John William Davis, October 5, 1931-December 22,2020
John William Davis, 89, passed away, December 22, 2020. He was predeceased by his wife Alice Ann, his Mother, Helen, father Dwight and brother William. He is survived by his brother David, sister Mary Ellen Smith, his children, Kathleen Miller (Tom), Michael (Robyn), son Tom, nine grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.
John Davis was above all a loving, loyal, and supportive son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and friend. Born in The Great Depression, he attended Saint Patrick Grade School, then Sacred Heart Grade School and High School, where he played football and graduated in 1949. After apprenticeship, he served from 1951 -1953 in the United States Marine Corps, reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant. Upon discharge he returned home to Indianapolis to resume work with the Indianapolis Star and News, from which he retired as assistant foreman in the Composing Room in 1990. In 1957, he married Alice Ann Field, and remained with her until her death in 2017. He raised three children, became a supportive father-in law to their spouses, and a devoted grandfather to his grandchildren.
There are many ways to measure a life. We, his family, want to share those things that we think most marked the depth of his life and his impact on us.
Dad knew times where he experienced want of money, but never wanted money. He viewed it as a resource to use, rather than own. When his sister Mary Ellen had started nursing school, her scholarship fell through, and she thought she would have to pack up and return home. Dad, just married with a first child on the way, helped her cover the expense. She graduated. Years later, his daughter-in-law was facing a serious shortfall in funding medical school. Dad paid the difference, insisting that it not be considered a loan, but a gift. “If you were pouring it down a hole, that’s one thing,” he said, “but this will be for something good.” She graduated. Any of us who needed his help to do anything worthwhile, got a similar response.
Dad worked at one place for almost his entire working life. As kids, we remember him walking home from the bus stop( he never drove) whistling most days, and stopping to throw a football with us as we played pickup games in the street. He had Fridays off in his early days at theStar and News, so he got us off to school, and was our guide on summer Fridays. Although he could make a pretty respectable pot of chili, he did not develop an extensive menu when he was cooking. A faithful Catholic, he aided our spiritual growth in Lent by serving scrambled eggs and tomato soup every week, increasing our longing for Easter. This also developed our self-reliance, as we soon learned to cook for ourselves.
He took us to so many places on foot or by bus. He regularly walked us to the soda fountain at Copey”s Drug Store at Madison and Southern, or to Shapiros. Other times it was a trip to LS Ayres Tea Room so that we could get a toy from the chest they kept at the exit. In the winter he would take us to Garfield Park to sled. Beyond the old neighborhood, he enjoyed taking us fishing with his father, going to the strip pits in Brazil, IN or along Sugar Creek at Atterbury.
Mom and Dad loved to travel but while we were growing up, that was part of our education. Road trips took us all many places, but planned with history in mind. We visited battlefields of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Plymouth, Quebec, DC, the Smithsonian, Mount Vernon and so many other places, all while mom drove and dad with a map in his lap navigating. It was not their way to make reservations ahead of time, these days often ended driving around to motels looking for vacancy signs. Sometimes that extended the ride, but we never once slept in the car. Dad was indeed a man of faith.
We first went abroad to Ireland in 1969, and that began a string of pilgrimages to our family’s ancestral and religious heritage. Mom and he also loved French Lick, taking us there many times, including for their 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries. Dad loved to play cards, pick horses at Churchill, River Downs, or the newer tracks in the area. He enjoyed playing slots and treating us to lunch, if we drove down with him.
But it was the daily things that mattered most. He read voraciously, including encyclopedias, and every edition of every paper he helped publish. His recall was formidable, and the first time we played Trivial Pursuit, it seemed like he had written most of the questions.
Each day he taught us loyalty, courage, persistence, and faith. He survived cancer, even though his diagnosis was devastating. When we asked what he would do or what he felt, he said, “You just do what you have to do.” He didn’t complain. Dad was a man of faith.
All of us who knew and loved him and whom he fully loved in return have his example to embrace. He taught us that if you can be there and help, then do so, as best you can. When his country called, he served. When the Star and News hired, he stayed until retirement. When he married mom, he loved her until her passing three years ago. He never took off his wedding ring or the Claddagh ring she gave him. We removed those for him the moment he passed.
He was born into his Catholic faith, and he died in it.
These are many of the things we think tell the measure of John Davis. But his life and impact on us, his friends and family, is immeasurable. The family would appreciate contributions in John's memory to Miracle Place, 933 N. Temple Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46201.