Patricia Avery would be the last person to boast about her accomplishments.

In Iowa, she helped start a community center, domestic violence centers and food shelves and served as the human rights commissioner for Fort Dodge and the Iowa lieutenant governor's task force on diversity. When she moved to Minnesota, she played a key role in developing several human service and human resources programs for Hennepin County.

"She was an unadulterated truth teller," said her son, Michael Avery, of Des Moines, Iowa. "She made people feel comfortable using resources and would take those services to the people."

Avery, 69, was still serving as Hennepin County's senior department administrator in the Department of Health and Human Services when she died Jan. 3 of natural causes at her home in Brooklyn Park.

"She was a teacher, a partner and a leader," said Jodi Wentland, the deputy county administrator of human services. "She believed in people. She helped you discover your strengths and your dreams."

Avery was born in Lake Village, Ark., where her family worked as sharecroppers in the cotton fields. She was vice president of her high school and married the president. She became a single parent and moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa. Her son recalled that they were very poor and didn't have a lot of indoor plumbing.

"She learned firsthand about the difficulties poor people can face in the system," he said.

Avery graduated with honors with a psychology degree from Iowa State and started to teach high school in the early 1980s, She helped develop programs to combat truancy and create alternative education programs. She later received a master's degree from Drake University.

"She was willing to do the dirty work, the unpopular work," Avery's son said. "She may be the type of person you sometimes didn't like, but in the end you would wind up loving her."

Looking for a career change and place still close to Iowa, Avery ended up spending the next 22 years working for Hennepin County. She worked in a variety of areas including child protection, foster care licensing, economic assistance and community outreach. She also developed the first human services center in Brooklyn Center.

"She was committed to reducing racial disparity that exists in our community," Wentland said. "She brought a warmth and humor to every conversation."

Michael Avery, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, worked in tandem with his mother in teaching children at a tough housing complex and a community center for children that she started from scratch. A religious woman, she was active in various churches and ministries.

"If not for my mom, I would have been in a hell of a lot of trouble," he said.

Besides her son, Avery is survived by her father, Albert Cosey, of Rancho Cordova, Calif; daughter Michelle Avery-Jenkins of Atlanta; brother Bishop Madai Taylor of Fort Dodge; brothers Jerry Taylor of Jackson Miss.; Myron Taylor of Pocahontas Iowa; Andrew Taylor of Fort Dodge; and sisters Sarah Taylor-Smith of Indianapolis; Valerie Cosey of Sacramento, Calif.; Cassandra Anderson of San Jose, Calif.; and Felecia Luckett of Albuquerque, N.M. Services were held Jan. 15 in Fort Dodge. A memorial service will be held Feb. 26 in at the Full Proof Ministry Church of God in Christ in Minneapolis.