Joan Davis, 64, nurse, longtime volunteer

April 12, 1999|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Joan Marie Davis, a registered nurse and longtime volunteer for the elderly in Howard County who was known for her wit and dedication, died Thursday of liver failure at Howard County General Hospital. The West Friendship resident was 64.

The former Joan MacDonald grew up in Brockton, Mass., and graduated in 1956 from Georgetown University. She worked as a nurse at Children's Hospital in Washington, and in public health jobs for the federal government.

Her most recent job, however, was her favorite. She tended to sick inmates at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup -- which she viewed as "the safest place to work," said her husband of 42 years, William G. Davis.

"She would come home and tell me the prisoners really looked out for her," Mr. Davis said. "That was probably the most rewarding place she worked."

Mrs. Davis stopped working at the prison about eight years ago and became a volunteer. She volunteered twice a week at Western Howard County Senior Center, taking blood pressure, serving meals and cutting food for people.

Barbara Delph of Mount Airy, director of the center, called Mrs. Davis "my hero."

"Any time I needed her, she was there," Mrs. Delph said. "She was always bubbly, always smiling. She could tell some good jokes, too. She had so many ways of looking at stuff, and could be so strong when everybody else was down."

Her help to the elderly went beyond the physical, Mrs. Delph said. Mrs. Davis listened, too. Sometimes she lent money when a senior citizen's coat or shoes looked worn.

In 1991, with the United States at war in the Persian Gulf and one of her sons serving in the Army in Korea, Mrs. Davis wrote an "any soldier" letter to U.S. forces overseas. She mentioned her volunteer work, describing how thankful some elderly people were for meals offered at a county nutrition site -- even the "absolutely horrible Hawaiian chicken."

Donald Williams, a sergeant major based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was so moved by her letter that he wrote back, enclosing $20 for Mrs. Davis to use to feed the poor. He wrote that people like Mrs. Davis "make us all feel that what we do is worth the sacrifice that we are making now and in the near future."

In her spare moments, Mrs. Davis enjoyed gardening and attended Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City. She read nursing books, newspapers and poetry, and looked for "anything she could find on Irish humor," her husband said. "She was alive with humor."

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Witzke Funeral Home, 5555 Twin Knolls Road in Columbia.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Davis is survived by three sons, William G. Davis Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., Brian J. Davis of Edgewater, Fla., and Christopher M. Davis of Towson; a brother, Walter J. MacDonald Jr. of Stoughton, Mass.; and two granddaughters.


Because of limited space and the large number of requests for obituaries, The Sun regrets that it cannot publish all the obituaries it receives. Because The Sun regards obituaries as news, we give a preference to those submitted within 48 hours of a person's death. It is also our intention to run obituaries no later than seven days after death. Pub Date: 4/12/99

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