In Loving Memory of Miss Joan Davis

(Reposted in response to today’s Daily Prompt, Teacher’s Pet)

“’I don’t care what Donny Osmond says, one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.’ This statement was made by my sixth grade teacher, Miss Joan Davis; a wonderful, funny lady whose gentle nature, deep faith and just all around good sense has enriched my life more than I’ll ever be able to tell her. She sought to avoid the domino effect of bad behavior on our class, but as with so many other things she has taught me over the years, this particular lesson transcends the boundaries of the classroom.”

That’s the first paragraph of a column I wrote for the Danville Advocate Messenger a few years ago. When I asked for her permission to tell that story, Miss Davis was typically modest about her positive influence on her students’ lives. Had it not been for Miss Davis’ guidance and encouragement, however, I would not have had the ability or the confidence to write anything. Any one of her former students will tell you the same thing – she had a knack for discerning our talents and helping us develop them. Walking into her classroom was like being enveloped in a warm, soft fleece blanket. You knew you were safe, that your skills would be praised and your flaws overlooked, or gently discouraged. Always gently.

Miss Davis was not, however, a pushover. She never raised her voice that I can remember, yet she held total sway over her classroom. If we were less than attentive to the lesson she was teaching, she simply stopped speaking. Standing in front of us, usually with her hands folded and a pleasant expression on her face, she waited until we got the hint and settled down. When she resumed speaking, it was in an even softer tone that had us leaning forward in our seats to catch her every word. That tactic might not work on today’s students, but let me tell you it sure worked on us.

I lost touch with Miss Davis for several years after leaving Glendover Elementary. In reflection, I really believe it was divine intervention that prompted me to find her again. Her influence was missing in my life, and even if I didn’t realize it, God did. The blessing of being her student blossomed into an adult friendship, and the way she lived her life continued to teach me invaluable lessons for the next 42 years.

Her sense of humor is legendary, and more often than not our nightly phone conversations inspired helpless laughter in both of us. When she asked me a year or so ago to write a eulogy for her, Miss Davis absolutely forbade me from mentioning some of the really funny stuff, so suffice it to say that at one point I was inspired to nickname her “The Wayward Schoolmarm”.

Miss Davis told me that the hardest part of teaching was letting us go at the end of the year. After giving us everything she had during the school year, catching glimpses of the adults we would become, and providing the love and support than only Miss Davis could give, she had to let us go. She had to release us to our destinies, to bigger and better things. Knowing in her heart that it was inevitable didn’t make it any easier for her, just as it doesn’t make it any easier for us to let her go. But we know that she has beautifully and completely fulfilled her destiny; that she, too, goes on to bigger and better things. She has left us for a place where there is no pain, where her incredible soprano will ring out pure and strong, and where knowledge is infinite. And wherever there’s a group of giggling angels, it’s a safe bet that Miss Davis will be right in the middle of them.

One quick word to the educators gathered here today, both retired and “active duty” – don’t ever doubt that you have made a difference in this world. Some of your students may stay in touch, some may not, but please, know in your heart of hearts that you have made this planet a better place.

Joan Phyllis Davis was a marvelous lady who has been an inspiration on so many levels, a mentor, and a treasured friend. My deepest love and gratitude to you, Miss Davis, for always bringing out the best in me, and in all of us.

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah King
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 14:37:37

    Such a great story! I feel like I only knew Miss Davis for a short time of my life, but she touched me deeply and became a part of my family while I was in Kentucky. I too remember how she just had a way of letting you know that she disagreed with your actions, but never really ‘got on to you’. You just knew to apologize and and to correct yourself. What a wonderful lady. I am sad for her to be gone, but glad she is no longer in pain.

    Reply

    • hillbillyzen13
      Nov 29, 2012 @ 18:20:57

      Sarah, thank you so much for your comment. Miss Davis was indeed a wonderful lady, and I’m sure she’d be so happy that you remember her, and that you considered her to be family.

      Reply

  2. Marsha Cassity
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 07:11:37

    Joan Davis was truly a member of my family. I worked with her at Lansdowne
    Elementary for many years. Our friendship did not stop when she retired. We continued to stay in close contact and enjoyed many special events until her health took a turn for the worse. I loved her like a sister and will miss her dearly. Gone but never forgotten. You are missed my dear friend.

    Reply

    • hillbillyzen13
      Nov 30, 2012 @ 18:14:32

      Marsha, Miss Davis loved you like a sister, too. She spoke of you often and with great affection. You and Lucia and “the girls” were such an important part of her life. I’m so thankful that she had people like you around her.

      Reply

  3. Bobbi Dawn Rightmyer
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 15:11:09

    Tammy, this was an inspirational memorial tribute to someone I know you hold close in your heart. She sounds like a special woman. Keep on writing – I have missed reading your work!

    Reply

    • hillbillyzen13
      Dec 03, 2012 @ 19:24:29

      Thanks, Bobbala. She was very, very special. I know you’ve lost someone very special too. If we can just get over that picking up the phone thing, I think we’ll be ok. I’m really looking forward to reading your new book – I’ve missed reading your work, too.

      Reply

  4. Mustang.Koji
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 16:42:54

    Joyously and honorably written! What a wonderful read.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: My Gross Anatomy Teacher | Not the Family Business!
  6. angelfrouk
    Jan 09, 2013 @ 03:40:23

    Your Miss Davis sounds an aweful lot like my Mrs. K. Can they be related? :P
    The way you discribe she got the class quiet again brought back memories for me. Mrs. K. did the exact same thing!

    Reply

    • hillbillyzen13
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 10:04:39

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and especially glad it brought back memories of your Mrs. K. I’ve heard teaching described as sisterhood, so in a way they were related :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply

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