Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Alvena Pryor

Alvena Pryor, who cut a singular path through life, dies at 84

ST. PETERSBURG — As a wife and mother, Alvena Pryor embodied the traits of her generation.

She viewed the needs of her husband, well known physician Howard "Bud" Pryor, as synonymous with her own.

She dedicated herself to substitute teaching and civic organizations, including one she started for children with Down syndrome.

She played tennis at the country club, was active in a medical auxiliary, and served as PTA president for her children's elementary, middle and high schools.

Mrs. Pryor also carried a steely mettle into situations she cared about most, defying family and friends if need be.

No one told her what to do, her cheerful demeanor notwithstanding.

Mrs. Pryor died at a rehabilitation center Monday after a long illness. She was 84.

She came of age in a St. Petersburg now seen in coffee-table books and vintage postcards. She was waiting in line at Webb's City when Bud Pryor, whom she had dated a year earlier, approached and asked her out again. He proposed a few weeks later in his car. They had parked at Lake Maggiore, scanning the water for pinpricks of reddish light at the surface, the eyeshine of gators.

As they settled into married life, her husband realized he didn't enjoy his job as a lineman for Florida Power.

"(Mrs. Pryor) said, 'What do you want to do?' " her daughter Juliana Menke, 52, said. "'He said, 'I want to be a doctor.' She said, 'Let's do it.' "

She found teaching jobs in Alachua County while he studied medicine at the University of Florida. The couple moved to Tampa, then St. Petersburg, and started a family.

As a teacher and parent, Mrs. Pryor took the contentious teachers' strike of 1968 personally.

"My mom actually agreed with some of the issues the teachers had," said Menke. "She just didn't think striking was the way to handle it." Thus Mrs. Pryor became one of the fill-in teachers hired by the school district. The move damaged some friendships, but not permanently, her daughter said. "She didn't want to stay in a fight with anyone. She believed in standing up, but wanted to take on the issue and not the person."

The strike was not her first battle over principle.

Alvena Birchard was born in 1929 in Toledo, Ohio, the daughter of Polish and Italian immigrants. The family moved to St. Petersburg before her senior year of high school.

She attended Florida State University on a scholarship, in defiance of her Sicilian father's wishes. "He believed she should get married and have children and none of this foolishness," her daughter said. "She balked at that."

She returned home with a master's degree in early childhood education. In the 1960s, Mrs. Pryor became concerned about the education afforded to children with Down syndrome.

In 1964 she founded the Peter Pan Auxiliary, a group created to support the Peter Pan School for Retarded Children, and served as its first president.

In the early 1970s, Mrs. Pryor and her family moved into a brand-new home on Pinellas Point Drive with waterfront views and furniture reflecting her favorite shades of blue.

Howard Pryor, a popular family practitioner, died at age 51 in 1980 of a heart attack.

Mrs. Pryor moved to Tierra Verde, continued to teach and stayed active. About a decade ago she met Lucian Ierna, a musician. "Lucian became Alvena's 'significant other,' and the unexpected delight of her later years," her daughter said. Ierna died in 2009, a few months after Mrs. Pryor was hospitalized with kidney stones. Though the illness caused doctors to amputate both legs and she developed Alzheimer's disease, Mrs. Pryor remained chipper. "Even though she went through adversities, you would never know anything was wrong with Alvena," said Shirley Insoft, 71, a longtime friend. "It was always going to be a better tomorrow."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


Alvena Birchard Pryor

Born: March 23, 1929

Died: May 6, 2013

Survivors: daughters, Juliana Menke and Rebecca Husain; son Dr. Howard Irwin Pryor II; and seven grandchildren.

Celebration of life: 4 p.m. June 8; Maximo Presbyterian Church, 3200 58th Ave. S, St. Petersburg.

Alvena Pryor, who cut a singular path through life, dies at 84 05/11/13 [Last modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 9:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gov. Rick Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto


    2016: $256,144,027

    2015: $461,387,164

    2014: $68,850,121

    2013: $367,950,394

    2012: $142,752,177

    2011: $615,347,550

    Only once has Scott used the line-item veto sparingly. That was in 2014, the year he ran for re-election, when he removed a paltry $69 million from the budget.

    Gov. Rick Scott waves a veto pen at The Villages in 2011.
  2. Rays morning after: An up-and down day for Jose De Leon


    Rays RHP Jose De Leon had a busy Monday - getting called up to join the Rays for the first time and making his way from Pawtucket, R.I., to Boston and the flying to Texas, working 2 2/3 eventful innings to get the W in the 10-8 victory over the Rangers, and then getting optioned back to Triple-A.

    Jose De Leon follows through in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, on May 29, 2017.
  3. Resignation of communications director Dubke could signal more changes within White House staff


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke has resigned as White House communications director, a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday, in the first of what could be a series of changes to President Trump's senior staff amid the growing Russia scandal.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  4. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]
  5. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott