Class of '28 alumnus still has eyes for Irish nearly 80 years later

October 29, 2006|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

In 1924, at the age of 17, John Abijah Davis launched a college career at Notre Dame. He had been recognized as one of the more promising students at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, and his tuition was paid by the Catholic church in that city.

Little did he realize that relationship would become a family tradition and last through four generations of students. Now 99, but still enthralled with Notre Dame, Davis was a guest in the M&T Bank Stadium suite of Mayor Martin O'Malley, along with two of his grandsons, for the Notre Dame-Navy game yesterday.

"It's a special place. There's no place in the world like it," said Davis, who braved windy weather to attend the game.

According to his grandsons, Charles and John Porcari, Davis, class of 1928, is the oldest Notre Dame graduate living in Maryland.

Davis lives in Cheverly with John Porcari, vice president for administration at the University of Maryland. Charles, who is communications director for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, lives right across the street.

Eight members of Davis' extended family either have graduated from Notre Dame or are attending the university. Among them is the Porcari's sister, Jinny Keough (class of 1978), and their cousin, Lt. Harold Van Opdorp, who commands the First Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Keough, who lives in Atlanta, has two daughters at Notre Dame.

Until a few years ago, Charles Porcari would take Davis to South Bend for a class of 1928 reunion and a football game. "There were several survivors left and we'd go out together at least once a year, sometimes twice," Porcari said.

After his graduation, Davis married Virginia Lyon in the Log Chapel, a university landmark. "We were married by Brother Francis O'Hara [then president of the university], later Cardinal O'Hara," Davis said.

Davis wore his class ring on his left hand, with a garnet birthstone. On Jan. 4, he will celebrate his 100th birthday.

"We'll have a big bash," said Charles

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