2012-01-05 / Front Page

Former mayor passes at 83

Judson Davis remembered for work to establish Regional Park
810-452-2650  ggould@mihomepaper.com

One of the last photos taken of Judson Davis, just two days before his death Dec. 31. One of the last photos taken of Judson Davis, just two days before his death Dec. 31. DAVISON — Professional. Courteous. Dedicated. Civic-minded .

These were the words friends and family used to describe former Davison Mayor Judson Davis, who died Dec. 31 at his home. He was 83.

He married Marjorie Fenton on June 27, 1953, and was a licensed professional engineer who had a 52- year career in the automotive industry, which ended with his retirement from Delphi in 2003.

Community leaders said Davis’ death is a great loss to the community.

“It’s a sad thing,” said friend and fellow community leader Pat Stetson, who also served on the council with Davis. “But with Judson you would have to say he lived a full life and contributed a great deal to his community. I don’t think a man can ask for more.”

Davis served on the Davison City Council from 1961-1965 and 1967-1969, and was the mayor of Davison from 1969-1971. He further served the community as a Planning Commission member and as chairman of the Parks Committee.

Judson Davis as mayor in 1969, just after his swearing-in ceremony. Surrounding Davis, from left, are Matt, Ed, Patty, Marjorie and Elizabeth. His children said this was always his favorite photo and added he still has the gavel. 
Photos provided Judson Davis as mayor in 1969, just after his swearing-in ceremony. Surrounding Davis, from left, are Matt, Ed, Patty, Marjorie and Elizabeth. His children said this was always his favorite photo and added he still has the gavel. Photos provided In his role as a planning commissioner, he was involved up until his death. He also served on the Local Development Financing Authority and was recently appointed to the new Capital Improvement Budget Committee.

“He wasn’t one to let go of things,” said son Matt Davis of his father’s more than 50 years of service to Davison. “He was so dedicated to the community we didn’t see much of him growing up. He was always at meetings. We didn’t understand then, but when we got older it hit home.”

Matt said his father dedicated himself to his community because he wanted to make it a better place for his family.

City Councilman Jack Abernathy, who served with Davis in the 1960s and ’70s, said the city has lost not only one of its most dedicated civil servants, but a wealth of knowledge for the community.

“He was very civic-minded,” said Abernathy, who called Davis an ‘inspiration’ for his own community service. “He gave a lot of his time as a council person, as mayor and as a planning commission member.”

Daughter Liz Davis said her dad had a strong sense of duty to his family, which extended outward into the community.

Part of his civic duty to Davison included years of work to buy the land for and establish the Davison Regional Park — now named for Jack Abernathy. His children said they remember well his efforts to give Davison a park it could be proud of.

Son Ed Davis said he remembers one of the only times his father bragged about his public service was when he told him how he used mostly grant money to buy the property for the park, doing it with very little Davison taxpayer dollars.

This, Judson told him, was the trade off for Davison growing and its once wide open spaces being filled with development.

“He said development had to be done responsibly, it has to be balanced,” said Ed. “He accomplished all that and bragged about how little was spent out of local taxes.”

Matt Davis said he also remembers his father being very influential with property owners who he had to negotiate with to purchase their land for the park.

“He approached a lot of property owners and was very persuasive,” said Ed Davis. “He got the property at market value and was able to get some of the owners to donate money to the development of the park.”

Abernathy, who worked with Davis in acquiring that property, said he too remembered Davis’ negotiation skills.

“He was instrumental in creating that park,” he said.

Liz Davis said in addition to Judson’s community service, he was also a strong advocate for those with special needs.

“He was involved in helping the quality of life for mentally handicapped individuals. He was a member of the Genesee County Association for Retarded Citizens and was an advocate for the independent living program,” said Liz.

She added his interest in helping those who are mentally challenged stemmed from his own daughter, Patricia, who has special needs.

He was also involved in the Davison United Methodist Church, where he worked to bring The Word to others through The Gideons International and through The Hispanic/Latino Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

Some of his other affiliations included Quality Living Systems, Boy Scout Troop 178, The Bay View Association Archives and The Springfield Township Historical Society.

Matt said he remained involved in Boy Scouting well beyond the years both he and brother Ed were involved.

His interest in the Springfield Township Historical Society stemmed from his ancestors establishing the town of Davisburg in Springfield Township in the 1830s.

Davis, the son of John and Henrietta (Elferdink) Davis, oversaw many of the efforts to preserve history in Springfield Township and for the upkeep of his family’s homestead there which is now part of Springfield Oaks County Park.

The three siblings also hold fond memories of their father, like Ed Davis’ early recollection of his father taking him to watch the last locomotive speed through Davison. He remembers his father snapping a picture of that occasion, a photo that went on to become part of a Davison historical book.

Matt recalled his father’s beat-up leather briefcase where he kept all of his minutes and other records from his time on the council. The same briefcase Abernathy mentions as Davis’ trademark — his repository of knowledge from his years of service to the community.

Liz and her siblings said they all recall campaigning with their father on his various bids for public office, his first attempt at the mayor’s seat in 1965 ending in defeat.

“I remember waking up the morning after the election and asking him ‘who won the election’,” said Liz. “He just smiled and said ‘the other guy’. There was no resentment.”

Judson is survived by his wife, Marjorie; children, Edward Steven ( Joan) Davis, Patricia Louise Davis, Matthew Fenton (Toni) Davis and Elizabeth Anne Davis; granddaughter, Ariana Elizabeth Davis; brother David Alan Davis; nephews Steven Davis and John Fenton; niece Alicia Fenton.

A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Jan. 6 at Davison United Methodist Church, 207 E. 3rd Street, Davison with Pastor Debbie Line officiating. Visitations will be 1-3 and 5-8 p.m. at Allen Funeral Home, 9136 Davison Rd. in Davison. On Friday, there will be visitation at the church for one hour prior to the service.

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