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Fri, April 03

Avila marshals in Fourth of July parade

With this year’s Fourth of July parade theme of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” it seems very appropriate that Fred “Perico” Avila served as grand marshal.Fred "Perico" Avila, grand marshal of Williams Small Town Fourth of July parade, is pictured with his wife Gloria.

For years he has spearheaded American Legion efforts to see that American flags are erected in front of Williams businesses on holidays.

“The flag program was started in the early ’50s by Paul Serrano who kept it going a number of years,” Avila said. “I took it over in the ’60s.

“For $15 a year business can have a flag put up. We maintain the flags and poles. The city drills the holes on the sidewalk.”

Avila has also been in charge of the flag burning ceremony for the past 10 to 15 years, which traditionally held on Flag Day, June 14.

“People bring me old flags in disrepair,” he said. “This year’s ceremony was delayed because of dry conditions but will be held later this summer.”

Avila has served as adjutant for American Legion Cordova Post No. 13 for the past 16 years and has been an active member since 1961. He served as post commander from 1970-72, 1983-86 and 1989-99.

Avila is in charge of arranging military funerals in town.

A Williams native, Avila said he still lives in the house on Grant Avenue he was born in.

“My father, Jose Avila, came to Williams in 1922 from Durango, Mexico to work in the sawmill,” he said. “In 1925 he brought my mother Juanita here and married her.”

He has four sons, Freddie Avila Jr., in the navy who is stationed in Spain, and Javier, Orlando and Jaime Avila who reside in the Flagstaff area. In addition, he is stepfather to his wife Gloria’s three sons and three daughters. He said they have a “bunch” of grandchildren.

As a youngster, Avila sold newspapers for the Williams News and the Daily Sun and was a shoeshine boy at the Sultana while in the fifth and sixth grades. It was during high school that Avila started the sign painting business he still pursues today. In 1950, he became the first janitor when Williams Hospital opened.

Also while still in high school, he started working at the movie theater in town first as janitor, then projectionist and eventually manager.

“The theater was owned by Harry Nace Jr. who had several movie theaters in Phoenix as well as Kingman, Flagstaff, Holbrook, Prescott, Ash Fork and Cottonwood,” he said. “On the Fourth of July in 1952, I remember the theater here closed because Harry Nace Sr. committed suicide, and Babbitts Grocery was robbed during the fireworks.”

After high school Avila served in the U.S. Army.

“During the Korean conflict, I served for two years,” he said. “After I came back to Williams, I worked at sign painting and at the movie theater. I bought the theater in the mid-’60s and sold it in 1973.”

After that Avila went to work as a sign painter for Kaibab National Forest and retired after 21 years in 1994.

“I feel very honored the chamber asked me to be grand marshal,” Avila said. “This community has been very good to me.”

Avila also served as grand marshal of the Labor Day parade in 1995.

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