Remembering Elinor Kathleen Avenatti
August 23, 1929-March 6, 2023
By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Long-time Crestline resident Elinor Kathleen Avenatti, 93, died March 6, 2023, during the power outage caused by the recent blizzard. She had lived in her all-electric home which she built in 1964 in Crestline, since naming it “High Dolly.”
She had owned and operated a 7-Eleven in San Bernardino with her partner, Trudy Rumph, for decades. After they sold the business and retired, she and Trudy traveled around the USA and Canada, visiting all 50 states and the national parks, as well as all the provinces of Canada in her motor home and also visited Australia and New Zealand. Trudy died in 2005. Avenatti continued to travel, making new friends along the way.
Known by friends as Dolly, Avenatti was born in Los Angeles on Aug. 23,1929, to Agostino Avenatti and Maria Fosson Pons Avenatti who both immigrated from Italy, just before the Depression began. She had no children but was a beloved aunt.
During the storm, her nephew Ron Fossen called the county hotline for a health checkup and her neighbor Rodolpho was bringing over meals, but Avenatti was stuck in her home for over two weeks. Although she lived on a county road, it had not been plowed for over a week while the snow piled higher and higher, receiving seven feet of snow in her Skyland neighborhood, with winds creating higher drifts and breaking trees with a large limb falling on her roof. The electrical power was out for six days due to snapped powerlines from the top-heavy power poles, with the tops landing in the snow in the street in front of her home.
Her nephew, who lives in Arizona, called the San Bernardino County storm hotline every day when he learned that his aunt’s home had lost heat and power, asking someone to rescue his aunt. No one ever came. She was one of the trapped residents in the San Bernardino Mountains during that storm who did not survive. He and her neighbors are sad she died cold and alone in her home, without power, no phone service and with an inability to cook food without electrical power in her all-electric home.
Avenatti graduated from Lincoln High School in Los Angeles. Afterwards, she worked at Golden State Ice Cream (later Foremost) and O’Keefe & Merritt Stove Company. Subsequent jobs included working as a patrol woman for the Alhambra Police Department and as a dispatcher. Dolly was an avid reader and spent time in the library. She also gave books she had already read to her neighbors. For years, she worked for the Rim of the World Unified School District as a school librarian. She could play the piano and accordion.
After moving to the mountains and retiring, she was active in the Crest Forest Senior Citizens Club; she especially enjoyed attending the senior luncheons. She also loved to bake for her neighbors, bringing over cookies, brownies, persimmon bread and other baked treats. She was generous with her baked goods. She shared holiday dinners with neighbors.
Dolly was well known for walking every day up and down her mile-long road of Skyland Drive, talking with neighbors and greeting all the pets by name. She would collect cans along her walks and recycle them, donating the money to animal rescue groups. Some neighbors would leave their bags of aluminum cans on their driveways for her to recycle.
She was frugal and also clipped newspaper coupons for others, sending them to active military families overseas to save them money on their groceries. She shared stories of her life, adventures and travel with her friends, visiting most of the national parks in her camper. She was an independent person who liked that she was in control of her life into her 90s, despite her failing hearing and recently her fading memory. Her family is mourning her death as they continue seeking answers to the whys surrounding her death, but know she lived the life she wanted to live.
During the storm, her neighbors had been checking on her and bringing her meals. However, she insisted that, since she had survived other storms, she didn’t need to intrude on their families, since they also didn’t have power, but she gratefully accepted food since her electric stove could not function without power.
“She lived the life she wanted to live,” said Avenatti’s nephew Ron Fosson. He would call her daily and Dolly answered, referring to Crestline as “a Winter Wonderland.” When the storm hit, she knew nothing of the devastation going on in the communities surrounding her home, because of her electrical isolation, with no TV, no phone or radio, all caused by the storm.
After the storm ended and neighbors could get out of the seven feet of snow surrounding their homes, they trudged through the snow and knocked and knocked on Dolly’s door, as they’d seen the curtains had changed position from the previous day. So, when she didn’t answer, they thought maybe she was sleeping and, with her deafness, didn’t hear them. Finally, after not answering, her neighbors made their way inside, with the key she had given them, where they found her dead, unresponsive in her freezing cold house.
The fire department had to send a snow cat to the home to respond to the call, as the roads were still unpassable. The road was suddenly plowed to remove Dolly from her home. The coroner’s report said death was from natural causes, but neighbors believe her death was a result of her being freezing cold during the storm.
Fosson said, “We suspect her death is a result of her prolonged exposure to the cold.” Neighbors were all shocked when informed of her passing, saying, “Dolly will be missed, as she was a fixture in this neighborhood.” Another neighbor and friend Margaret Potvin stated, “Well, she is happily, finally reunited with Trudy again.”
“I guess I can tell you she’s safely home now,” Fosson said. “Her final wish was to live out her life in her home.” It is unknown if Avenatti’s death is included in the sheriff’s initial figures of 12 dying during the storms, but her family claims the only medical condition she suffered from was memory loss.
Dolly was preceded in death by her parents; her brothers, Henry and Chick Pons; her sisters, Marian Mighaccio and Florence Pons; her cousin Henry Fosson, who was like a brother to her; nephews, Kenny Pons and Joseph (Bud) Mighaccio; nieces, Caroline Mighaccio and Joan Pons Bryan. She is survived by niece Judy Pons; cousins Ron and Dave Fosson; and 10 great-nieces and nephews.
Avenatti’s services will be held at Montecito Memorial Park in Colton with visitation at noon on Friday, April 7 at Cypress Chapel, 24145 Barton Rd., Loma Linda, with a funeral service following from 1 to 2 p.m. The committal service will occur from 2:30 to 3:00 p.m. at Montecito Memorial Park, 3520 E. Washington St., Colton. Her family welcomes all who knew her to attend. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.montecitomemorialparkandmortuary.com for the Avenatti family.