In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have scheduled moving out of our house for remodeling during the first week of the semester. This is a reasonable approximation of how I feel right now:
That’s Autrey Lewis, by the way, class of 1935, who is handling her woes better than I am. I lifted this story about her from the 1994 newsletter of the Concerned Citizens for Washington Cemetery Care Inc. and Washington Cemetery Historic Trust. (The newsletter is actually interesting in its own right so if you’d like to read the whole thing it’s here.)
Autrey was born in Bay City, Texas on December 20, 1914 to Richard R. Lewis and Selma Autrey Lewis. The family soon moved to Houston, to be near Mrs. Lewis’ family. Dick Lewis practiced law in Houston for many years, and at one time was the City Attorney. The Autrey family owned the Brazos Hotel as well as the Magnolia Brewery, which produced Southern Select Beer, before being sold to the Falstaff Brewing Company in the 1960’s.
Autrey attended San Jacinto High School. She met Dick Ballanfant while both were students at Rice University, and they eloped during lunch break at Rice in 1934. (Their friends had wondered why Autrey wore a hat to class that day!) They graduated from Rice together in 1935. Later, she attended graduate school in Mexico City.
Dick Ballanfant served with the First Special Services Forces during W.W.II. In 1947, Autrey and Dick opened a Boys’ Camp in Junction, Texas, where her family had a ranch. Although the camp was successful and all of the Ballanfant family enjoyed life in Junction, the terrible drought in the early 1950’s forced them to leave the Hill Country and move to California for 5 years. In 1959, the family moved back to Houston, where both Autrey and Dick began teaching school in HISD. Autrey taught elementary school Spanish, then moved on to McReynolds Junior High to teach Spanish and English. Dick taught Science at Furr High School. Both retired from teaching in the early 1970’s.
One of Autrey Ballanfant’s proudest achievements was hosting in her home the initial meeting of concerned descendants of people buried in Washington Cemetery. CCWCC was formed as a direct result of that January 1975 meeting. Dick Ballanfant passed away in October 1981. Autrey died on July 3, 1994. Both are buried in the Autrey/Lewis family plot. Alongside them is their first grandchild, Christopher Louis Voss, son of Anne Ballanfant Voss and James George Voss.
Autrey touched many lives, and will be greatly missed. However, we are very grateful to her many friends and relatives who honored her memory by making donations totaling over $1000 to WCHT.
Bonus: It was a beautiful winter day on campus today.