William "Bill" Watkins Davis of Yorkville, Illinois, had many talents. He was a devoted husband, adored father, and accomplished orthodontist, but he was also a horse breeder, real estate entrepreneur, farmer, traveler, painter, legendary cook, animated storyteller, and devoted friend. On April 7, 2021, Bill passed away on a warm Spring evening with his wife Sherrie of nearly 60 years and his four surviving children, Lynette, Alexandra, Erin, and Fred, around him. He was met on the threshold of heaven by his late son Billy.
Bill leaves a legacy, not only through the people he loved most in the world, but in his many, many acts of kindness.
Bill was born on Chicago's South Side on November 20, 1940, to Elsie and William Davis. His mother was born in England and his father was a car salesman from Illinois. The youngest of 4 brothers, he lost his father to a tragic accident at age 4. A graduate of Parker High School, he had dreams of becoming a dentist.
Bill attended Valparaiso University, close to the beloved lakeside cottage where he spent many summers with his aunts, uncles and cousins. The swimming skills learned at the lake allowed him to letter on the Valparaiso swim team.
In the summer of 1961, he met the love of his life, Sherrie Proffe, on a blind date. Three months later, much to everyone's surprise, they eloped.
This youthful, happy marriage spurred Bill to become more serious about school and life. He applied to the University of Illinois Dental School and, as he tells it, barely made it in. He was named an alternate and was ultimately accepted to the Dental School on the first day of classes.
To support their growing family and pay for dental school, Sherrie worked in a medical office and Bill drove a city bus in Chicago. He accumulated many stories of his adventures that he loved to recount. To help Bill pass his courses, Sherrie would read his dental books into a cassette recorder. These audio recordings and his hard work paid off as he graduated in the top 5% of his class, allowing him to specialize in orthodontistry.
His call to service in the Army interrupted his schooling. He proudly served as a captain at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Two years later, he returned to the University of Illinois where he graduated with an advanced degree in orthodontics in 1970.
"Doc"-as he was known to many-was passionate about changing his patients' lives through his work. He had a beautiful sense of aesthetics when it came to a smile. He often volunteered his services without compensation because he realized what a difference he could make in someone's life.
Achievement was very important to Bill. He had seen how his mother had struggled after his father had died, and he encouraged his children, especially his daughters, to be as highly educated and independent as possible.
As Doc gradually retired from orthodontistry, he followed his passion into horseracing, eventually raising horses to race at Hawthorne and Arlington International Racecourse. This passion led to his interest in farms. Bill and Sherrie's first purchase was 127 acres in Kendall County, where they moved their family of seven from Downer's Grove to Yorkville, Illinois in 1981.
Bill was honest, extremely honest. You never heard him tell a lie. He was fair. He never held a grudge. He believed a man is as good as his word, and when you shake his hand you look him in the eye.
Bill saw the potential in what could be-whether it meant transforming pieces of scrap wood into an English-style basement or inspiring a person to stretch themselves, get out of debt, and pursue their dreams.
Bill's family was everything to him. He and Sherrie raised a family of five: Lynette (Chip), Alexandra (Steve), William (deceased) (Karen), Erin, and Fred. In addition, he will be greatly missed by his many grandchildren, Lindsay, Grace, Alex, Noah, William, Josie, Sophie, William, Elle, Matthew, Harry, Hayden, and James.
In lieu of a memorial, please love your family an extra ounce, give generously to those who cross your path, and leave the world better than you found it. Just like he did.
A celebration of his Wonderful Life will be held in September.
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store
Published by Chicago Tribune from May 2 to May 9, 2021.