Don’t know about ya’ll; but in my world, when my life is full to the brim with emotion, adventures, challenges or milestones my words often remain in my head. Then, like a pick on a bass guitar string, a life note resonates and my creative itch demands relief.
Last week I discovered via social media, an old acquaintance passed into the next world. She was one of those rare souls that significantly impacted who I am today. Only a five hour cave trip with a paragraph of conversation between us; yet it was the epitome of how a brief encounter with another’s’ spirit can change a life.
It was March 19th, 2007, Roger and I were with members of our local grotto, South Port Chronic Cavers. I don’t remember the name or location of the cave, but recall it had about a 40 to 50′ cave pit entrance which we rappelled. The median age of that days’ cavers was approximately 35-50 years old. There was Bull, with bags of flashes and battery packs documenting the journey with his camera. He’s even had his work published in the National Speleological Society magazine. Very intelligent, he also identifies formations and always has facts/history of each cave. Brian and Lynn Roebuck and Frank Maynard long time cavers were there. Most of the group have incredible GPS genes and remember minute details and markings. Which is essential when you are directionally challenged like myself. Roger, my boyfriend, is an explorer. Working in high trusses and crawling through pipe as a sheet metal mechanic installing HV/AC for over 20 years, avails him the confidence to push uncharted crevices and scale formidable walls. Back then, I caved for the physical challenge, and discovering phenomenal beauty in the darkest areas. After all, being part of the 3% who have been caving is pretty exciting! There was an older couple there which I found mesmerizingly fascinating. Definitely seniors, both had that telltale bend in their statures as if they were shrinking. Gerald Moni didn’t go into the cave, but rather stayed up top waiting for measurements, descriptions and coordinates to map the survey information. He is a cave mapper I was told. His wife Avis Moni was decked out in hot pink helmet, seat and accessories and wore tight black leggings. She reminded me of a white haired pink version of Spider woman.
I was about the third one to rappel into the pit, after a couple of young physically fit dudes. Sitting on the cave floor we were observing those still up top when here came the hot pink monkey. Her approach to the upper lip was smooth and seamless as she hollered, “On rope!” Her descent was flawlessly rapid without a single hesitation. I believe it was the best descent in the entire group that day. I remained enthralled as we began traversing the breakdown within the cave. Sure-footed and spry, Avis often led out and had to keep pausing for the rest of us to catch up. Her level of fitness matched the inspiration of her constant smile and dancing eyes. She joked with us and had such a presence within our midst. Confident, friendly, knowledgeable and happy…so very happy. This little old woman absolutely loved life! Her upbeat and overcoming attitude endeared her to me forever. On our second break in cave, I had the privilege of sitting next to Avis and simply had to inquire.
“How long have you been caving Avis”? I asked.
“Oh 50 some years,” she replied.
“Wow!” I gushed. “If you don’t mind me asking , how old are you?”
“Ha ha!” she chuckled. “I don’t mind at all! Honey, I’m 79,” she proudly stated.
“And Gerald, Avis?” I probed.
“Oh Gerald, she laughed aloud brightly. “He’s 78. He’s my boy toy!”
“When I grow up I want to be just like you Avis!” I said, in complete honesty.
“How sweet of you to say that honey!” End of conversation.
Folks like Avis pump up my fortitude muscles. Their spirit and attitude are human illustrations of finding joy in the journey. Allowing nothing to stop them they adapt and overcome. I am forever grateful to the people who have contributed to the fabric of my soul.
Our cave trip ended at the parking area where Avis passed around her famous homemade cookies. I took oatmeal and it was delicious!
A couple of years ago, Bull gave me a picture of Avis which I blew up and hung in my fitness room. Turns out Avis Moni was one of the pioneer women to ever rappel into cave. She has been around the world in different caves and lives in TN. She’s been featured in NSS magazine numerous times and was renown in the caving community. She and her dear husband Gerald just happened to be visiting our grotto that day. So humble, I didn’t have a clue she was infamous.
Avis, I am sure you are now exploring unbelievable parts of the Universe with a big smile and twinkling eyes. Thank you for becoming part of me without any motive other than being yourself.
Avis Arlene Moni Nashville, TN Age 86, passed away July 8, 2014. An active member in The Nashville Grotto of the National Speleological Society. Survived by husband, Gerald Moni; daughters, Janet and Julie Lamson.
July 11, 2014
Avis had an infectious smile, an indelible spirit, and one incredible recipe for cookies and always willing to share. The world was a better place with her around and she will be missed. Condolences to all her family especially Gerald, hang in there guys. You are in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you all.
We loved Avis and we were honored to have her as a friend. She will forever live in our hearts. Avis was an icon and an inspiration. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family
Toni & Tony Amundson,
I spent time with Avis and Gerald in Blue Spring Cave on a day she was tired and I helped her out. This endeared me to her, and she knitted me the best ‘boggan cap in all of TAG. she also was the second person into Pete’s Plunge, right behind me in the initial exploration, 96ft deep in 2011! A role model for all who met her; the epitome of grace and delight, a reminder we should all be tough and sweet in all our endeavours..