Avon Privette, a colorful, longtime member of the town’s planning board and prominent landowner in town, passed away Monday at age 69 after having health issues for several years.
Privette was first appointed to the planning board in January, 1974, and remained on the board the 42 years since. He was board chairman from September, 1985 until August, 2002.
Mayor Bob Matheny and Commissioner Dale Beck, both close friends of Privette’s, consider his involvement on the board one of his greatest contributions to the town.
“His thoughtfulness, seeing things that needed to be done, a steady hand with the planning department and keeping things in proper perspective,” Beck reflected. “Avon was a unique soul. I guess every town has one. He went to a different drum beat sometimes than some people. But he had a good handle on things and tremendous ideas. He was very creative.”
Privette shared his opinions freely. He commonly questioned the fine details of proposals brought before the planning board.
Planning Director Mark Hetrick recalls one of his earliest encounters with Privette, when former planning chief Lyddia Pritchard sent the two on an educational field trip to Kernersville.
“I didn’t know him all that well at the time, but I certainly got to know him quickly as a result,” Hetrick said. “I think the community benefited from his service. He really cared about the town and always provided good input at our meetings.”
Privette was the only child of Ernestine and Avon Privette Sr. His mother was the first person to be born in Zebulon, and his father was a former Zebulon farmer, businessman and mayor.
Because of his roots, he once told a Zebulon Record reporter, he believed he was destined to serve his hometown.
“I think it was just natural for me to try to do my best for our town, “ he said. “My family was interested in Zebulon’s development, and working for the town and its residents were probably in my blood from the get-go.”
Privette was student body president at Wakelon High School, where he graduated in 1965, before attending and graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill.
His involvement in the Jaycees in the 1970s further sparked his interest in public service, leading to his decision to join the planning board. That same year, he founded a custom home building company, Statesboro Custom Builders & Design.
Privette and several other prominent Zebulon residents also backed the financing to build the original Five County Stadium on farmland Privette sold for the Carolina Mudcats to bring professional baseball to town in 1991.
At full tilt
Matheny spent time Tuesday looking through photos he’s kept over the years that picture Privette. Some were from vacations he, Beck and Privette took with their families and others to Wyoming and Montana, while others were taken in their own yards in Zebulon.
Beck said Privette loved to plan their caravan trips more than he liked going on them.
“We had good times together,” said Beck, who lives in a home Privette built, and for decades had Labradors from the lineage of a pet Privette once gifted his family.
Matheny thought back about how varied a life Privette lived.
He recalled how he was a partner in Phil-ett Oil Co., the popular, former service station Avon Privette Sr. founded at what is now the intersection of Gannon Avenue and Shepard School Road. He remembered how he developed a taste for real estate working with William Parrish years ago, and how he got into cattle for a while.
“Avon was a very energetic person – the type that when he got interested in something, he’d go in full tilt,” Matheny said.
Privette was an avid duck hunter and went on many outdoor adventures, including with Matheny. He made amazing duck decoys, the mayor said.
“He was a good friend and when he got into things, he just jumped in the middle of it,” Matheny said. “He was someone that was interesting to be around.”