Madison, Avril J.

Avril J. Madison, 85, of Wilmington, DE, died peacefully on June 19, 2024 at her home.

She was born in Jersey City, NJ, the second of two daughters born to the late William N. Johnson, Esq. and Vertrelle Johnson, Jackson, Burnett. The product of 16 years of public school education in that city, she graduated from Case Western Reserve Univ. in Cleveland, OH, in 1960 with a BA in her double major in History and Political Science. The latter prepared her for a career as a lifelong activist. She also had successful careers as a fundraiser/developer and Archivist. She is survived by her loving husband of 63 years, John J. Madison, PhD.

Moving with her husband to Edwards Air Force Base, CA in 1961, she began her life as an Air Force Officer’s wife and mother to their daughter and twin sons, who were subsequently born there. She continued her career as a stay-at-mom and homemaker after the family moved to Denver, CO. However, she also honed her volunteer and activism skills during her six-year residence. As a volunteer for the Metro Denver Fair Housing Board and later in a coalition with other activists, she worked to desegregate Denver’s racial housing pattern and to desegregate its public schools. Their daughter, Karin, at seven, was in the first wave of Black students bussed to an all-white school during this effort.[](<>)

A third move to the Washington, DC Metropolitan area where the family lived for 26 years enabled Avril to reenter the job market. In DC she began a steady, 14-year progression in the nonprofit field, from program manager to fundraiser to director. The highlight of those years was the seven spent at Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), an organization that worked at the national and local levels to achieve equal employment opportunities for women. It was there that she earned her feminist credentials. Starting at WOW as a Development Specialist she developed grant and contract funding totaling more than $3,000,000 to support WOW’s several employment training programs. In 1983 she became its Executive Director and a national advocate for women’s equity issues.

In 1989, after her children had their degrees and were embarked on their careers, Avril changed her career path to one of preserving history by completing an MS in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives Management, at Catholic University of America. In quick succession she became the Archivist for Senator Robert Dole, then Majority Leader of the Senate, and then head of the Oral History Department at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC), Howard University. While there she revitalized the Department increasing its usage by 30%, and used her grant writing skills to obtain two-year funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities for an oral history project that documented the effects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in seven southern states.

Her husband’s career change in 1995, precipitated a move to Seattle, Washington, and to the University of Washington, where she was employed as the Assistant University Archivist. In Seattle, Avril was also active in the Black Genealogy Research Group of Seattle. As part of a community wide effort to document contributions from the Black community she conducted oral history interviews with several important community members for an archival collection. She retired from the University of Washington in 2001 and moved with her husband, John, to Wilmington, DE in 2003.

In retirement, Avril’s interests were quite varied. She researched and wrote about her Charleston, SC. roots and her family’s participation in the Great Migration that saw millions of African Americans move from the South to the North, Mid-West and West in the early to mid-20th Century. She also volunteered with Read Aloud of DE and for DE Hospice. She initiated and chaired Helping Hands, an aging-in-place program for Little Falls Village, a 55+ community where she and her husband lived until 2012. And in 2007, she and her husband helped lead the successful legislative effort eliminating the Delaware statute of limitations in civil cases for child sexual abuse victims.

Devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt, she was also an ardent feminist, a woman of faith, and someone grateful for living a full and very interesting life enriched by family and friends.

Avril is survived by her husband of over 63 years, John J. Madison, PhD., of Wilmington, DE; her daughter, Karin Madison Wilson (Leon) of Wilmington, DE; two sons, William Madison of Dallas, TX and Jeffrey Madison (Maude Windsor) of Washington, DC; three grandsons, Matthew and James Madison of Texas and Austin Wilson of Wilmington, DE; and her only sibling, Ms. Antoinette J. Neals of Monroe Township, NJ. She is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.

A visitation will be held on Friday, August 2nd, 2024, from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. at St. Joseph R.C. Church, 1012 N. French St., Wilmington, DE 19801, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Inurnment will be held privately at the Delaware Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Bear, DE.

Memorial Contributions in Avril’s name may be sent to Doctors Without Borders,333 7th Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10001,

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Two Poems by John Madison

Mv Love, Avril

What a wonderful change in my life was wrought, when you came into my heart. You brought me life, you brought me laughter, you brought me joy,

When I met you something happen, I was never the same. You came into my heart to stay, to give me love and comfort, and was always just a reach away.

You gave me brand new life, and blessed me with your love, How can I say thanks for what you have done for me, All that I am and have ever hoped to be, I owe it all to thee.

You have been the joy and the strength of my life. I never forgot the constant friend you have been. You always lifted me when I was full of chagrin,

Just your smile made me whole, Just your touch cleared the way, Just your laughter gave me the light of day.

I found great love with you. I always felt you deep within. I learned that you could live within my heart, with only total love to impart.

We shared each other’s woes, fears, hopes, cares, though some dwelled and were abound. We never languished. Our aim always went to higher ground.

I found a beautiful life with you, my friend, a beautiful life that will never end.

I found depths of love that I thought I would never know. I found heights of joy that I thought were beyond my dreams,

There are depths of love I have yet to feel. There are heights of joy I have yet to reach. We are one in the final bond of love, All of which I will find aplenty when you join me in eternity.


My Final Praver

It’s me, Oh Lord, standing before thee in deep contrition, Do not pass me by, Oh Lord, hear my humble petition, Trusting in thy mercy, I simply plead, with this weary, sinful heart, “that I may be free to be with thee.”

My moment of judgment has come, may I go with you through discernment, may I go with you all the way to life eternal beyond the celestial firmament.

My strife with the spirits of darkness is complete, the battle has ceased, Your trumpet has sounded, time is now unfounded.

My task here is finished, my pilgrim journey is concluded, the storm of life has past, I rejoice, I rejoice, and I am glad in it.

I pray that you will bear my spirit home free, where life in glory forever reigns with thee. For in your immediate sight I want to live, but first, I have a strict account to give.

I was a sinner by choice, as I was alien by birth, I was frail and stooped by my faults, sometimes stumbling, sometimes falling, yet, you looked beyond my imperfections and cast your cares upon me for protection. You weaned me from earthly joys, picked me up, turned me around, and anchored me to solid ground.

With life’s fierce desires, temptations rose sharp and keen, but you gave me peace knowing you were standing ready to intervene. I needed your presence every challenging hour, I needed your grace to foil the tempter’s power. You took care of me when I failed,

I learned that with you I would prevail.

I learned that you were real, I could feel you uplift my soul, as you washed me with your grace and made me truly whole.

Yet, despite my sinfulness, because of you love for me, You have done great things for me. You made the way for me. You placed me by your side, My steps were established so that I could abide.

While in the valley in the darkest of night, while in the deep rivers of woe, you gave me peace. By your grace, you gave me victory in the midst of strife, Through the gloom you gave me life.

When I rested on your goodness and mercy, Lord, you lifted me. When I listened to your word, in love, you lifted me. When from sin I had the load of guilt, shame, and was forlorn, you forgave me.

You drove the dark of doubt away. You let your light upon me blaze. Your love and mercy found me and helped me walk close to thee. You stood by me and kept me strong, so that I would do no wrong,

All I had to do was to go to you in prayer, to lift my eyes to you, to stretch my arms to you, and help would mercifully come through.

You let me live my life, I have tried my best to cling to you. There is a debt of love that I owe, for your love is far beyond degree, still, I hope my life was pleasing to thee. I gave all I could to continue a little of the work that you had begun. I pray that you will find it right enough to say, “well done.” So, pass me not, Lord.

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