Flora Maria Avendano de Coto was born May 12, 1935 in San Jose, Costa Rica where she bore two children out of wedlock, a son Macho and a daughter Marta.
While her mother Josefina cared for her children, Flora traveled around the country working at whatever jobs she could find and sending what money she could to help her mother care for the children. Although she was often broke and starving herself, her mother frequently had her jailed for non-support. Things went on in that sorry state until 1965 when she met the love of her life Kurt Wilson in Costa Rica’s main banana port on the Pacific, Puerto Golfito.
Together with two partners, Kurt had journeyed from Seattle, Wash. to prospect for gold in the nearby jungles of the Osa Peninsula. Unfortunately they had arrived during the wet season then the rivers were too high and swift for placer mining. Kurt’s two partners abandoned their quest for gold, leaving Kurt to prospect alone. He eventually located good color on a gravel bar in the upper reaches of the Rio Tigre but by that time had developed a bad case of jungle rot in his feet and lower legs. He was forced to seek the aid of a doctor in Golfito where he met Flora.
The police in Golfito had jailed Flora before but they knew her plight and felt sorry for her. About the time that Kurt and Flora met they advised her that her mother was again seeking to have her jailed and advised her to hide somewhere and lie low for a while. Kurt badly needed a mining partner and Flora badly needed to get out of town so going with Kurt was not a difficult decision for her to make.
Although Flora was very petite she could out-shovel most of the men in the gold fields. Both of them were broke and had to spend considerable time hunting and fishing just to survive. They managed to dig out a 75 foot sluicing channel and in less than a month they were buying provisions with their own gold.
Two months further on they had reached bedrock at 5 feet. Their claim was unbelievably rich. All told they recovered 39 ounces in just 3 months. Gold was only $35 an ounce at that time but the money went a long way in Costa Rica and in the U.S. as well.
While Flora was hiding in the jungle with her boyfriend a remarkable thing happened. A woman in no way related to Flora but who bore the same name, Flora Avendano, was killed. The police contacted Flora’s mother to give their condolences over her daughter’s death and the word spread quickly. Everyone believed Flora was dead. Not knowing whether her mother would again have her jailed, one day with Kurt at her side, she knocked on her mother’s door. When everyone realized that Flora was indeed alive they rejoiced. Nobody cried harder than her mother who suffered a great deal of guilt over having her daughter jailed so many times. Flora introduced Kurt to her family and after receiving their consent and blessing they were married in San Jose April 2, 1965.
They applied for and obtained a green card for Flora and Kurt took his bride to Seattle. While living in Seattle Kurt worked at Boeing and Flora got a job cleaning houses.
Flora gave birth to Kurt’s son Steve in 1968. In 1969 they returned to Costa Rice, first to Oso where the better prospecting areas were already clamed. They next went to Costa Rica’s Institute of Land and Colonization or ITCO, where they applied for a homestead grant. They were given a 20 hectare parcela of raw undeveloped land near the town of Bataan in the low lands of eastern Costa Rica. At the time Costa Rica was developing an export market for plantains and ITCO urged all homesteaders to grow them. The land was devoid of timber that could have been used for building but they salvaged enough material to build a small one room shack from an old collapsed school house.
They hired workers and they planted plantain bulbs, corn, beans, watermelons, papayas, pineapple, oranges and coconuts. By the beginning of 1970 their plantation was growing well but just as they neared their first plantain harvest a terrible hurricane hit the gulf of Darien. Their shack was pounded by rain, day and night, for two weeks. The plantation came through unscathed but during the storm they were constantly wet and temperatures had often dropped into the 40’s. Kurt came down with malaria and bronchial pneumonia and his condition deteriorated rapidly. In the end they were forced to abandon the plantation and return to Seattle where he was hospitalized for a month. Afterward Kurt got a job as a maintenance man and Flora as a custodian at the University of Washington.
By 1974 they had saved some money and made one final attempt to settle in Costa Rica. Near the town of Anita Grande in eastern Costa Rica they bought a 14 acre farm with a small house. They invested the rest of their savings in a bank certificate of deposit. When foreigners started coming into the country inflation soared and their interest income was no longer enough to sustain them. The farm cost more to maintain than it produced and in the end they broke even when they returned to Seattle.
They bought a fixer upper in south Seattle. The University of Washington was happy to give Flora her old job back. The repairs on their new home kept Kurt busy for a year. For the Wilsons, their years in south Seattle were happy ones. By the late 1980’s gangs, rising crime, pollution, traffic, taxes and cost of living left them yearning for a more rural life. Flora took early retirement from the University and after exploring many rural areas they found what they were looking for in Sanders County. They bought a home in the Thompson River Canyon 8 miles from Thompson Falls. The property had a chicken coop and Flora began raising chickens. She kept 50 hens and sold many dozens of eggs to establishments in town where she became known as the Egg Lady. Flora lived 23 years in Montana. She is survived by her husband Kurt of Thompson Falls; son Steve of Butte; daughter Marta, granddaughter Wendie Benevetez and her husband Henry and great-grandsons Ian and Leo of Atlanta, Ga.; brother Guido of Ft. Meyers, Fla.; and in Costa Rica by her sister Chapita, brother Jorje, son Macho and many nieces and nephews.
Flora was 82. She will be long remembered and greatly missed. Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Thompson Falls Community Congregational Church. Anyone wishing to pay their respects are welcome to attend.