Bladen farmer, son killed in tornado

Posted April 19, 2011 6:12 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2011 6:58 a.m. EDT

— A Bladen County tobacco farmer, his son and a neighbor were killed Saturday when tornadoes raked the eastern half of North Carolina.

Marchester Avery, 92, Tony Avery, 50, and Darlene Zupo, 52, were among 23 people killed statewide.

Mary Avery, who lives behind her father's home, said she left him with her brother Saturday afternoon. She told her father "I love you" as she said good-bye.

"I just thank God it wasn't me. I'm not saying it like that, but I know that if I'd been here ..." a distraught Mary Avery said, her voice trailing off.

Piles of splinters and debris were all that was left of Marchester Avery and Zupo's homes on Turnbull Road in the crossroads community of Ammon in north Bladen County.

Marchester Avery cut a dashing figure and believed in always dressing sharply, his daughter said.

"His thing was, he needed to look good when he left the house," Mary Avery said.

Marchester Avery left a legacy of kindness and compassion to his 13 children, numerous grandchildren and anyone who had met him, family and friends said.

"He was a deacon in the church, and he stood his ground," his longtime friend Ruby Melvin Smith said.

"My daddy just had this thing about him," Mary Avery said. "He never met a stranger. He never met nobody that he thought he couldn't help."