William Randolph Avera

October 4, 1954 ~ October 29, 2021 (age 67)


William Randolph Avera, 67, of Madison, GA, passed away on Friday, October 29, 2021.

Randy was born on October 4, 1954 to Clara Jo Lee Avera and William Alex Avera in Augusta, GA.  He grew up in Augusta under the care of his mother and beloved grandmother, Leafie Touchton Lee.  Randy’s love for rocketry and aviation began early, including childhood correspondence with Wernher von Braun.  Randy was able to personally witness the launch of Apollo 11, as well as other Apollo launches, as the invited guest of von Braun.  In addition to performing his own model rocketry launches for family and classmates, Randy earned his private pilot’s license before his graduation from George P. Butler High School in 1973.  During his time at Butler, Randy was a United States Marine Junior ROTC cadet, serving as Cadet Commander his senior year.  He was also commander of the Marine JROTC Precision Drill Team.

Declining an appointment to the Naval Academy, Randy chose instead to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology on full scholarship from the Georgia Pacific Foundation to pursue his love of aerospace.  While at Tech, Randy relished his time as a member of the Georgia Tech Flying Club, before going on to earn his Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering in 1977.

Upon graduation, Randy fulfilled his childhood dream working for NASA from 1977 to 1991.  Many of his early years were spent traveling between Kennedy Space Center and Palmdale, CA, working to design and build the world’s first reusable space shuttle vehicle.  In addition to his role as Lead Structures Engineer for Orbiter Structures, Randy was also chosen to be an accident investigator following the tragic loss of Challenger in 1986.

Randy left NASA in 1991, moving to Atlanta, GA to work for the FAA in Aircraft Design Certification in the Systems and Equipment Branch.  Before his retirement in 2017 after forty years of federal service, Randy served on the national FAA freighter aircraft conversion safety review team, the national FAA team for cargo compartment fire safety/detection, and won the FAA Flight Standards, Southern Region, Good Friend Award for 2001 for significant contributions to aviation safety.    Following his retirement, Randy was appointed as a Designated Engineering Representative for the FAA, continuing his lifelong work of advancing public safety – a role he held until his passing.

In addition to his federal work, Randy authored two books, The Truth About Challenger and Memories of Columbia.  He also served as a space shuttle analyst for CNN from 2003-2006.

In 2005, Randy met Kelli Nabors, and they wed in 2011, going on to have one daughter, Maggie Claire Avera, his greatest pride and joy. 

Randy accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord as a young boy in Augusta, and his faith sustained him throughout his life.  A true extrovert, Randy loved people and spent his life telling others of the saving faith he had found and the grace he had received from His Savior.  The congregations of Braswell Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church, both of Good Hope, GA, held special places in his heart.

Randy was predeceased by his maternal grandparents, Elvin and Leafie Touchton Lee; his mother, Clara Jo Lee Avera; his father, William Alex Avera; his sister, Carolyn Avera Stevens; his nephew, Robert Christopher Folger Sr.; and his great-nephew, Brian James Todd Jr.

Randy is survived by his wife, Kelli Nabors Avera; his daughter, Maggie Claire Avera; his sister, Patricia Glover; his aunt, Lou Ella Wyatt; and an amazing host of cousins, nieces, nephews, and other family and friends who will miss him greatly until the promised day of blessed reunion.

A funeral service was held Sunday, November 7th at Bethel Baptist Church in Good Hope, GA.  Memorial contributions for his young daughter’s education fund may be made through Synovus Bank in Watkinsville, GA, or memorial gifts may be made to Samaritan’s Purse.

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