Friday, August 19, 2016

Horses and creeks and rocks and sticks and cousins!

This is the stuff Huntsville memories are made of.


I've written about Huntsville before -- this place of childhood and grandparents so dear to the  Davis-McKay family heart.  I hadn't been here in summer for years, and I took some time after the funeral to wander around the property, exploring the ways it had changed and hadn't changed at all.  It's not home, but it is homeland.

The back of the East House (Granny and Grandpa's house) and West House (where I lived when I was in 4th grade).,
The houses sit at the edge of 10 acres of farm-land in the midst of a beautiful mountain valley.
The first enclosure is used for alfalfa cultivation.

The central field is used to pasture horses.

Spring Creek runs through.  So many memories as a kid playing in this creek, catching
tadpoles and finding shells of freshwater shellfish.

Grandpa Davis

One week ago today Jack J Davis, my grandfather and namesake -- the original JJD -- passed away.  He was 93.

Jack  J. Davis M.D.

His obituary, which I have copied below, highlights much of what he will be remembered for:  His military service, his remarkable medical career, his even more remarkable dedication to caring for my grandmother during her long disability.

The short paragraphs of the obituary are like candles at dusk, bright points of biography around which the countless moths of memory flutter.  I remember so much.

The early memories are impressionistic snapshots:  The delightful antics of dibbee-dee on his knee in the living room.  The dark quiet of his crimson-carpeted Dallin Street study; that palomino horse figurine on the filing cabinet so alluring.  A sleepy nighttime ride in the back of his old Suburban on the way home from Huntsville, watching the play of the streetlamps as we went round the cloverleaf freeway exit.  The flash of blue and red on the bedroom walls the night of Granny's stroke.

Sometime in my late grade-school years (maybe fourth or fifth grade?) I spent a week with Grandpa at the Huntsville house, which he had recently taken (unconvincingly) to calling "Spring Creek Ranch".  It was a week of grandparental bonding -- and by "bonding" I mean "intensive instruction in the metric system and grammar."  We bought a metric converter calculator, which I used each morning to make "metric mush" (Cream of Wheat prepared using metric measurements instead of the imperial measurements). We tromped through the pastures marking out first an acre, then a hectare, and then calculating how many hectares were enclosed by the property. Between crunching numbers, we quizzed each other on vocabulary (what is the difference between "odiferous" and "odoriferous"?) and grammar (a "gerund" has the form of a verb but is used as a noun).  We may also have pulled some weeds or inspected some sprinklers along the way -- I honestly can't remember; what stuck with me was our shared, deep delight in words, numbers, ideas, learning.

Kinship is a funny thing. Family names are given at birth -- my parents chose my name so that I would have the same initials as Grandpa. Children are taught family traditions and values through countless daily practices of their parents, grandparents and extended family. But kinship is a connection that goes deeper than one's name or how one learns to observe the Sabbath. I felt that with Grandpa more than almost anyone else. 

The week of metric "ranching" was probably the longest time I spent with Grandpa. We lived in different states most of my life, and even for the few years we lived in the same state, the busy-ness of life meant that I didn't see him all that much more frequently. And yet when I look at so many of my own qualities (and yes, faults) -- my instinctive love of words and grammar, the intensity of my academic drive, my ability to focus single-mindedly and protractedly on the objects of my interest, my susceptibility to the allure of prestige -- these to are many of the same qualities (and yes, faults) that defined Grandpa. I honestly can't say that I learned them from him; our contact has been too brief and intermittent for that. But the commonality is there nonetheless. I am who I am because of the man whose grandson I am.

This feeling of kinship was deepened as I listened to Uncle Julian, Aunt Jennifer, Uncle Dan, and my Dad speak about Grandpa at the funeral.  Many of the stories I knew already from family lore; others were new to me but still charming in the familiar portrait they painted.  Two things, however, stood out to me in a way that caught me by surprise.

The first was a set of remarks by Uncle Julian and Aunt Jennifer.  Julian spoke of Grandpa's care for Granny during the 27 years of disability following her aneurysm and stroke.  He said that Grandpa was motivated by love, certainly, but also by loyalty and a commitment to "the promises he made."  Jennifer also spoke of the lessons she learned from Grandpa about the importance of commitment and keeping promises. I hadn't thought of Grandpa in those terms before -- but it made sense, and as I reflected on his lift I could see this a fundamental quality of his. As I've grown older and learned more about myself, I've realized that one of the things I value most in others, and which I strive most to embody myself, is these same traits of loyalty, commitment and dependability. All of the people I consider closest in my life share these traits, and the idea that they represent a family heritage shared across generations adds a layer of richness that I hadn't felt before.

The second thing that stood out was in Dan's talk -- he spoke of Grandpa's incredible motivation and drive to accomplish things.  He said that in recent years, Grandpa had confided in him, saying "I have a motivation problem -- I'm too motivated!"  Dan related the story to humorous effect, and everyone chuckled with recognition at the punchline.  For me, though, all I could hear was my own voice -- How many times have I said that to myself, or had others say that to me!  In good times, it's exhilarating; in bad times, it's a burden -- why can't I stop caring, stop wanting to achieve?  For all the lightness of Dan's story, I could well imagine Grandpa, his health and strength waning, aware of his shortening time, looking at his lists of personal goals and ambitions -- all of the things he was so motivated to do -- and thinking, "I'm too motivated!"

The effect of these reflections over the past week as I've mourned Grandpa's passing has been to bring him closer than ever. I see in myself deep similarities to this father of my father, an influence on my life more profound and personal than perhaps I ever realized. I'm more intimately aware of his legacy than I ever have been before -- each time I sign my initials and give unsolicited grammar lessons and feel the power of kept promises, I think of him and am grateful.

The family plot in the Huntsville cemetary.

After the pallbearers placed their boutinieres on the casket, each of the great-grandchildren placed a flag there too.

The military Honor Guard presented military honors, and my cousin Ryan brought the riderless horse. Bagpipers played.

Dad, Laurel, Jennifer, Dan

Jack J. Davis, M.D.
1923 – 2016

Dr. Jack J. Davis, beloved father, brother, grandfather, great-grandfather, colleague, and friend, passed away peacefully in Ogden on August 12, 2016, after a brief illness.

Dr. Davis was born January 20, 1923, in Ogden, to Monida Emily Hunsaker and John Ira Davis. The oldest of four children (two brothers and one sister), he spent a busy, joyous youth in the distinctive and beautiful house on Marilyn Drive. From there, it was easy to walk the as-yet undeveloped foothills and to hike and ski the canyons and Mount Ogden. Jack attended Ogden City Schools and graduated from Ogden High. He excelled academically, was active in the LDS Church and Boy Scouts, and was a classically trained pianist. He attended Weber State College and then the University of Utah, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.

After ROTC at the University of Utah, Jack joined the Navy in World War II, destined for a PT Boat. Instead, the Navy sent him to medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he earned a second Bachelor's degree and a Doctor of Medicine. He served an internship at Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago, followed by a residency in Radiology at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, eventually becoming board certified in Radiology. He returned to active military duty during the Korean War as a Captain in the Medical Corps, serving at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas.

Dr. Davis' civilian professional career spanned 40 years as a radiologist with the Salt Lake Clinic, as well as service to the 75th Medical Group's Department of Radiology at Hill Air Force Base. During this time, he was active in several medical research and professional boards and organizations.

Jack met his future wife, Janice McKay of Huntsville, in 1948, while she was teaching at South Junior High in Weber County. They were married on June 13, 1949, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple, with David O. McKay performing the ceremony. They settled in Salt Lake City to raise their four children, with frequent trips to Ogden and Huntsville to visit family. Their homes on Roosevelt Avenue and Dallin Street were busy and full of neighbor kids and cousins. Treasured times were the family's regular road trips, with mandatory stops at every historical marker and the occasional "roadside chat" to explain acceptable behavior for children in a car.

Jack served many positions in his LDS Wards in Salt Lake City and was a strong supporter and leader in Scouting. Along with his own Eagle Scout rank earned in his youth, he received the Wood Badge and was honored with the Silver Beaver Award. He served as Scoutmaster for 13 years in Troops 243 and 71 in Salt Lake City.

Jack and Janice had a wide circle of friends in Salt Lake, as well as a closer circle who formed their decades-long study group, meeting once a month at one of their homes for dinner and discussion. He supported the arts and for decades was a season ticket holder for himself, Janice and two other lucky friends or relatives at Pioneer Memorial Theater. Jack always loved the outdoors, and in adulthood became an avid horseman. Trail rides with his father-in-law and brothers-in-law and later with his children were special activities. In his later years, Jack became a fun and witty grandpa and great-grandpa, known for his clever conversation and gentle teasing. Perhaps his greatest achievement was his devoted and tender care of Janice for the 27 years after she suffered an aneurysm and stroke, until her death in 2009. Surely, theirs has been a joyous reunion.

Dr. Jack J. Davis' 93 years have truly been a life well lived, with many accomplishments and service to family, country, church, profession, and community. He has touched countless lives in so many ways and will be greatly missed. Preceded in death by his parents, brother Ben H. Davis, sister Carol Lynne Davis Paul, wife Janice, infant son Mark and a grandson Nicholas D. Lamborn. Survived by his brother Julian Ira Davis (Becki); his children Jennifer Sorensen (Cliff), Dr. Jack M. Davis (Cindy), Laurel Lamborn, and Daniel M. Davis; 9 grandchildren and their spouses; and 15 great-grandchildren.

Friends and family may pay their respects at Myers Mortuary, 845 Washington Boulevard, Ogden, UT, on Tuesday evening, August 16, 2016, from 6 until 8. Services at Huntsville 1st Ward Chapel, 277 S. 7400 E, Huntsville, UT, at 12 noon, with visitation from 10:30 until 11:45. Interment at the Huntsville Cemetery, with military honors.