s already invented this medical appliance to help people!’ I was so inspired. Before I walked out the door, he said to me, “I have three pieces of advice for you.” I looked at him with great anticipation. “First, always approach things from the top down. Second, remember that nothing worthwhile in life comes free, cheap or easy. Finally, be a bear, a GRIZZLY bear.” I walked out of the office, inspired, a bit confused, and with steadfast resolve to become a neurosurgeon one day, like the great Dr. Avery. From that day forward, I held on to those three pieces of advice as my most treasured possessions. They got me through my pre-med courses at college, my time as a Fulbright scholar studying children’s health issues in Colombia, my applications to medical school, my sub-internships in neurosurgery, and through my first couple of months as a neurosurgery resident at the University of Arizona Medical Center. During and between each of these events, Dr. Avery was always checking in on me, seeing how I was doing, encouraging me to stop by and work with him in the clinic and OR when I was home on breaks. He called me just last month to see how residency was going. I told him it was going well, that I loved it so far. I didn’t tell him that every day in the hospital, with every patient encounter, I ask myself, ‘How would Dr. Avery respond in this situation?’ and in the OR, ‘What would Dr. Avery do in this instance?’ I have been very fortunate to work with world-renown neurosurgeons at Yale, where I went to medical school, and Barrow Neurological Institute, where I did an internship in my last year of medical school, but none of these surgeons came close to my ranking of Dr. Avery in surgical skill, medical knowledge and bedside manner. I was counting down the days when I would be able to finally come back to Flagstaff and work by his side. Upon hearing of his death last weekend, I was utterly heartbroken. It has been difficult to come to terms with. I am holding onto the beautiful words spoken by all of the speakers yesterday at his memorial service, moment-by-moment reminding myself of how grateful I am for his presence and influence in my life. Dr. Avery, you are and will always be my most treasured mentor, and you will always be present in everything I do. Every patient I touch in the years to come, will also be touched by you.

    • Douglas Brockmeyer M.D.
    • Posted August 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm
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    James Michener once wrote, “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

    Nate Avery was a master at the art of living. Not the kind of living that results in fancy cars, penthouse suites and Gulfstream jets, but the kind of living that results in deep, profound and infinite gratitude for knowing him. The kind of living that inspires hundreds and hundreds of stories and condolences. The kind of living that makes us all hope for the future because we know a saint walked among us today.

    Since I couldn’t make it to the memorial service, I’d like to tell a story about Nate that illustrates the kind of person he was. A story about the plate he and I invented.

    Over a decade ago, an 18 month old boy was hit by a car and brought to our hospital. He was badly injured and ultimately diagnosed with atlanto-occipital dislocation or “AOD,” which meant his head was dislocated from his neck. It is very often a fatal injury, but this boy was lucky. He had partial movement in his arms and legs and wasn’t completely paralyzed. But it was obvious he needed surgery to provide stability to his injured spine, and the usual methods, using adult-sized rods, plates and screws, probably wouldn’t work in him. So Nate, a pediatric neurosurgical fellow at that time, and I started talking. What type of instrumentation system might work? Who could help us? Can we come up with something better than the existing instruments? After a while it became obvious there was no good answer, so went back to the drawing board to design our own system.

    Nate had come to our hospital, Primary Children’s Medical Center, for a pediatric neurosurgery fellowship. He had had an outstanding record as a neurosurgery resident in Kentucky and we were lucky to attract and match him. Once he started his fellowship it became obvious that we weren’t dealing with an ordinary fellow. Nate had fantastic surgical ability and a unique way of looking at neurosurgical problems. And for that matter, life. With his wry sense of humor and completely unflappable demeanor, immediately upon his arrival it became clear that we were going to have a wonderful, memorable year.

    Nate and I made a list of desirable characteristics for this new plating system, a pediatric-sized plate, that we might place in this boy’s spine. It had to be small and low-profile. It had to bend in precise places. It had to have room to place a bone graft. It had to anchor to the skull and spine in specific locations. We spent hours on it. After a while, and since it was getting late, Nate said he would draw a few pictures at home and get back to me the next morning.

    The morning came and Nate called me over to the resident’s office. “What do you think?” he said. Before me was a full-sized, professional-grade mock-up drawing of an occipital-cervical plate that Nate had worked on the previous night. “Holy Cow, this is incredible,” I said. “I bet you didn’t know I had a background in drafting, did you?” he retorted. And I didn’t. It was one of many things I didn’t know about Nate but would learn over the years. Swamper on a Hatch river boat. Hunter. Runner. Honor student. Hotel owner. Motocross rider. Lover of Elvis and old Cadillacs. Dedicated father and husband. Amateur historian of the West. On and on and on. He know more about THE IMPORTANT THINGS than anyone I ever met.

    So there we were, with a beautiful drawing of a plate, an injured patient, and a dream. But we know of no one to make it. So back to the drawing board. We made a list of possible manufacturing plants in Salt Lake City, such as Black Diamond Equipment, but struck out when we called to ask their assistance. Then Nate had a brilliant idea. “What about that aerospace company in Tremonton, UT? Thiokol isn’t it?” He made the call, they listened. Since they were essentially in the business of building explosive devices to kill people they were all ears. They could use a little medical humanitarianism. They said yes. Nate sent them a draft of the plate and they created and molded it out of a solid block of medical grade titanium in less than 36 hours. Holy cow is right.

    Nate went to go pick the plate up at Thiokol the next day in his old yellow pickup truck. He came back with stories of talented engineers, explosives, polymer baths, 5-axis milling machines and selfless volunteerism.

    The next day we took the boy the operating room to fix his spine. No surgery like it had ever been done before. We worked together as a team, encouraging each other in order to push through our doubts and uncertainty. At one point I was almost ready to give up and go back to the traditional way of doing the operation, but Nate kept urging me on. We placed all of the screws JUST SO and carefully put the plate in place. It was almost too beautiful to cover up. So we took a few pictures, congratulated ourselves and carefully closed the wound.

    The plate was a big success. There was a fair amount of acclaim about the incident. The boy regained partial function of his arms and legs over time but unfortunately died unexpectedly about two years after the accident. Nate and I were cited from the Utah Trauma Orgainization for our work. We went on to design and build an entire set of the plates, now called the ABT (Avery-Brockmeyer-Thiokol) plates, that could fit any size spine. After many meetings, phone calls and iterations of the plate we went on to patent the design, a patent that he and I hold to this day.

    The plate is now called the Wasatch plate. It is made by Medtronic Corporation. A few dozen have been implanted, mostly by myself, and every time I use it smile and think of Nate.

    There are times in life when you meet people and traditional roles become meaningless. I was supposed to be one of Nate’s mentors, but once I knew him it was unclear who was the teacher and who was the student. Sure, I might have taught him a few things about pediatric neurosurgery, but I learned so much more from him. Like THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER. Such as making an effort to spend quality time with friends and family (his example: running Imogene Pass with loved ones), sitting down after dinner to smoke a cigar and tell a few stories, and never, ever forgetting to be an eternal optimist.

    Nate, losing you creates a hole in my heart as big as the Grand Canyon. Some day I wanted to float the river with you. Spend a few weeks rowing dories, drinking beer and getting scared. Unfortunately, that day will never come for you and I. But when the day comes, when I do shove off from Lee’s Ferry, you will be in my heart every time my blade hits the water.

    I love and miss you, man. Forevermore.

  41. I am alive and walking because of Nate Avery. He was only a little disappointed that my treatment didn’t require surgery. And that was part of his brilliance as a healer. As skillful and passionate as Nate was about surgery, he also knew when not to cut.

    I called Nate when my level of pain was excruciating and my mobility was severely diminished. What had been prescribed wasn’t working; I continued to deteriorate. Nate looked at my scans the day I spoke with him. He told me that he’d be in the office three days later, to meet him there, before hours, so he could fit me in. As soon as Nate saw me he said, “You are in too much pain for what I see on these images.” With that observation, Nate began the path toward a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

    Fifteen months later I hiked down Grandview, camped at Cottonwood Creek, and sat on the rim of the Gorge. My pack was lighter, I walked with poles, and slept on a backpacking cot. I got to be there because of Nate Avery. Just one person, of so very many, he touched. I gave thanks then, and I give thanks now, for the compassion Nate brought to this world, and the utter delight he took in the ride.

  42. Some times there’s a time in ones life that you have to see a neuro surgeon. Such was the case for me January 2005. I had to see the man, Doc Nate. To tell the story I have to go back a few years. I played city softball with Tucker, Thompson, and other friends. I took a ball to the eye and got shipped off to FMC. While sitting there, the door opened and Nate walked in. Nate told me to take the ice pack off my head so he could see my eye. As I removed it, he replied, “oh cool”. He started to put his hands on my face to further check it out when I pulled back and said, “Nate get your #&@%# hands off me. Until you get those fancy letters after your name, you don’t touch me”. Well, fast forward to 2005. I had a herniated disc in my neck that needed attention. I was going through my preliminary xrays seeing doc’s. One nite my phone rings. It’s Nate. He asked how my neck was. I said “how did you know my neck was messed up”? Nate, in his way replies, “all neck injuries come across my desk”. Me being a clueless said ” I thought you only cracked open skulss”. He replied,”no you idiot, head, neck, and spine”. With that, he told me that he was having Annette clear a spot for me on a Tuesday. Well I’m sitting there on the table a few weeks later, getting ready to go to sleep when Doc Nate stands over me and says, “Well, Look Who Has The Fancy Letters After His Name Now”. Since he was holding all the cards, all I could say was, “don’t screw this up Nate”. Everyone wishes they could have a doctor/friend like Doc Nate.

  43. We’ve known Nate for years. He did some low back work on me years and years ago…and he removed a growth from my step-daughters skull, that was rather pointy, and just above her temple and eyebrow, in her hairline. In the pre-op meeting, he offered, completely dead pan, an alternative to removing it. He said that he could just create another similar one on the other side…so the set would be complete….all the other kids would think she was cool. She declined his kind offer. With great flair, he spoke while writing…as though completely mystified and a little exasperated “…does NOT want cool set of horns…remove original.”

    I will never forget my most recent conversation with Nate. I’m his insurance agent. He called late on a Friday afternoon…4:30 or so…to tell me he needed insurance on this cool new RV thing he was going to get. (my words…not his) He was so excited about it. He made me google it to look at it. It was old and very neato looking and I ooohhed and aaahhhed in all the right places. I kept asking him why HE was calling me to get the insurance. He finally got what I was teasing him about and said “I don’t have to have permission to buy something you know Becky….” long pause….”that’s right Nate…but do you?” long pause “….yes” …ok then. Ha ha! He said Anette’s no here and I don’t know how to do this! So I set the policy up, called him back and started to explain coverages and rates and what not….I could tell I was losing him. I asked “Nate..would you like me to just calle Annette Monday and explain it to her? She and I can run numbers and fix it all up?” He said YES would you?! Ha ha! I then asked him if he knew exactly how lucky he was to have you Annette. that was all he needed…he launched into how fabulous he thought his wife was. How he’d be so screwed without her. How he just asks for what money he could spend and she took care and did all the heavy lifting with the rest of it. I remember specifically he talked about all the people in town from variousl non-profits and thank him profusely for his kind gifts of support. He said he would smile and say “YOU are welcome!” very enthusiastically…when he had no idea who they were or what he’d given them. I asked him if it was like the christmas presents I thank my dad for and he says “you’re welcome! What’d you get?” We laughed and laughed. He said “EXACTLY!” and that Annette just makes him look good….but she’s the reason it all works so well.
    I’ve wanted to tell you that Annette, ever since I fell apart on you and blubbered through our phone call last week. He loved you so much. He took any opportunity given to turn the conversation into a rave about his wife moment. Even with just his old insurance agent when he was trying to get things done and leave town. I got off the phone feeling SO good. Just getting to laugh and connect….that’s what he did. He just left people in his little wake of serenity and contentment. He was good. He will always be missed. …and oh wow…does he love you.

  44. As a junior neurosurgery resident I was walking through the ER at the University of Kentucky. As I was leaving, I looked over to see a plastic surgeon reattaching someone’s fingertip. That was a fairly common scene, except this finger was attached to Nate. He gave me his classic grin and a shoulder shrug. Turns out he was working on his table saw and the table saw won (thus the no power tools rule in the Jackson house).

    For the next few weeks, Nate was in the OR with one hand behind his back trying to help the junior residents operate. Sad thing is, he was better with one hand than most of us with two.

    This all happened around the time of the Neurosurgery Department Christmas party. We were all waiting for Nate to show up, but he never did. Turns out his finger had started to bleed and he wrapped the bandage a little to tight. He removed the bandage and his fingertip was white. He was sure he was going to lose it. Thankfully for us and the folks of Flagstaff he didn’t.

    I am sure Nate has given the family a million stories to laugh about. However, if you ever need a good laugh with the kids, get the Nate/Victor video from his Chief Dinner. I am sure Brad would love to see it too. April and I laughed so hard we were crying. We still laugh about it today.

    Nate was a great role model on how to live life. The inspirational stories from patients and friends has prompted me to take a close look at how I live. I can only hope when I am called from this place, I have one tenth of the impact on my friends, patients and community that Nate did.

    • I remember when that happened and the video! I wish I could see it again as well, I never laughed so hard in my life.

  45. Seven years ago I got the call that no parent wants to receive; my teenage daughter had fallen 100 feet while climbing and was critically injured and was not expected to live through the night. When we arrived the next day from Ohio we were greeted by the three doctors that had done the surgery to keep her alive through the night. Dr. Avery being the neurosurgeon had the toughest part. She had exposed gray matter and actually had to have part of her brain tissue removed. Dr. Avery was careful to have us not be overly optimistic, but at the same time he was very personable, patient, and caring for my wife and I during a time that was very scary and bleak. After my daughter hung on for ten days regaining consciousness and responding to people, Dr. Avery decided it was time to go back into her skull and try to fix the massive damage that was there. The scans of the bone fragmentation and tissue damage was astonishing. But he went in, holding her brain in one hand and working with the other, as I was told, and fixed cranial leaks, etc. Well she recovered amazingly, and I remember Nate dancing with my daughter Grace before she left the hospital just three weeks later. All the time he was smiles and now cautiously optimistic. I found his bed-side manner with me, my wife, and my daughter to be impeccable.

    We flew back a year later to visit him (and of course Dr. Tritle) and the staff at Flagstaff. He was very thankful that we came. I was humbled that this man with such great abilities, that saved my daughters life when no one expected her to live, was glad to see us. It was then that he filled us in on how bad her situation was the year before. Again, a showing of how wise his bedside manner was, to not tell us all of this at that critical time.

    Later my daughter returned again to film an episode of “That’s Gotta Hurt” about her accident. She came back from filming with Dr. Avery to tell stories of a down to earth guy who joked around and had fun with the whole filming like a kid in front of the cameras. Just a down to earth, friendly, guy with extraordinary talents.

    We will miss him from afar and are very sad that others will not get the blessing of his expert medical skills and getting to know him as a person.

  46. I was lucky to have worked in the PACU for 4.5 years, and had the chance to get to know Dr. Avery. Besides the usually stories of being a pen thief and greeting us all with “hi kids”, he was one of the most down to earth people I have known. Many of my patients would look at me in amazement, commenting on how young he looked. “Are you sure he is old enough to have finish medical school?” they would ask with a smile. He would ask me if I knew any good jokes, then would go on to tell me one of his. “What did the fish say when it ran into a wall?……Dam!”. They were the silliest jokes, but coming from Dr. Avery, they always made me laugh. I will never forget when I was nervously awaiting a patient from the OR that was a baby. Dr. Avery walked through the doors holding the baby in his arms. The baby was not even crying! It has been years since I have worked with Dr. Avery, but I can remember him and his gentle manner like it was yesterday. I learned from him, even as a new grad nurse, that doctors are human!(a silly concept, I know). But he went above and beyond that notion. I feel I am honored to have known this doctor, and it just breaks my heart that he is gone. Something feels missing in the world, even while I sit here miles away in CA. Rest in peace Dr. Avery, I will never forget you.

  47. I’m so sad Nate’s gone.

    Years ago when Thad was maybe 25 or 26, Val clasped my arm and implored me to accompany the lads on a Middle Fork of the Salmon River trip so they wouldn’t kill themselves. On the way up we stopped at Nate’s girlfriend Annette’s parents’ house, where Nate borrowed some long underwear from her father. At that point I knew he was serious about Annette; he’s not the sort to borrow underwear from just anyone. Nor do I think Annette’s father would loan underwear to just anyone. The lads drove that wonderful pale yellow Cadillac convertible up to Idaho and back, and I followed with a lot of gear in the “sag wagon”, my old Toyota pickup. The river trip went very well, and Thad ran over a What Rock? and provided me with an opportunity to demonstrate patching a ripped boat floor.

    My heart aches for Annette and the kids and Chris and Mo and Thad . . .

  48. “Brother Nate” the only man that I could share a cowboy hat with!!!(we both have very large heads, his filled with brains, mine with rocks) The one memory that keeps coming back to me, and brings tears to my eyes laughing, is from the night before Chris and Wendy Tucker’s wedding. I can not recall(there were to many adult beverages consumed) how many people were in and on the old blue Caddy, but I know for a fact that everyone didn’t have a seatbelt and there was not 4 seatbelts for those of us riding on the hood?? Driving up a dirt road @ about 50mph losing control on a “soft shoulder” and the look in our good friends eyes as he piloted “The Caddy” to an abrupt, but safe stop and Nate saying “who wants to do it again?” I believe Tucker and I were the only 2 volunteers and we laughed until our sides hurt!!

    “Life is not about the number of breaths you take, but about the moments that take your breath away” Nathan Avery lived more life in 45 years then most people would in a 100 years!!! Husband, father and Doctor (in that order) you will live in my soul forever!!!

  49. Nate would occasionally want my opinion on a patient’s problem. He would pull me into their clinic room and introduce me as his partner. He would then pause, backpeddle, and emphasize ‘business partner’. It would always get a good laugh.

    I first met him in the neurosurgery ICU in 1995. As Nate would say, I was a “snot-nosed, sniveling little 4th year med student” doing a rotation at U. of Ky Med Ctr. I didn’t know anyone. I was nervous, and I was trying to make a good impression with the neurosurgeons so that I could get a job. On my first day during rounds with the neurosurgery team, he secretly, and repeatedly squirted the back of my pants with a syringe of sterile saline. It looked like I had pissed in my pants. I finally caught him doing it. Just a big grin on his face, rythmically nodding his head. When I asked him later why he embarrassed me like that, his reply, ’cause it was freakin funny’. He was of course wearing his birth-control glasses.

  50. I think Nate was my first friend. Like so many others, I think of him as my best friend too.

    He was the kid I always wanted to play with when I was little. I have no idea when we met — he’s just part of my earliest memories and we were probably in diapers at the time. I remember being at his earliest birthday parties. He was the kid I exchanged silly gifts with at Christmas time before we had money or knew what it was for. I remember he liked “Spy vs Spy”. I spent a lot of time with him because my family was in need and ultimately his whole family took me in. I would share a room with him for months off and on and I had a blast exploring the Avery’s place wearing out those awesome indoor firepoles, playing out in the woods and riding bikes. I remember Nate teaching me how to ride a bike in the woods at night without lights! He would fearlessly ride looking only up at the sky outlined by the trees and just ride between what he could see of the tree tops. He was always just a bit crazy, never afraid to try anything and he was always a whole lot of fun. It seems that never changed.

    We snow skied. We water skied behind BR’s (Dave Rogers) boat. We played basketball. We hiked and camped with B.C. (Mike Cordon) and just flat out explored — generally somewhere between Flag and the canyon. We always seemed to end up climbing somewhere…no ropes of course. Nate taught me how to chimney on the way to Rainbow Bridge. When we were climbing and things got a bit hairy and we were deciding if we should go higher or further, Nate would ask something like,”If we fell from here would we die or just break an arm or leg?”. And if we didn’t think the fall was enough to kill us, he’d keep us going. Although, I think what I did with Nate was pretty tame to the fun he had in later years.

    I was young and I couldn’t have had a better friend to grow up with. He truly was the best. Perhaps the best thing about him was that all that was good about him never changed. Everything I’ve read and heard about Nate in later years fits with the way he was as a kid. He was kind; he was patient; he was generous.

    I was truly blessed by the whole Avery family — and I was particularly blessed to have spent so much time with Nate.

    • After high school, I was completely disconnected from the hometown crowd for years. I had made plans to go into business…or become a lawyer — but really had no idea what in the world to do with my life. I was travelling trying to figure it all out and found Nate in Tucson. He was in med school at the time and we spent the evening together. I told him my woes and he asked if I had thought of being a doc (the idea had never crossed my mind). He said something like, “It’s just really cool.” I pushed him to be more specific about why and he said, “Well, today I walked into a patient’s room and as soon as I came in everyone just calmed down. It was like I just showed up and that’s all it took to make them feel better.”

      I’ve always remembered that. It hooked me and I’m happy for it. He was a guy who could just show up and we’d all feel better — and he had mad skills too.

  51. When I think about how much Nate has affected my life, it is hard to believe that our lives only really intersected for a year.

    Nate did his pediatric neurosurgery fellowship the same year I began my Pediatric ICU fellowship in SLC. I clearly remember the patient Dr Brockmeyer described and many others that we shared.

    Nate was such a magnetic personality, he brightened the PICU whenever he came by. I remember when one of his patients was complaining about having a nurse start his IV… Nate offered to place it for him, and then quickly mentioned that he had placed an IV before…once or twice many years ago as an intern or senior med student. The humour disarmed the child who then dutifully offered his arm to the nurse while Nate held his hand.

    I remember standing in the ED awaiting the arrival of a trauma patient when he told me that afterwards, I would have to come see his new cadillac convertable that was parked outside, bragging that he paid less per pound for his car than the current price of hamburger. We laughed as he described how he had to lock the doors at the stoplights so the women wouldn’t jump in.

    Annette, I also fondly remember the days when you and Nate, Biff and I would get together and Cora and Silas would play while we had dinner or drinks. I have loved watching your family grow through the Christmas cards and have wished we could get our families together again. As it happens, I was going through old pictures and found pictures of Silas and Cora the same weekend we lost Nate.

    Perhaps the most meaningful memory that I have of Nate is from when I was finishing fellowship a few years later, he called and asked me to consider coming to Flagstaff to work with him. It was one of the most flattering and tempting invitations I have ever received but the pull of the east coast was too strong for our family. Nonetheless, I have always hoped that we would reconnect some day. I love the neurosurgeon I work with now, but he will never be Nate.

    Reading through the stories, it is clear that Nate never changed. He was still the person who lit up the room, the doctor who would go above and beyond for his patients, and the humble family man who loved his wife and children above all else. I will be forever thankful for that year our lives intersected.

    Nate has done more good and touched more lives in his 45 years than most people do in twice as many years.

    Annette, Cora, Thad and Maddox, my heart goes out to you.

  52. Nate & I crossed paths for only a brief five years while Nate and Annette was in Lexington, Kentucky. Nate kind of “befrinded” me as we lived three doors from each other and he would show up at my front door most anytime and was always welcome. Mostly while Annette was away or to show off their newly born daughter, Cora. He and I would spend hours together in one or the others basement usually around some old hand woodworking tool. Nate had a real attraction for hand tools and really liked to show me his latest find which he normally had no clue how to use but would eventually figure it out after a few beers and maybe some chewing tobacco ( which he would sneak around “Netter” with the tobacco ).
    I recall one time I went with Annette to help her get his birthday present, a brand new 10″ craftsman table saw. It was a big thing to him to help him get finished making Cora’s crib ( again, the hand tools were nice to use but not very efficient ). I guess it must have been a month or two after he got the table saw when Nate smartly cut a finger off which could have really limited his surgical abilities and future income but Nate being Nate took it in stride with a laugh and a good story to tell not to mention Annette’s anxiety about giving him the saw in the first place. Nate has always had a special place in my heart and is one of the special people one rarely if ever comes across. I have always thought about Nate and the Avery family often and the grand times we spent together and all the funny, funny stories. I’ve made many friends through the years but none that has touched my life like Nathan Avery.

  53. I didn’t know Dr. Avery as well as most of the people who have written comments here, but I knew him well enough to know that he was an amazing doctor and person. I really only had two occasions to interact with Dr. Avery. The first was in February 2007. My daughter (7 years old at the time) had suffered a head injury while at a family gathering in Phoenix. She had some bleeding in her head that required a 5 night stay at Barrows, 3 of which were in ICU. We spent 5 sleepless nights at Barrows with fears of emergency surgery if her condition worsened. We were told to follow up with Dr. Avery when we returned home. After 15 minutes in his office he was able to accomplish what an entire staff at Barrows could not. He convinced us that our daughter would be fine and make a full recovery without surgery. I remember it as if it was yesterday. As we walked out of Dr. Avery’s office and I looked at my wife and said “I wish we could have seen him a week ago”.
    The second time was last summer at Lake Powell. My boat wasn’t running right so I pulled in to Dangling Rope Marina to get help from a mechanic. I saw Nate on the dock and he following me inside. I’m pretty sure he didn’t remember me. The lady at the counter told me that there wasn’t a mechanic available to help me. Nate spoke up from behind and said “I used to work on cars before I started working on brains. I’ll take a look”. My boat ran great for the rest of the trip. Ironically, Nate was wearing the same shirt that day as in the picture in the Grand Canyon on the condolences page here. “I’m no rocket surgeon…” It left a mark on me.

    • John Sears, MD - family practice
    • Posted August 28, 2012 at 8:50 am
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    I first heard about Nate from Mike Truesdell, MD, an FP at Tuba City who was a college roommate of Nate’s. That is where I was when I started sending patients to him. He was easy to talk to. Patients loved him and benefited from his abilities. After moving to Winslow, I continued to send patients to Nate. He only operated on my wife, Judy, 4 times… none were redos. I remember after one of Judy’s surgeries, Nate came to round and discharge her. He had a shy little blond daughter in his arms. That was the friendliest doctor rounds I ever experienced! I really will miss Nate; his friendly consultations, his willingness to answer my calls and curbside consults, his good care of our patients. I can’t remember anyone who ever had a bad experience to report after seeing Nate. He was truly a wonderful physician and trusted colleague.

    • Steve and Jill Saville
    • Posted August 28, 2012 at 10:05 am
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    I have attempted this entry numerous times last week to no avail. I broke down everytime I thought of Annette and his family and the pain they are experiencing with the loss of such a great husband and father.
    The memorial service was the greatest celebration of life I have had the privlidge to be a part of, and all the “best friends” who helped memorialize Nate’s great life were sincerely passionate and down right funny. You know Nate would have hated all the fuss, but he would have loved such a great party!
    I wanted to share a quick story… Jill and I were lucky enough to share a few beaches with Nate and crew at Lake Powell, but our relationship began with Nate performing a full fusion on my lower back. The pain down my legs was so severe that I was struggling to walk, hunt, fish, and live my life. Nate compassionately removed my lower leg pain and I spent the next two years rehabing and recovering. A constant sharp pinch continued in my lower back until Nate decided it was time to remove the four screws and two rods he had inserted two years before. He assured me that this is normal and to quit beating myself up for something I thought I had done during my rehab. He knew I was scared and his humor continued to put me and Jill at ease. The day of the surgery he stopped by to give the surgical crew a hard time while we all waited for an hour for Nate to arrive. I asked Nate “what are you going to do with the hardware?”…. “Do you want it? I’ll have it sanitized and waiting for you!”.
    When I woke up, the bag of hardware was sitting by my bed as I was moved up stairs. Nate never charged me for his services in the removal of the hardware!
    I wanted to do something to express how much his skill and compassion helped me and my family. I approached Pete Wolff from Gold Wolff Jewelers and asked if he could help me design a bola tie for Nate made from my hardware? Looking confused, Pete agreed to the task and he designed the most beautiful copper based bola tie with the bright green titanium screw and rods. My chiropractor, Tim Munderloh reminded me of a great saying Nate used to like to recite…”Nothing heals like steal!” and I had this inscribed with a “love Steve” below.
    I was able to deliver this gift to Nate just three months ago. He invited me into his office and I explained that I know this is a little weird, but please accept with sincere appreication on his great work in giving me my life back. He opened the box, and with an exact quote, blurted “This is so fucking cool!” We laughed and he expressed he couldn’ wait to wear at his first surgeons meeting and gloat to Ritland who had only received a knitted sweater stating that his patient had “been screwed” by Dr. Ritland!
    The conversation took a turn toward death and how his family had made a pact when their mom had passed. They had decided that know one will possess any of the family assets and all treasures of the family will be shared amongst friends and family, and “when I die, this bola tie will become our family asset and you too, Steve will be able to share in this family treasure.”
    His outstretched arms included everyone he ever met and inclusion was truly his guiding light. His insight and lust for life protruded in his every breath.
    I am not only a better man in his intellect as a healer, but I am a better person for the small time he shared with me as a fellow lover of life.
    Even in his passing, Nate has inpsired me to remember how fragile and precious life is and I will move through the rest of my life inspired to express my passion to everyone I love.
    Goodbye my friend….

  54. My husband and I met Dr. Avery when our daughter was
    critically injured and flown to FMC. At the time there
    no PICU beds, so we were sent on to Phoenix. Dr. Avery
    came in and spoke with us about our daughter’s condition
    and her prognosis, which did not look good. He was very
    compassionate, personable and did not offer any false
    hopes. In a time of great stress he was very comforting,
    to say the least. Our daughter has since recovered,
    thankfully. I only spent minutes with, but will never
    forget him. Thank you Dr. Avery for providing your
    humbling services to the Northern Arizona community.
    To Dr. Avery’s family, friends, coworkers and the Northern
    AZ community I send my heartfelt condolences. Thank you for
    sharing your magnificent husband, father and friend.

  55. I had the pleasure of meeting Nate in Flagstaff when he was opening his clinic there. At the time it was my job to market his specialty to the rural communities surrounding Flagstaff. Nate and I would travel to the rural care facilities where he would provide educational sessions to the physicians and providers. Nate’s favorite CME to deliver to his rural colleagues was ‘Brain Surgery for Dummies’. I would set up and run the powerpoint presentation for him. If he noticed me dozing during his presentation, he would ask me a brain surgery question during the presentation. It would always get a huge laugh considering I have no clinical background and would end up with the deer-in-the-headlights expression on my face. I always looked forward to trips with Nate as they would be entertaining-guaranteed!
    I will also not forget the year Nate, Brad and Nate showed up at the Turquoise Ball in Dumb and Dumber tuxedos. They were the hit of the party!
    Finally, I wish to mention that I now live in Page, Arizona. Dr. Avery has been carving time from his busy practice in Flagstaff to come to Page to serve our community’s neurological needs several times each month. This is a testament to his giving, humanitarian nature. The community of Page has benefitted tremendously by his gift of time and his gift as a physician. There is a great void left in our community due to his passing. On behalf of the Page Community, please accept our most sincere condolences.

  56. The office girls and I have shared many stories the last couple weeks, but this one is just classic. So, little Maddie, this story is mostly for you.

    One day after morning clinic, several years ago, Dr. Avery came out of the restroom laughing hysterically. It seems that something had just fallen out of the waistband of his scrub pants, and he begged us to guess what it was. Hesitantly, we began…a dryer sheet? paper clip? No, no, he said, better than that. We began again… grocery list? LEGO? Barbie hairbrush? NO, it was way better! It was a little piece of Maddie’s toast! He was on “kid duty” that morning, feeding the kids and getting them off to school, and Maddie had sat on his lap while eating her breakfast. He was so tickled that a little part of his Maddie had been with him all morning while he saw his patients, and he hadn’t even known it!

    This is the Dr. Avery I will remember forever, finding fun and humor in everything, so generous, patient, kind. We saw it every day in the clinic, just a look or gesture, kind word or joke, and everyone, patients and office staff alike, felt better. Even on days when he came in “tired and grumpy” afer working half the night, he always had a smile.

    About a year ago, at the end of one of his teaching moments, Dr. Avery told us to always remember the math formula S=PrT. I forget what it means, guess I will have to Google it…but what I will remember from working for him for so long is how he led by example – how to live life fully, how to gracefully give people second chances, over and over again, and how to love and keep your family the highest priority in life.

    Annette, Cora, Thad, Maddie, my heart is just broken and aching for you as I write this. Dr. Avery meant so much to me and to my family. We miss you Dr. Avery. Our lives were all so much richer for the time you spent with us.

  57. I was being interviewed once, shirt and tie, camera rolling, when I noticed that Nate had walked up and was standing there watching me. He had that big, closed-lipped grin on his face that meant he was formulating some smart ass comment. I figured he was trying to distract me or make me laugh, but he waited for me, and when I was done he walked up and said with mock disgust, “Don’t you know as a surgeon you should always wear scrubs for an interview! For God’s sake, someone is going to think you are an administrator, or, worse, an internal medicine doctor!”

  58. Over the weekend I heaerd the sad news. I first met Dr. Avery a couple years ago. After 9 failed back surgeries, he went in and replaced all the old hardware. 6 disc. Last year I woke up with paralized on my left side. He then operated on 4 disc in my neck. That night I was in my room and he came in and said he had already gone home for the evening but had a funny feeling and wanted to come back and check on me. Its a good thing, I had a blood clot and he took me right back to surgery that night. I have recovered with no paralises. He was a very kind man. But the thing I loved about him was he was always so down to earth. talking photography and golf with my husband. He will sadly be missed

  59. A serious side of “Nathan” story. Im not even sure he was aware of doing this. We were always Sandy/Nate to each other. Unfortunately as a long term patient with many shunt failures things did not always go well. When the news was bad he would call me Sandra. to be honest, at first it irritated me, but then I realized that it was just his way of dealing with things, so my response was to call him Nathan, Dr. Avery, or shuntmaster.I seriously miss you Doctor Nathan Shuntmaster Avery…..Sandy/(Sandra too)

    • Suzanne Motsinger
    • Posted September 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm
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    Nate, Wyatt Woodard and Walt Taylor were hanging out at the finish line at Imogene some years ago, drinking beers, when I headed back up the course to help my husband finish. Jogging across the finish line for the second time I called out to them, “What? You pussies only ran this thing once?” I heard Nate’s voice behind me, “Hey! That’s Doctor Pussy to you!”

    3 years ago Nate saved my 14-day-old nephew’s life, and not by doing any surgery. JohnJohn had a double subarachnoid bleed in his tiny brain from being dropped onto concrete at home, and Nate looked at the CT scan with Beth Boyer and me in the ER. Nate said the infant was stable enough to go home with close supervision, but he watched my face closely. I shook my head and whispered please, buy me some time to get this kid safe. Nate admitted JohnJohn to PICU long enough for protective custody with my husband and I to be arranged. A week later Nate had tiny JohnJohn in his gentle hands in his office for a followup, cooing at him through his neuro exam. Thank you, Doctor Pussy – heroes are for real, and you are a real hero.

  60. Nate and I were discussing much less profound things a while back when he suddenly asked – “you don’t think I’m a dirty old man do you?” I said “no, why?” He said,”well you know I often grab your wife’s ass right in front of you, and lots of our friend’s wives too. You know why I do that?” Of course I had my ideas, but he explained “I do it because I believe it makes her feel better.” Recently my wife told me it actually did make her feel better. So all along, he was just doing it for them. Huh.

      • Mike Tulloss & Family
      • Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm
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      sorta starting to make sense?!!

  61. One month since Nate’s soul was taken away from us for journey ahead and he still leaves smiles, laughter and lessons for everyday in our lives. Not a day has passed that something Nate left behind has not been thought about…What an exemplary life lived!

    Nate I pray the unseen presence of your soul continue to heal and guide your family and many who continue to make sense of where you are!

  62. I was on my way to Europe when I recieved a message from my daughter that Nate had died. I still can’t believe that I will never see him walking through the halls of FMC. A hug was always our greeting and how’s it going. “Grumpy” was his reply but he was’nt. If it were not for Brad and Nate I would not have been on my way anywhere. They saved my life some years ago when I had a brain tumor. I would kid with him that after the plates and screws from the surgery that “now I really do have a screw lose” I was there when he had to tell the husband of his patient that there was no hope. Her husband agreed to organ donation with his kind guidance. We discussed survior guilt when he crashed his plane. I had experienced that myself. He will always have a place in my heart and one day I hope to see him smile and open his arms for another hug. We can never show enough respect and caring to each other.

  63. I was unable to go to Nate’s memorial, and have been thinking of him ever since that tragic day up at Lake Powell. I have also been one of those fortunate people that crossed paths with Nate, and will always be blessed by his friendship. I was one of the fortunate ones that got to work with Nate at Hatch River Expeditions running Grand Canyon river trips. His intelligence, demeanor, uniqueness, and fun loving attitude was clear to me from the first trip that I ran with him. I knew pretty quick that Nate was bigger than the Grand Canyon, and he had places to go. I was also fortunate to keep in touch with Nate when he was in Medical School in Tucson at the U of A since that was my home town. We would often go out for a few beers and dinner. He would fill me in on his schooling, and I would catch him up on the river scene. It was always a pleasure to catch up with Nate. He was the only neurosurgeon that I knew, and all of us took great pride in knowing, when we screwed up or had a bad accident that he would be there to pull us out of the grave. It has always been a proud feeling.
    More currently several years back my wife and I supported FMC (Flagstaff Medical Center) who we love, with several health issues, and it seemed whenever we were at the hospital, Nate would appear from around the corner. I had a acl repair and had to have a hugely over sized thyroid removed. After the thyroid I ran into Nate, in the halls of the FMC once again and I was telling him about the surgery. He said, “Oh I know all about you Scott, your thyroid was a mutant, but the operation by Dr.Mohr was pretty basic although you have to be careful to not nick the patient’s vocal cords”.
    He went on to instantaneously set up this short humorous skit to have fun with Dr. Mohr. I was merely a pawn, starting to understand how Nate rolled through the medical industry,having fun, and making strong positive impressions on everyone’s lives. I quickly saw the exact similarity in the young Grand Canyon river guide that I worked with 20+ years prior that had confidence early on, was the absolute best with his river clients, and basically blew us all away. And now here is Dr. Nate Avery joking with me in FMC, getting me to relax while my wife is about ready to go in to surgery. The fully capable father, friend, surgeon, outdoorsman, and the ever giving community supporter, is spinning a thread to allow all of us in our little worlds, to relax and understand that it will all be fine.
    So here is how the skit came down: My wife is in Pre-Op, has been seen by a dozen highly trained specialists, in the last hour, all systems are go! Rachel’s mom is there, one of our best girl friends is there and me! Where is the Dr.? Well we all know that he is always late, this is the 3rd operation with the same Dr. between my wife and I in a year and half. We loved Dr. Mohr, but “man” he was always late, and we were waiting on him again. The entire medical staff was relaxed, but they were waiting on him as well. So 20 minutes late, here he comes, all business, and goes directly to Rachel in the bed, bypassing the 3 of us, not acknowledging that we are there. He is very firm about his questions, and he knows the both of us very well after our short relationship. After about two minutes of preliminary mental focus, he turns to me and asks me if I understand everything that is going to happen, and if I agree and have any questions?
    My thyroid op. had just happened a couple weeks earlier, and I responded by lightly grabbing my throat and weakly saying I can’t speak too well, but I nodded yes with approval. He fired up and said “don’t make me come over there and kick your ass”, we all bust out in laughter, Rachel was totally relaxed, the Dr. was tuned up, and we all had fun. Dr. Mohr, replied with ” Did Nate have something to do with this?” Funny medical stuff for sure. But Nate knew exactly how it would all come down. Humor, laughter, along with solid experience and understanding is always the ground for success, and Nate exuded this in his presence and personality. My wife’s surgery was a success, and even though Nate was not directly involved we knew his presence was there.
    Everyone’s stories, feelings, personal experiences that have been expressed and written in the articles, on this website, and that have been exchanged thru the countless hugs,and tears between his family, friends, patients, and associates, really only lightly touches on the amazing person that Nate Avery was.
    It is truly a great loss to all of us, but we were all incredibly blessed with Nate Avery, and fortunate to be in his presence. I look forward to hopefully getting to know his wife, and kids as well as I had the privilege to know Nate!!

  64. Nate was here!!
    When I drove up the mountain I knew I was going to see Nate, when I reached the lower parking lot I was closer to Nate, when I walked up the road and saw the lodge I was almost there! When I looked in the eyes and hearts of the people who spoke, who cried and who laughed I saw Nate! Nate was there!!

    • megan kinlacheeny
    • Posted October 19, 2012 at 11:41 am
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    Just to clarify. My story has caused some to think this was a human cadaver. No i wrote this at three o clock in the morning and it came out wrong. On two occasions Nate commented on the patients condition being very easy. The first was sadly a trauma patient that didnt’ make it and was being scanned for organ donation. Hence the skull fx and three-d rendering. To which he made the comment above. The second time he came in with a hip bone. It looked like an animals. He wanted it scanned and I didn’t ask why (I had figured he found it hiking in coconino county). To which he also grinned and said it should be an easy patient. Sorry for the confusion. I was thinking of one and ended up blending the two. This is what happens when you have worked graves too long and are tired. I enjoyed Kachina Night. There was a great turnout.

  65. I was in my Page clinic today and bumped into a woman who was the recipient of Nate’s last surgery. It was a 5 hour spine case, and if it took Nate 5 hours, well…

    There was happiness in her eyes that I wish everyone could have experienced. Another glimpse of Nate’s gift.

  66. As a pilot for Sedona Sky Treks, I had the privilege of flying Nate to his clinics in Payson and Prescott for several years. I’d take advantage of the time while he was working to haul out my laptop and get some writing done. I’d be completely immersed in whatever I was working on, only to realize Nate was saying to me and his assistants, “Time to go, kids!” Never mind that I was “slightly” older than him…

  67. How Nate Almost Became A Chef Instead of A Doctor:

    My day began, as most adventures involving an Avery do, under the hood of a vehicle (the alternative beginning being some form of outdoor recreation, an activity in which I proudly took part in on many occasions, but those are stories for another day!). My truck’s brakes needed to be changed out, and being an Economics Major at the U of A, I weighed the costs, both financial and “opportunity”, and decided to take my truck to a shop to have them do the job. Enter my college roommate, Thad Avery, “Have you lost your mind?!? We can do that job in about 30 minutes! You aren’t taking your truck to the shop, Rob.” Two hours into the project, Thad and Nate determined we needed to deal with some of the brake assembly components, also (Gear Heads: please ignore my complete ignorance of what these details are and the lack of accuracy in my descriptions of this). Being mechanically challenged, I was prepared at that point to haul the thing to the shop, but Nate, Chris – who by this time had come over and joined in the fun – and Thad would hear none of it.

    Details aside, my memory of the next three hours or so was listening to the Avery’s talk about how they could fix it in this way or that and further expounding on how they could improve the truck overall, by adding this component or stripping away that – looking back, it was eerily close to being an early version of “Pimp My Ride”. As it turned out, Nate managed to fix the rotor/caliper/whateveritwas with a sledge hammer and brute force, unjamming it and allowing us to complete the job without paying to replace the part. This is the same man who was preparing those hands for the delicate work of surgery, mind you. I never had a single issue with those brakes after the work was finished.

    Now, I told you that story so I could tell you this one:

    At the end of that particular day, brakes replaces, brake fluid line bled (I was allowed to participate in this portion of the job!) and test drive completed (to the store for Coors, as I recall), we decided to eat. Having already been to the store and back, Nate and I decided we’d make a meal only from ingredients available in the kitchen.

    I firmly believe that one reason the Avery’s are all in such stellar shape is that they get so involved in their projects that they simply forget to eat. Taking it a step further, they forget eating requires shopping. Needless to say, we didn’t have much to work with, but if memory serves, we had a can of tomato sauce, an onion, a roll of Jimmie Dean Sausage (Hot), and one sleeve of Ritz crackers. We browned the saugage, cut up the onion, threw it all in a sauce pan with the tomato sauce and then crushed the crackers and added that to the mix. The resulting gruel was downed without a complaint from anyone (I don’t remember if anyone but he and I ate it, anyway). Nate’s assessment of our culinary delight? And I quote: “It’ll make a turd.”

    Best Meal Ever, if you ask me…

  68. Having endured years of hard fought marital negotiations, my wife and…of course Nathan convinced me to buy another boat. Nate found several for me to look at but really wanted me to get serious about one. Without regret, we bought it and acquired the “boat bug” again. Our trip to cookie jar was to be our first stay on the lake out of the slip. Nate never got to drive our boat. In late September I made a solo trip to see the boat and it wasn’t in the slip. I found it in the dark parked and covered safely in a public open slip? The fuel tank was down a quarter but otherwise in exactly the same shape we’d left it. My boat partner Doug and I are sure Nate took it for a spin…It is just like him to do that. I wish i knew how many coors lights were missing in the fridg?!!

  69. There are events that happen in your life that you never forget where you were. I was walking down the alley by me wife’s flower shop when the phone rang. Nate has a special ring tone and I grabbed it. He said “I wanted to let you know before everyone makes a big deal out of this that everything and everyone is OK. I just set my plane down on a golf course…and it kinda brushed the top of a tree…”

  70. I’ve just received the lovely card
    to summon memories of Nate.
    But what to add to elegies
    so eloquently aired before?

    My only thoughts drift back to just
    how blessed and fortunate we’ve all been
    to know the man, and have our own
    lives graced by him, and bettered.

    So now with grateful thoughts of Nate,
    on yet another Best Day Ever,
    I’ll stop and contemplate with him
    a fine cold can of crappy Coors.

  71. I am having one of those every now and again moments when Nate pops into my mind, as it always has, since he finished his fellowship in Pediatric Neurosurgery in the department I work in in Salt Lake City. I wonder how Annette, Cora, Thad and Maddie are and would like them to know that I am thinking of them and Nate.

  72. I had the priviledge of working with Nate in the Operating Room since he came to Flagstaff. Because he didn’t have a day “block” time, he did most of his surgeries in the evening, with the evening crew. He told me that since he was spending more time with me than with Annette, he wanted me to be his O.R. “wife”. I told him I would consider it to be a great honor.

    One day I was in the hallway, monitoring three newbie nurses in three operating theatres. One of the inductions was not progressing at the rate the surgeon thought it should, and he was in the hallway making his displeasure known to the anesthesia floorwalker. Nate was standing outside his room across the hall, scrubbing his hands, and he smiled and started shaking his head and said, ” Ya know _____, I wish I could yell at the nurses. I can’t keep up with my paperwork……I can’t keep up with my patients on the floor…..I never make it to surgery on time…..Must be nice to be good enough to be able to yell at the nurses…” With that, he turned and smiled and entered his operating suite.

    The surgeries progressed and I happened to be in Nates room when the other surgeon finished his case and came in. Without looking up from what he was doing, Nate resumed with “Yeah….it must really be nice to be able to yell at the nurses.” The surgeon smiled, turned and left the room.

    When I next saw Nate, I stopped him to say, “Ya know Nate….I just want to thank Val for having you….I want to thank you for coming to work here…. and I want to thank you for sticking up for all of us!”

    We love you Nate……

  73. I had a dream about Nate a couple weeks ago, and told Annette the other day I would write it down here.

    It was a vivid dream, and Nate was sitting on a rock in a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. He had that famous grin on his face and he handed me something he’d made. Maybe it was a card? Can’t remember, but it was an image of a person with a “certain” finger pointed at me. The finger was bigger than the person itself. Nate thought it was a riot and you could see laughter in his eyes.

    I started laughing and found myself rolling around in cool, green grass. It was a great feeling.

    I woke in the morning with a smile and thought, “Hey Nate. It was good to see you.”

    Since that dream I had lunch with Annette just a couple days ago. And since then, we’ve run into her three times in 24 hours. To say you are all on my mind is an understatement! 🙂 Love from the Openshaws.

    • Cynthia and Wes Pectol
    • Posted February 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm
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    We only recently learned of Nate’s tragic accident. It has been bittersweet but in many ways a gift to read all of these heartfelt entries, and especially to learn what a positive impact Nate continued to have on so many people.

    Wes was doing his orthopaedic residency at UK while Nate was doing his neurosurgery residency, and we considered Nate and Annette among our closest friends during those years. They were not easy years for young couples, but with friends like Nate and Annette, there are definitely some fun memories. Among other things, there were the “Bring Your Own Meat” barbeques in their backyard and Sunday dinners at Knute and Sheilas.

    We have lost touch over the years, other than Christmas Cards, but as many of you know personally, these are the type of friends you treasure forever. Even our kids feel Nate’s loss, although they were too young to remember, because we have talked about Nate and Annette so often over the years – always with the intention of reconnecting one day. Annette, Cora, Thad, and Maddox, on this Valentine’s Day Eve, please know that our hearts are full for you, and we hope you find some comfort in knowing that you remain in our thoughts and prayers. Annette, we sincerely hope it works out for us to join you in September…..

  74. Uncle Nate threatening to post outside my door and clean his guns the next time that I brought a date home. He believed that if the guy could handle the threat of him as an uncle he was okay to stay, but would still never be good enough for me. Man, I miss him more then anything. Annette, Cora, Thad, Maddy-Mo, I love you guys to pieces.

    • David and Jodi Sacco
    • Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:15 pm
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    I think everyone that knew Nate for more than a few minutes would have a story to tell, so after spending 5 years of my residency with him, I have many. The point here is not to relate another amusing anecdote, but to remember a man with a zest for life and a limitless sense of what’s possible.
    This one is long, so hang on. During residency, circa 1998, Nate and I went to a meeting together in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This is a small town on the tip of Cape Cod that serves as an oceanographic research institute. This was an almost 2 weeklong meeting of pure neuroscience lectures. We were sequestered with other neurosurgery residents and lived in dorms. It was torture. We amused ourselves in the off hours by cruising the local thrift stores; buying weird stuff we didn’t need or couldn’t take home, drinking beer and talking about anything but neuroscience. I was not married at the time, but Nate talked endlessly about Annette and what a great relationship they had. He was like a spokesman for the institute of marriage and basically sold me on the idea. I eventually married the women I was dating at that time, who Nate introduced me to. But I digress; it was when we tried to leave Woods Hole it got interesting. We had to get out of there by taking a ferry to Boston and then taking a flight back to Kentucky. The problem was, our flight left the next morning and we couldn’t get an early enough ferry to make the flight. No problem, we thought, we’ll just catch a late ferry and sleep in the airport. So we did, until they closed the Boston airport at midnight. Who knew. Well in those pre 9/11 days, you could just stash your stuff in a locker and take the little key. So we did, and then not knowing anything about Boston, we thought we’d take the “T” public transport train into the city and just get off somewhere and find a bar and hang out for the night, and return to the airport in the morning. What could go wrong with a plan as well thought out as that. So at some non-specific place that basically seemed like the middle of the city, we decided to get off the train. As we emerged from the underground station and looked around we saw the familiar neon lights in a window that designated a bar. It was like a beacon. The plan was really coming together. So we wasted no time, crossed the street walked right in and sat down and ordered up some crappy beer. It wasn’t until we had the beer in our hands and started looking around that we noticed something a little off. The bar was pretty crowded with what initially seemed like an equal mix of men and women, but under further scrutiny, it was apparent that the women were also men. Perfect. So we sat at the bar drinking bad beer engaging random transvestites in conversation when one of them thought they recognized Nate. So without a moment’s hesitation, he replied “you ever watch ESPN?” And so it began, an endless made up yarn about how we were part of the pit crew for a drag racing team. It must have gone on for an hour, us schooling random transvestites about how to get a good launch on the racetrack. It included gems I still remember, like “you just have to get the RPMs out of the hole and get a good hook-up and next thing you know you’re at Gator Nationals”. Eventually this fun came to an end and the bar closed. As we were standing together outside the door, trying to figure out exactly how we were going to get back to the airport and watching new “couples” leave together, a random guy turns to us and asks “what are we doing wrong?” All I could think of was not much. It was one of those magical evenings you could never plan, will never forget, and could not have happened without Nate. We eventually made it back to the airport, but only after a little dumpster diving and playing makeshift donkey kong in an alley with an abandoned large wire spool. Ultimately we returned back to the grind of residency, but I was glad to have that time alone with him.

    It’s also a testament to the man Nate was and what he wanted to bring to the Flagstaff area that inspired me to come here, to see if I could do my part to carry on the tradition. Although he can never be replaced, he will always be remembered.

  75. This is an old one, but a classic Nate story…it was back when both Nate Avery and Nate Stewart, an orthopedic surgeon, were relatively new kids in town. The Late For the Train coffee kiosk had just opened in the hospital lobby, and both Nates quickly set up “house accounts”, so they could just charge their coffee and not have to always produce cash to pay. Anyway, one day Nate Stewart must’ve come and gotten his coffee before Nate Avery did, charging it to his house own account. Along comes Nate Avery, unaware that Nate Stewart had been there before him. He approached the counter and gave his order to the very earnest but easily confused barrista, and told her to charge it to his house account, but didn’t tell her his last name. She then confided to him in a conspiratorial tone, “Dr. Stewart…there’s another doctor here that keeps charging his coffee to YOUR account!”. In classic Nate style,without missing a beat, Nate replied, “Was it that AVERY asshole?!? I’m gonna kill that guy!”

  76. I was so happy to meet Nate and Annette shortly after we moved to Cherry Hill in 2001. Little did I know how much he would affect my life and the lives of my family.

    There are so many ways Nate brought joy, hanging out at the school bus stop, chatting in the neighborhood, at parties and at the lake, but more than stories, it is the feelings I remember most. Nate had a way of making me (and so many others)feel special. I like when he put me in the GLM category; being called a good looking mom is always a boost, because after getting the kids out the door in the morning, the last thing I’m thinking about is the GLM thing. Or when he would
    drape an arm around your shoulder, making you feel like a buddy, and like everything will work out just fine. How many times, in passing on our street, a wave, a smile, and a ‘hey neighbor’ made my day a little better? A lot.

    When Jeff was deployed,Nate would check in on me and the girls, offering us a calm steady support. When Jeff came home and was immobile on our living room floor with a back injury, Nate helped in a way no other friend could–he scheduled surgery right away and healed my man.

    Like hundreds of other people, I love Nate. I love his spirit, which is still a part of my life and this community I cherish. I love the amazing woman Nate married. I love is wonderful children. I love his caring nature with which he uplifted us all.

    Today, I have the letters BLE in my line of sight each day. I want to do my best to remember that despite life’s busy work, what really matters is the love we leave behind and the people we uplift.

    Thank you, Nate, for the gifts you shared with me and my family. Thank you for leading the way, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

  77. We were anchored in a bay just behind Castle Rock. With bratwurst sizzling and cans popping open, good music and better company, we spent the evening in the growing shadow of the sandstone cliffs.
    The sunset was glorious (as they tend to be at the lake), and the stars shed light before the day disappeared.
    The number of beers in the cooler had gone from too many to none. The music had switched from 80’s pop to country. That was the evening I learned how to square dance.
    Nate was patient, as I was slow to catch on. My father and sister watched in amusement as I struggled to step in a back-left-forward-right-obviouslytoocomplicated pattern. I danced with Morgan, Nate, and my father as day turned into night.
    Later, when dinner and (somehow) more beer had been consumed, we all settled down for a fascinating lesson on neurology. Nate tapped on Morgan’s knee and explained reflexes, and the unbelievable way the brain and body communicate. As he expounded on nerves and pain and the beauty of the design, I was beyond in awe of his knowledge. I tried to keep up, and almost managed to do so. Nate was a very articulate teacher.
    He was a teacher, a father, a supporter and a role model to my sister and I. The value of his generosity, the opportunities and experiences that he has given to me is . . . beyond articulation. Thank you, Nate, for being one incredible human being. Thank you for brightening the lives of everyone you touched. You will always be appreciated, missed, and loved.

  78. I first met Dr. nathan avery and his wife and then very young children in 2001 when they first moved back to flagstaff to start their practice. I say “their “because although nate was the neurosurgeon, his wife was always his rock. supporting him by not just taking care of the kids and the house but by helping with the paperwork from the practice. I remember him saying that she got him through medical school and how much he loved and appreciated her. I was working at the local ford dealership when they came in to buy their first new car. they were driving his grandfathers 1970 something cadillac. it was a big yellow boat! i remember thinking how humble they were because they didnt pick out the fanciest or most expensive vehicle. they were very specific as far as what they wanted. Just a practical family sive suv that met their needs but nothing extra. That was annettes role. she kept her husbands feet on the ground. reminding him to not live beyond their means and the importance of family. at that time ford was creating the gt 40 . a superfast mustang. the dealership was only going to get one. just one. dr. avery was determined that he had to have this car. he would call me once every two weeks for the next year asking is it here yet? when it finally came in i called him and he said that annette says i cant buy it. That id look like a divorced orthadontist It was so funny to me. instead he got a truck. thats how well they worked together. In 2006 I came down with what Ithought was a terrible headache but then I started loosing vision and was referred to Dr. avery as a patient. he knew immediately what was wrong even though I dont fit the usual description of pseudo tumor. somehow he just knew. and i have tremendous respect for him not just as a doctor because he thought outside of the box. but as a person too. He placed my first shunt in august 2006 and did 38 revisions. either replacing the shunt or fixing it in the next 6 years. I called his office so many times in the middle of the night or on his days off. and he was always there to help me sacrificing his personal family time. i felt terrible knowing how much he and annette had to give up and how frustrating it must have been. But he never made me feel bad for being sick or for going to the E.R. when my shunt was acting up. thank you annette for sharing your husband with the community and his patients you are such a tremendous example of the kind of woman we all should aspire to be. what a wonderful example of love for your children to always know that both their parents loved each other beyond measure. youve taught us all about giving and taking in all relationships. I feel like i have gotten to know you and who you are through your husband. thank you for sharing “nate the great” with all of us. I pray for you and your beautiful children and will continue to. May God give you strength and peace as you raise your children

    • Brian & Laura Tritle
    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:30 am
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    At dinner last night we were using some of those conversation cards that Barrett had given us over the weekend. The question was, “Do you strive to be a moral person to achieve happiness in this life or the afterlife?” Before Brian or I could say a thing, Andrew (9) said, “It’s like Nate Avery. You live your Best Life Ever. You do it now.”

    Nate will be an inspiration for so many forever.

  79. Times like this I was thinking of Dr. Avery and found myself just thinking how he would give me advice on what else to do with my back and how I could improve my back, but can’t seem to find another neurologist, but all I can think of him saying go out and beyond and do your best to be the person you were meant to be. Try not to break it now hahaha…I miss your confidence and how you encouraged me…

  80. I didn’t feel I knew Nate Avery well; certainly not as well as those I saw greet him with open smiles and lengthy embraces or handshakes that cracked palms. I knew Nate mainly from interactions that accumulated over what I realize now was nearly 10 years. So maybe I knew him better than some of his acquaintances, but not as well as his close friends; it was clear that Nate had plenty of both.

    I first met Nate when my son, Gabe, was in 1st grade at Marshall Elementary School. Marshall was known at the time for its unusually involved parents, and two of the most involved parents I had ever seen were Annette and Nate Avery. They stood out at nearly every school event, whether it was working the front desk at a fund raiser, putting away chairs after a violin concert in the gym, or off-loading donated drinks and food at the Coconino Center for the Arts to raise money for the Marshall Arts Program. The Averys were both involved at a high level. They made time to be where it counted. And afterward they both looked around to see what else needed to be done.

    I saw Nate walking his kids to Marshall School, or picking them up; not every day, but surprisingly often when I found out what he did for a living and how little extra time he probably had. I saw him often enough to know he was sincerely invested in his children’s lives; and they knew it.

    Our kids became friends while at Marshall, and when I came by to drop off Thad or pick up Gabe, I’d hang out a bit, often because Nate was in the middle of providing life instruction in some creative way. Once he was describing the fine points, à la Tom Sawyer, of splitting firewood. Lots of firewood. Another time, he was showing Gabe how to change spark plugs in an ancient truck. Not necessarily a practical skill, because trucks like that are mostly gone, but a skill that everyone should know all the same. With simple acts, Nate could make you feel like you belonged.

    Nate always greeted me the same way; with a direct look; often with a twinkle in his eye as if we had shared the same unspoken experience, usually with some wry comment; often while handing me a can of beer, never with a negative word. On spring break a year ago I happened to be at the Avery’s to pick up Gabe from an afternoon with Thad. The family had begun planning a camping trip with some friends and the meeting had already started. Just as we were leaving, Cora suggested, that, well, we should come too… I was pretty sure we weren’t part if the original guest list, but suddenly, we were, and we were welcomed like we had gone on countless trips before. I learned that week another reason why friends of Nate and Annette were so loyal.

    Gabe and I couldn’t make the front end of the trip; we left late and met the group in New Mexico. We arrived well after dark and because Gabe decided immediately to bunk in with the rest of the kids, I started to pitch my own tent. Suddenly Nate was there. He tossed me a Pabst and dove right into helping me set up. A joke here, a comment on tent poles there, a look that let me know I was welcome. Few words. A feeling. A knowing.

    Days later, after packing up, and just as we were about to leave, the Avery’s dog, Boulder, broke loose from Maddie and somehow found, opened, partially ate, and finally rolled luxuriantly in, a week old, maggot-ridden road-kill cat, before sitting sad-eyed outside the Avery camper door with the look of exaggerated contrition that only long-faced hunting dogs can have. As Annette furiously washed the stink and corruption from Boulder, Nate walked up to me, and with a face twisted into a mixture of mirth, controlled disgust, and what-the-hell-are-you-going-to-do, a tiny smile broke through. He covered it quickly, and before spinning on his heel to go help Annette, he deadpanned, “You want a dog?”

    Nate radiated an instant familiarity that few men can, one that lets you know you’re with a friend, regardless of how well he really knows you. I have no doubt that this is why so much of Flagstaff came to Snowbowl last year in shock, disbelief and sympathy. It is why there are still so many “BLE” stickers on so many Flagstaff bumpers. We all felt like we knew him; or that he knew each one of us. It’s a rare connection; and it still matters.

    We miss you, Nate.

    • connie beingessner
    • Posted August 18, 2013 at 7:51 pm
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    Wow today is the day 1 year ago! Nate I flew over beautiful lake powell on my way home to Page today– thought of you the whole time…. I was returning home to Page after spending time in my home town of Buffalo, N.Y. My gramma turned 100, and she is amazing, but my thoughts returned to you on this day and to be able to fly over this beautiful lake and to reflect my thoughts on you!!! still so so so so much missed. I am also writing this because on my 5th year of a 2 time back surgury performed by you (feb 14th)I celebrated it in high fashion by finishing my Pilates certification…. I celebrated it on the same day as my surgery— You will always be here in all our hearts —–even when time passes— just know you are so thought of and so missed…. and will always be in my heart –big time…. I love and so miss you and are thinking of you on this day!!! my heart goes out to Annette and family—god bless you and know we still and will always think of Nate— he surely is always in my heart and sole..I would not be where I am today !!!

  81. Thank you for the legacy that you left behind. Thank you for bringing 3 Beautiful kids into out lives and thank you for Annette. Love you Nate. Miss you

    • Thank you for bringing this beautiful family together. You are missed and remembered everyday. Love you uncle nate

  82. Thank you for the “teaching moments” the laughs and the genuine friendship. You will be missed.


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