Robert Davis
1928 - 2021
Robert Davis
June 17, 1928 -- September 4, 2021
Robert Davis did indeed lead a wonderful life. Coal miner's son. Navy veteran. Devoted husband. Father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Mentor. Epic Little League umpire. Hospital volunteer. World traveler. One of a kind.
Bob, as he was known to most everyone, passed away peacefully on September 4, 2021, in The Villages, Florida. He was born in Masontown, Pennsylvania, on June 17, 1928, and grew up in the little coal mining town of Mather, Pennsylvania, the oldest son of Sarah (Twyford) Davis and Morgan Davis.
Growing up in Mather in the 1930s and 1940s was not easy but Bob pushed through. Surrounded by his three brothers and numerous cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents meant he lacked the opportunities to get in big trouble so he went to the other extreme by being president of his high school class, an Eagle Scout, and first-string quarterback for the (undefeated) Jefferson High School football team, but the achievement of which he was most proud of was winning the American Legion Eighth Grade Medal.
Bob joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school in 1946, just in time to qualify for the GI Bill upon discharge. He was stationed in Long Beach, California, on the USS Springfield and later on the USS Duluth. He attended Penn State University but his studies were interrupted in 1951 when he was involuntarily recalled to the Navy during the Korean conflict and was stationed in Philadelphia. By his own admission, Bob really didn't do much there except rack up tips as a carhop, attend night classes at Temple University, and hustle Philly cheesesteak sandwiches on the naval base for a 25-cent "delivery fee."
He was honorably discharged from the US Navy but it was too late for him to attend classes at Penn State so he worked in Cleveland as a repairman for vacuum tubes and a bartender at Stouffer's Restaurant, a job he did off and on for years afterward.
It was at Penn State that his roommate introduced him to Agnes Paler of Vestaburg, Pennsylvania. He was instantly smitten with Agnes and proposed to her on their first date. It took four years and they were married on April 23, 1955, a few months after he graduated from Penn State. They had five children in rapid succession and lived in a tiny house in Wickliffe, Ohio, until it was apparent that the children would only grow larger and take up more space, so more spacious living quarters would be necessary.
At the time, Bob was working for Bailey Meter in Wickliffe in its advertising department but the company saw his creative potential and promoted him to be an advertising contact between Bailey Meter and Babcock & Wilcox. This led to a job offer from the legendary Al Ries of the advertising agency Ries Cappiello Colwell during the "Mad Men" era of advertising in New York City. This opportunity to work in advertising, combined with the need for more growing room for their five children, led to a move to Westport, Connecticut, in 1965.
Bob thrived in the cutthroat world of industrial advertising, exercising his creative muscles by producing award-winning advertising campaigns for Texas Gulf and Uniroyal, among others. Bob was not above drafting his five children to work for him on Sundays in Manhattan and they all still bear the scars of stuffing fishing lures into plastic boxes and envelopes for one advertising campaign. To add insult to injury, he paid each of them only 25 cents an hour and they had to buy their own lunches at Horn & Hardart.
In 1973, Bob made the decision to accept a job at Perkin-Elmer in Norwalk, Connecticut. While he missed his hour-plus train ride into New York, he loved the short commute and greener pastures his new job afforded and he never looked back.
At Perkin-Elmer, he held a series of managerial positions and then in 1983, Bob was asked to be the manager of the Beijing office in China. He jumped at the chance (without clearing it first with Agnes) and he and Agnes spent two and a half years there, joined one year by their youngest son, Rick. Bob made an effort to blend in with the Chinese population, but because he was a Kenny Rogers look-alike in a cowboy hat, this was difficult. Nevertheless, he and Agnes considered this an adventure of a lifetime and forged many deep friendships there. They traveled extensively through China and learned all they could about Chinese culture.
Bob was well respected by the Chinese people he met and worked with because he had integrity, he was honest, and he was fair. He maintained many friendships with them long after he returned to the United States and was considered a "Statue of Liberty" figure for his Chinese friends.
Bob was recalled back to the United States in 1985 and settled in Fairfield, Connecticut, with Agnes. He continued to work for Perkin-Elmer and in 1989, he accepted an offer to be a Support Manager in Germany. Bob and Agnes lived and worked in Germany until 1992, when they returned to Connecticut and resettled in Westport.
By far Bob's favorite role at Perkin-Elmer was playing Santa Claus at the annual Christmas celebration. He delighted in listening to children's wishes (and also those of some adults) and handing out small gifts with a rather authentic "ho ho ho."
Bob retired from Perkin-Elmer in 1992 but he didn't slow down. He started a company called International Hosts Unlimited where he chauffeured Perkin-Elmer clients to and from airports and hotels. Bob excelled at this job (and all of his other jobs) because he was personable, friendly, and genuinely interested in other people. He retired (again) in 1996 and focused then on his volunteer service.
From the time he and Agnes lived in Wickliffe, Bob devoted literally tens of thousands of hours to volunteer work. He served on the Wickliffe School Board, both as a member and as President, until his move to Westport, where he was a candidate for the Westport Board of Education in 1979. (He came in fifth, "like a lousy bottle of scotch.") Bob was also a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader as well as Assistant Scoutmaster for the Westport Boy Scouts.
For 21 years, from 1994 until 2015, Bob volunteered as a mentor with the Norwalk Schools Mentor Program, meeting one-on-one with students who were having difficulties in school and at home. He was also a volunteer at Norwalk Hospital, transporting patients in a wheelchair and providing them with snacks and a smile. At the same time, he volunteered as an editorial assistant for the Perkin-Elmer Retiree Club Newsletter.
By far, Bob's longest and favorite stretch of volunteering was as an umpire for the Westport Little League. He umpired games for an astounding 41 years beginning in 1970 and continued until his permanent move to The Villages, when bad knees forced him to quit umpiring. Bob was awarded the Fairfield County Sportsman of the Year Award in 2010 for being the longest-serving umpire in the Westport Little League. Many Little Leaguers considered him to be a "real umpire" and admired him for his fairness and his deep knowledge of the rules.
Bob is survived by Agnes, his beloved wife of 66 years; his brother, Reed (Lynn) Davis, of Graham, North Carolina; daughters Nancy Shwartz of Danbury, Connecticut, and Mary Lou Davis of The Villages, Florida; sons Ed (Linda) Davis of Hollister, California, John (Ellen) Davis of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Rick (Beth) Davis of Newtown, Connecticut; as well as 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. In addition to his parents, Bob is predeceased by a sister, Nancy Elizabeth Davis; two brothers, Tom Davis and Joe Davis; and a son-in-law, Jeff Shwartz.
A celebration of Bob's life will be held in Connecticut at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Westport Little League, the Norwalk Schools Mentor Program, or Norwalk Hospital.
Published by Westport-News on Sep. 29, 2021.
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My condolences to the Davis family. Can not say enough about Mr. Davis. He gave so much of himself in volunteering. He was as selfless a person as anyone ive ever met.
Al Ten
October 4, 2021
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