Dan Allen Davis
January 24, 1927 - October 3, 2006
Here are two videos.
Four minutes in the life of a man.
Here follows the eulogy I (Dan T. Davis) said at my father's funeral:
Dan Allen Davis. Lt. Cmdr. Dan Davis. Dr. Dan A. Davis. Worshipful Master Dan Davis. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Davis. Bud. Honey. Dad. Grandy. My father had many names and many roles in life.
Dan Davis was born in 1927 in Wauchula, Florida. He had two sisters, but by the age of four, he had lost his father. Raised by his mother and step-father during the depression, they made due with what they had. One thing my father had, though, was a desire to learn and grow. He loved to learn, enough so that he earned his high school diploma by the time he was fifteen.
Graduating in 1942, he used his high school diploma to convince the Navy that he should be allowed to serve his country in World War II as a Seaman 4 th class.
Jump to November, 1943. Move to the Pacific Ocean on a Higgins boat. We are now at Tarawa Atoll, a three day battle against the Japanese. The American invasion force was the largest yet put together for a single operation, consisting of 17 aircraft carriers, 12 battleships, 8 heavy and 4 light cruisers, 66 destroyers and 36 transports. There were 35,000 troops engaged for this operation.
It was a costly battle for both sides. Out of about 5000 Japanese, only 146 survived. American casualties were 1000 killed, 2200 wounded. The heavy casualties sparked off a storm of protest in the United States, where the high losses could not be understood for such a tiny and seemingly unimportant island.
The first wave of amphtracks and Higgins boats moved in on the lagoon side of Betio. The formation was jolted to a stop 500 yards out by a reef which the amphtracks could climb over only with great difficulty. Simultaneously, a hail of fire opened up from the island, incinerating the lodged and incoming boats as well as mowing down the marines wading ashore. Few of the first wave survived.
Dan Davis was on the second wave. His Higgins boat was also sunk and he and his buddies were thrown into the cold water. Many of them drowned, including the man my father tried to hold above the water. “I will never forget that day in November 1943,” he said, many times. He was pulled from the water, and continued onward, serving his country.
His funeral almost occurred 63 years ago. Dan Davis was still only 16 years old.
For the next twelve years, my father served in the Navy. He became a Mason, learned navigation on planes, and went from assignment to assignment, including serving in the Korean arena. In 1953, he was assigned to Millington, Tennessee, near Memphis. There he met Marjorie Mize… and began an almost 52 year relationship starting January 1, 1955.
Dan Davis had a great capacity to learn and to teach. He worked on his Bachelor’s Degree at Memphis State University at night. In the 1960’s, he earned his Master’s Degree in Education. And in the 1970’s at the University of Florida, he became Dr. Dan Davis.
He continued to share his love of learning and imagination with others. He started a family, and would send reel-to-reel tapes back for his wife and children to listen to when he was on a ship or plane in another country. He bought a Super 8 movie camera in the 1950s. He was a leading edge user of technology for that time.
He taught in many of his naval assignments, and in the mid 1960s he taught for 3 years at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Even when he retired from the Navy, he immediately began his next career: teaching.
But teaching his family came first. He taught his sons so much. Here are some excerpts from a father’s day letter I wrote to him in June 1998:
Dad, you knew that you now had the ability to pass on what you had learned. To teach, to raise, to try and help your sons become good persons. Did you succeed? I think so.
How did you feel about being gone a lot, due to your Navy career? Did you record tapes and send them to us in Brunswick, Maine so that you could somehow still share times with us, even when you couldn't actually be there? During my early years, those tapes meant a lot to me.
And when you were home, I remember going to Long Lake. I somehow associate Long Lake with you being home, because that seemed to be where we'd go when you were home.
And you certainly didn't forget that you wanted your kids to be smart and educated. Learning the multiplication tables before I went to kindergarten seemed to me to be the most natural thing, because I didn't know it should be any different. Of COURSE you would know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide at four!
And you made sure that you watched my education process outside of your own teaching. You made sure that when we moved to Alexandria, Virginia, that I went to a school that would challenge me. The school sparked my creativity as well as my math and science education.
You also made sure that we had the opportunity to go to movies so we’d stay up-to-date with the world. I remember the movies "Geronimo" and "Follow Me Boys" in particular as having a lasting impact on me.
Also, you thought it important that we exercise and play outside. I remember snow sledding both in Maine and Virginia. We'd go to the top of the street, get on the sled, and slide all the way past the house. Snow seemed a lot higher and more severe (and more fun) back then, to me.
And the football games at the Naval Academy were neat. Those were the first football games I think I went to. Navy had a decent team then, if I remember correctly. And even if I don't remember correctly, I still remember "Cartwright to Taylor" as a signal for a coming touchdown. And of course, you'd throw us footballs in that large front expanse of a lawn in front of our military apartment. That became something I'd always look forward to from then on – you throwing us footballs, going out for "long bombs"; whether it was in Annapolis or in Avon Park.
Jacksonville wasn't as fun, because you were often in the Mediterranean on a ship, but I do remember Ping-Pong tournaments with you out on the glass porch. That was at the point where I actually started winning once in while - or maybe you were still allowing me to win.
You showed how you felt about education by continuing yours. I was impressed in seeing you write the book "A Teacher for All Seasons". It made me realize that you could always accomplish new things.
College was an interesting mix of memories. Although I was now "on my own", as it were, I also had a fellow student at the college… you. It was strange in that there were two Dan Davises at the University of Florida. You were getting your doctorate and I was getting my bachelor's, but I do know there were at least a couple of times when people would get our names, phones, or mail mixed up.
Going to college was strange, but exhilarating as well. When Mom started having severe back problems and had to have an operation, that was an immensely stressful time. Enough so that when we had a blow-up, I drove away to Miami. I wonder how long I might have stayed there if, when I called, you had said ANYTHING other than simply "Come home". And you never mentioned it or brought it up again after I did return.
You also helped me learn a bit about the political process while showing that you were continuing to do new things. Superintendent of Schools? Getting out the vote was interesting. I must admit, though, it was intimidating walking from door to door to try to get people to vote for you. But listening to the radio on election night sure was exhilarating, especially since you won… J
And today, in 1998, you continue to influence me. Just seeing how hard you work to stay aware of the world's issues and staying in good shape (better than me!) makes me realize how I need to do the same.
Thank you for being my father.
As you can see, family was the most important thing for my father - his wife, his children, his grand-children, his family in Wauchula and those spread far and wide. But his family was also those he decided belonged within his family – usually those he taught and those he mentored.
He encouraged everyone he knew to learn and grow. He always believed in a person’s potential – he always believed in giving someone a chance to show what they could do. He believed fully in the fact that people would rise to their fullest potential if simply given the opportunity.
He believed that with his sons as well – he went to Europe with his son Jeff to help him with his tennis career. He traveled the country with his entire family to show them what could be experienced. I’ve been to all fifty states of our country and many countries in this world – mostly because of my father’s influence.
As a writer himself, he’s encouraged both my brother Bryan and me to ‘go for it’ in writing books, a distinct change from both of our careers in the computer industry. “You have to pursue your dreams,” he’d say.
And when our books came out, he’d tell everyone about them. Although it has only been in the last couple of years that I’ve been doing book signings, I know that if he could have, he would have been handing out bookmarks to anyone he could corral and say ‘that’s my son – and you want to read his book.’
Twenty-six years in the Navy serving his country. Thirty-six years teaching. And almost 52 years in marriage and raising a family. During that time he had many names – Seaman Dan Davis, the Dan Davis who saved the Navy a significant amount of money such that he was honored for it, Professor Dan Davis at the Naval Academy, Superintendent of Schools in Highlands County Florida, and substitute teacher Dr. Davis at Teague Middle School nearby here – all the way until June 2005 – still teaching at 78 years old.
And now we come to today. My Dad was a Mason for almost sixty years; his love of learning gave him the gift of memorization and he performed many funerals for other Masons. He’d practice his memory on me. Ingrained forever in my mind is the beginning of that rite:
“Death has again sounded his alarm on our outer door, and the soul of another Brother has passed from this mortal life to join that innumerable host whose spirits dwell with the immortals.”
My father’s last year was hard as his ability to move disappeared due to a neurological condition. My mother cared for him in that last year, so much so that those who helped her from the hospice shook her hand in amazement. “But he deserved it,” she would simply say. His passing in one sense was a release, although I already miss him terribly. Again, the words of the Masonic ritual he performed so many times for others rings out to me:
“We also bid you look with confidence to a day of glad reunion … for it cannot be true, my friends, that earth is mans’ only abiding place. It cannot be true that life is just a bubble cast up by the ocean of time, there to float a moment upon her troubled waters and then to vanish into darkness and oblivion. Else, why are the noblest aspirations of our souls unsatisfied? Man is surely born for a higher destiny than that of earth. There must be, there is … a place where our loved ones taken from us by death may abide in our presence forever.”
As we all miss him, I also take comfort in this poem that was sent to me just yesterday:
To Those I Love and
Those Who Love Me
When I am gone, release me, let me go;
My father was a man who loved his family. A man who loved his country. A man who loved to learn. And a man who loved to teach. But now it is time for his soul to move on to the next stage of existence in this universe.
My father had many names. I’ve mentioned some of them.
But the one he went by most often was Dan Davis.
My name is Dan Davis as well, and I will always be proud to have that name.
Four minutes in the life of a man.
And a six minute tribute to Dan Allen Davis