Roger Paul Davis

November 1, 1926 - December 4, 2016
Grand Rapids, MI



Sunday, July 9, 2017
2:30 PM EDT
Service of Thanksgiving and Prayer

Life Story / Obituary


Life as we knew it was drastically different in the 1900’s from the life we know and enjoy in our America today. Roger was born into a Methodist family in Sioux City, Iowa at 6:00 am on November 1,1926, in what then was called a, “laying-in-hospital” for expectant mothers.

At that time his family lived in a second floor apartment of a two-story house shared by two adjoining apartments and families.A few of the little girls were pulling for him to be a girl! In spite of the “disappointment” and eventual changing of residences, these three families kept close lifetime ties.

Roger was named after the great baseball player, Rodgers Hornsby of the Saint Louis Cardinals who later became their player manager and won the 1926 World Series. A young, uncle Doug Taylor, was a devoted fan of the “Red Birds” and prevailed upon his sister, Bessie to name the new baby, Roger.. . .not realizing Hornsby’s name was spelled with a "d" and ended with an "s".

His father, Perry Lee Davis worked as a brakeman on the railroad and was not home for his son’s arrival, and always called him his, “Payday” baby, having been born on the first of the month, and it was "payday." Roger’s older brother, Perry LaVere was six years old at the time of Roger's birth. He was named after his father and father’s best friend from the railroad. Sadly, LaVere was taken from the family three years later in a poolside swimming accident while the family was visiting the Davis grandparents. Roger’s only memory of this event was his father holding him in his arms above the casket to kiss brother goodbye. He had no conception of death and this was the first time he had seen a grown man cry.

In those days, refrigerators were not common and most folks had ice boxes to keep perishables from spoiling. To indicate you were in need of ice, a card was placed in the front window. Since ice came in 100 pound blocks and was scored in 25 pound sections, he'd chip off the amount needed and pick it up with ice tongs while throwing it over his shoulder to carry through the back door to the family ice box. An ice pan was used beneath the box to catch the melted water which had to be emptied daily to avoid overflow.

Space in the box was limited, so each morning before school, Roger's brother, LaVere would run to the store for a quart of milk. One of Roger’ first memories was watching his older brother, who would run around the garage and then peak back and wave at baby Roger who was standing in a chair at the window watching. LaVere, who would wave and peak back around the garage several times, kept Roger riveted until his return with the milk. This little ploy kept Roger gleefully busy while Mom prepared breakfast. It was around this time they took LaVere to a photographer for a sitting portrait. Roger was so mischievous and down right disruptive that the photographer suggested having both boys in the photo. Roger always felt, in retrospect, the good Lord made him behave this way or they would never have had a picture of the brothers together.

Roger's mother told him years later that when he was about two years old she had taken him to the airfield to see Charles Lindbergh when he stopped in Sioux City on a cross country flying tour. She held him up so he could touch the nose of his plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis”. Roger was too young to remember, but the entire nation came to a standstill when this young boy in his twenties became the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. His location was announced hourly as he crossed England and on to Paris by news alerts on the radio and “extra editions” from the main source of information, the daily newspaper. When it was announced that he had successfully landed after more than 20 hours of flight, the church bells rang out across the nation, including Sioux City where his Mom, who had been praying for his safe flight wept with joy in great relief.

Before starting school, Roger’s mother taught him the “ABC’s” by sitting him in front of a little blackboard mounted on folding legs while she ironed or was doing other chores. He would recite and print them on the board so that by kindergarten, he had them down pat.

Roger jokingly spoke about his third grade teacher who also taught music and talked his mother into purchasing him a violin. Because of his slender, long fingers, it was thought that he would be a perfect student on the fiddle. She spent $10.00 which was a weeks’ worth of groceries for a family of four during the depression, but there was no magic music in those fingers! Having failed this endeavor, some suggested he had great hands for a surgeon. Roger exclaimed, “Thank God for humanity this vocation was never pursued . . . it saved a lot of lives!”

It was in the fifth grade when Roger began his long and continuing love affair with geography and history. His Dad, by this time was on the Sioux City police force. He was well versed on current events and other radio news which was discussed each evening at the dinner table, and strongly influenced his becoming an avid reader.

This may also explain Roger’s eagerness to join the military at the early age of 17 during World War II. Being under 18 years of age, he had to have a parent’s signature which was so painful for his Mom who had already lost her son, LaVere.

Before leaving for war, Roger established a code for his censored letters home so his Mom would know in what theater of combat he was located. His code related to his exact wording in salutation or in specific words chosen for closing. Friends and family gathered around the kitchen table with coffee to read his letters from Okinawa, as he served in the U.S. Navy Seabees. In 1945, in the last battle of WWII, President Truman authorized the dropping of the atomic bomb, resulting in Japan’s surrender and Roger’s participation in the occupation of that country.

To better appreciate the patient endurance, discipline and myriad of jobs performed by previous generations, listed below are some of the part-time jobs held by Roger prior to and after the Navy. He learned many lessons from each that continued to serve him well in his career experiences.

* Gandy Dancer (repairing railroad ties) * Drug Store delivery boy * Coca Cola truck helper (delivered Coca Cola to Sioux City Air Force Base during WWII) * Shoe Clerk * Served as a set-up man at the “big band” dance hall ballroom * House-to-house newspaper delivery route * Magazine salesman (Liberty, Country Gentleman, Saturday Evening Post) * Grocery store clerk and delivery boy * Ice storage warehouse worker * Short order cook flipping hamburgers (at White Castle, ala McDonalds) * Mail carrier for the post office during the Christmas season * Roughneck in the oil fields and soy bean mill (bagging soy pellets for feed)

After his discharge from the service, Roger entered Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa graduating in the Class of 1951. Jobs were scarce in Sioux City, and for a time he and a friend took off on a Greyhound bus to make their fortune as, “Roughnecks” in the oil fields of Texas. He soon learned to get a job in the oil fields you were expected to have oil rig experience. Roger and his friend lined up with all the other “day labor” guys, reinventing themselves boldly and confidently with the lingo of oil field workers to feign roughneck experience. The fields were located a very long drive to the site, so when it was finally discovered that they did not, in fact have experience, they were allowed to stay for the day as it was too far to haul them back to the city. Each morning they used this same strategy with different straw bosses who were doing the hiring until they eventually acquired enough skill and on-the-job training to legitimately qualify for roughneck, oil field jobs.

After some time in the oil fields, an accident occurred, causing Roger to lose a finger for which he was compensated $250! With this “big money” in hand, he again boarded a bus to job hunt in Dallas, Texas.This time alone as his friend returned to Sioux City to lay floor coverings until his knees eventually gave out.

While living at the Dallas YMCA, Roger answered a closed newspaper ad for a job in public relations. The position turned out to be with Goodwill Industries of Dallas,Texas. Within a short time he was recommended by his Goodwill mentor, Gerald Clore to the National Executive Training Program with the National Goodwill Industries of America in Washington, D.C. While there he met his wife to be, Shawn Thayer who worked as a secretary to P. J. Trevethan, CEO of the National Goodwill Industries of America. They were married while in Dallas and for the next 25 years Roger served as CEO in El Paso, Philadelphia and Chicago Goodwills.

In the early 1980’s, Roger joined R.F. Dini & Associates of Houston as a fund raising consultant managing financial campaigns for major educational, cultural and health organizations in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida. Following retirement in 1990, he became active in the Brazoria County, Texas Republican party as a precinct judge and precinct chairman. In 1996 he ran for office and served as Commissioner for the Flood Control District in Pearland, Texas for two, four year terms.

Roger was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the National Rifle Association, and a former member of the Rotary Club. He served as a trustee for the Saint Agnes Academy Foundation, Houston, Texas and trustee of the Country Place Foundation. He was a member of the Great Books Reading and Discussion Program and an active golfer while also enjoying biking, kayaking and sailing model yachts at his favorite, “get away haunt” in Charlevoix, Michigan. While there he wrote, “Seeing the Obvious,” a personal journal reflecting on personalities of early Goodwill leadership and some history of advancements in the rehabilitation and job training programs within the Goodwill movement. This has also been viewed as a teaching resource for the national executive training program of Goodwill CEO’s.

Roger was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2002. The cancer progressed to the lung and adrenal gland leaving neuropathy in both lower extremities as a result of chemotherapy which terminated his adventures as a driver behind the wheel. But with cane in hand, he soldiered on in high spirits in spite of seven major surgeries while faithfully continuing daily treatment for glaucoma. He finally submitted to hemodialysis three times a week for chronic kidney failure during the last two years of life. Even so, Roger's spirit was never daunted and he never once complained until the morning of December 2, 2016. While in the hospital being treated for pneumococcal pneumonia, Roger pleaded for no more needles and to be allowed to journey on with his God and Redeemer. In so doing, at 3:24 am on the morning of December 4, 2016, his deeply felt prayers were benevolently answered.

Roger expressed warm gratitude for the excellent health providers at M.D. Andersen, Houston Texas, and Spectrum and Mercy hospitals, Faith Hospice, DeVita Dialysis and Edison Assisted Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of his doctors called him, “A Miracle.” Always at Roger's side for the past 32 years was his loving partner, companion, caregiver and “light of his life,” as expressed by him, Elaine Gordon and his sweet, 20 year old, Ubi who purred him well . . . both were a bond like no other.

Roger met Elaine through the Chicago Goodwill Research and Development Director, Dr. Ed Hester who was initiating a parent training program for parents of special needs children in the Chicago area. The program he hoped to launch was one developed by Elaine and her former husband, Dr Thomas Gordon called,“Parent Effectiveness Training.” Some years later after a divorce, Roger contacted Elaine which developed into a committed, loving and lifelong partnership.

Roger entered into eternal peace on December 4, 2016, while in the arms of his son, Thayer Davis (Pamela) of Palatine, Ill. He was also surrounded by his other loving children and spouses, Dallas Hancock (Joe) of Peoria, Ill, Taylor Davis (Dr. Pam) of Bettendorf, Iowa, and Grant Davis (Rachel) of Leesburg, Virginia. His son, Galen Davis (Delphine) of Ecques, France will return from France for his memorial celebration. Roger also leaves eight, dearly beloved grandchildren.

Family and friends will celebrate the life of Roger Paul Davis in a loving memorial service for his life of courage, lived boldly, through sickness and health, during war and peace, in moments of high achievement and yes, some devastating disappointments. Friends and family from around the country will be invited to join an, “At-A-Distance” service of thanksgiving and prayer celebrating this dear man on Sunday, July 9, 2017, 2:30 pm EST. (Program enclosed). Roger’s ashes will be spread with Elaine’s sometime in the future on the Ebers’s Centennial farm which has been in Elaine's family since 1847.

You were dear to Roger. Thank you for your love, prayers and many, many kindnesses to him.

Gratefully, Elaine, Ubi & the Roger Davis/Hancock Families