The Eulogy for Fred Davis

11
Mar

Fred Davis was born on December 2nd, 1926 in Northampton, Massachusetts.   Four years later his sister Sally was born.

 

The Davis Family had roots in the area reaching back into the 1600s.  A land grant for service in the Revolutionary War established a Davis homestead in Chesterfield, Mass.

 

As a child Fred lived through the years of the great depression.  His father worked was a craftsman who could do work working or paper hanging, whatever was needed, and he taught his son and daughter to be Mr. and Miss Fixit.  He was a veteran of the Great War, and he played tuba in local Veterans Band.

 

Their mother was very frugal, parceling out money into envelopes carefully, making sure there was money set aside for family vacations.   During the summer they vacationed at the Connecticut Shore, and travelled to Washington, DC, the Smokey Mountains, and a place called Dismal Swamp, which, it turned out, the trip wasn’t worth the effort.

 

In their teen years during the summer time Fred and his sister Sally worked out in the Tobacco fields of their community to contribute to the family’s income. They learned how to work hard, and the value of a dollar.

 

Fred was drawn to scouting, over time earning the badges necessary to become an eagle scout.  Though he must have done a fair amount of camping in his days as a scout, apparently Fred didn’t particularly enjoy camping because he never went camping again as an adult, preferring the comforts of indoor plumbing and such.

 

Fred graduated from Northampton High School in 1944 and went directly into the Army Air Corps, serving in Puerto Rico and Mississippi.  Upon his discharge, Fred returned home and got a job washing windows at Smith College.   It didn’t take long for Fred to realize this wasn’t how he wanted to spend his life, and, as the story goes, he climbed down from the ladder one day and went up back up to the high school to sign up for classes he needed to proceed to college.  Fred never returned to window washing, instead he took advantage of the GI Bill and enrolled in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, joining his sister Sally who had caught up in schooling while Fred was away serving his country.   Fred became a math major.

 

At the end of his sophomore year Fred met Betty, also a sophomore at their class picnic.  They were introduced by Carol, a friend of Fred’s sister Sally.  School broke for the summer – Fred went back to his home in Northampton, and Betty to West Springfield.  But Betty had clearly made an impression on Fred, because as soon as school resumed for their junior year he asked Betty out for a date, taking her to a football game at his old high school.   It was not long afterwards that they thought of themselves as a couple.

 

Following his discharge from the Air Corp, Fred had remained active in the Reserves, and shortly before graduation orders arrived calling Fred back into active duty in support of our country’s effort in the Korean War.   Fred applied for a direct commission, and was commissioned as an officer first in Texas, and then in Illinois at the Scott Air Force Base where he used his gift with mathematics to work on code breaking.   Betty came out to Illinois at the end of 1952 for a small church wedding that took place in on January 1, 1953.   The couple lived in Illinois until August when Fred was reassigned to Kelly Air Force Base in Texas.   It was there that Kenny, their first born child was born.“  Fred had intended to make the military his career, but when his commanders tried to move him again and disrupt his family life, Fred chose instead to retire, having attained the rank of Major.

 

The family returned to Massachusetts, living for a while with Fred’s parents, and then with Betty’s parents, before taking an apartment – a half a duplex – in Westfield.  Fred took a job with General Electric which in time involved him with the new computer technology.  Nancy was born in 1956.  The family moved to Pittsfield where they bought a house in 1959. That same year Peter was born.

 

It was during this time that Fred became very involved in the local Mason Lodge, becoming a Master, earning him the designation for the rest of his life of “Past Master.”

 

General Electric wanted Fred to relocate to Mississippi to work on the Saturn tests, but Fred wasn’t interested in moving his family down south again, so he was forced to look for new employment.  He eventually found work with Cyanamid, which was headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey.  Fred was able to work for the company at their West Springfield location while the family waited for their house to sell.

 

When the house finally did sell, the company wasn’t ready for Fred to move to New Jersey, so the family rented a house in Pittsfield for another nine months, before finally moving to Parsippany in 1968.   Parsippany seemed like a good place to live in part because it was believed that Interstate 287 would be shortly completed, making his commute a breeze.  Ironically the highway wouldn’t be finished until after Fred retired.  00

 

Fred’s work took him for extended stays in a variety of locations:  Hazleton, PA, Pensacola, Florida, Memphis, Tennessee, Jackson, Mississippi, flying home on weekends.  His work involved applying computers to the manufacturing process, ground-breaking work that allowed the company to become automated, greatly speeding up production.

 

In Parsippany Fred continued his affiliation with the Masons, becoming active in the Lodge that met at the Presbyterian Church, later merging with the Lodge in Mountain Lakes.

 

Fred became active with the Scouts, supporting both his sons as they followed in their father’s footsteps, becoming themselves Eagle Scouts.  He served as a merit badge counselor for other scouts as well, and also served on a variety of Troop Committees.

 

In Kenny’s words, Fred had a “passion for volunteering.”  He offered his services in a variety of capacities at our church.  Fred was always ready and willing to give his neighbors a hand when they needed help.  One neighbor referred to Fred as the mayor of the neighborhood because he knew everyone and greeted everyone with a wave.

 

One consistent way that Fred’s desire to serve was expressed throughout the years was in giving blood.  For decades, every six weeks he would donate his blood, giving in his life time well over 200 galloons of blood.  This is nothing short of amazing.

 

When Peter went to Russia in 1989 in a children’s theater exchange, Fred and Betty took a month to travel to Moscow to support their son’s artistic endeavor.

 

Fred retired in 1990.   Shortly thereafter, Fred and Betty joined the Fitness Center at what was then the Tara Hotel, and began going there several times a week.  The setting allowed Fred to overcome his naturally shy nature, allowing him to make many good friends there for the next 23 years.

 

During the years of his retirement, Fred and Betty took several trips with the Warner Lambert Seniors, travelling to the Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, New Mexico, San Francisco, and the Zion National Park in Utah.

 

Fred diligently kept up with the work of looking after a house, creating with Betty an extraordinarily beautiful home and yard.

 

I remember taking several walks with Fred in the neighborhood we share, and enjoyed his gentle and kind company.

 

Fred enjoyed collecting coins, reading historical novels, playing bridge, and boldly rooting for the Red Sox while living in what is distinctly Yankee territory.

 

Fred was a loving husband to Betty for 61 years of marriage.  He was a devoted father for Kenny, Nancy and Peter.   He cherished his three granddaughters:  Julie, Laura, and Beth.