Attorney Bill Avera dies in car crash at 81

Published: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 6:33 a.m.

Prominent Gainesville attorney William N. "Bill" Avera died Saturday afternoon in a Gilchrist County wreck that injured three others.

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Avera, 81, was the founder and senior partner of the law firm Avera and Smith, LLP.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Avera was pronounced dead at the scene of the 2:25 p.m. crash south of Bell. Those injured were residents of Bell.

FHP Cpl. Rodney W. Howard determined that Avera was alone in his 2004 Toyota Tundra when he ran a stop sign while headed west on County Road 232. Family members said Avera was on his way to his vacation home in Suwannee when the pickup was hit broadside. Avera reportedly pulled into the path of a 1997 Chevrolet Lumina being driven north on CR 341 by Jenna M. Luchak, 21.

She was taken to Shands at the University of Florida in critical condition.

Luchak's passengers, Rose M. Guindni-Mayo, 47, and Stanley M. Mayo, 65, were taken to Shands at UF in serious condition.

In his report, Howard said the Toyota rolled over while the Chevrolet spun off the two-lane, paved road. Howard also noted that charges were pending further investigation in the wreck and that everyone involved was wearing a seatbelt.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Williams-Thomas Funeral Homes, according to Avera's oldest child and law partner, Mark Avera.

The Avera law firm also included the youngest of his three children, Lance, while his middle child and only daughter, Garland Avera, entered the pharmaceutical industry.

"I had the luxury of trying about 20 jury trials with my dad over the years - for a civil lawyer that's quite a few," Mark Avera said. "He was not one to admonish. Instead, he would listen and then say, 'Let me tell you what I think.' Typically, his advice would strike us as being that which we needed to do. It's rare that we ever proved him wrong."

Mark Avera recalled his father as someone who "knew stuff you couldn't find in law books. It had to do with the nature of people and how people would react."

Around 2000, Bill Avera began wrapping up his cases while forbidding his sons to use the R word, as in "retire."

"Since then he has made it a point to come by the office two or three times a week to make sure my brother and I were not screwing up what he had created," Mark Avera said.

Although Bill Avera was no longer practicing law full time, partner Rod Smith said he frequently spent time in the office providing partners and associates advice on everything ranging from the cases they were working on to the redfish conditions in the Gulf of Mexico near his favorite place, a home he built in Suwannee more than 25 years ago.

"He was a great lawyer, the type of which we will never see again," Smith said on Monday morning. "He was also a fabulous father and grandfather who was convinced that his (seven) grandchildren were profoundly gifted."

The law firm that Avera founded handles a wide range of civil and criminal cases, and no matter what type of case Avera was working on, Smith said he handled it like he "did everything in his life - with a sophistication and style that made him very special to his family and friends."

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