Richard ‘Dick’ Davis, 82
Aug. 1, 1935 — Nov. 29, 2017
Richard Lee (Dick) Davis was born on Aug. 1, 1935, in Keokuk, Iowa. He died on Nov. 29, 2017, in Mequon, surrounded by the family that was, in every way, everything to him.
Dick was the eldest of nine children, and his early years were marked by considerable challenges. The way he met those challenges set the tone for the way he moved through life: tenacious, confident and almost always successful.
Dick’s uncanny ability to recognize opportunity was exceeded only by his talent for taking advantage of it. A door opened for him during his high school years and he charged through it. He earned a ROTC scholarship from the U.S. Navy and became the first of his family to graduate from college, at the University of Idaho in 1958. He served four years as a Navy officer on the USS Lofberg, and the farm boy from Iowa made the most of his adventures on the high seas and in foreign ports.
Dick’s world was wide open upon retiring from the Navy, and his excellence in service earned him a clean shot at any number of career paths. He ultimately accepted an offer to become a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch, and settled in the Chicago area that had sparked his journey. Shortly thereafter he met Kate Jobson, an Olympic swimmer from Sweden and a woman of uncommon grace and beauty, who was in the states on a work-exchange program.
Dick was a man of instinct and his instinct was overwhelmed by the woman who instantly and completely filled his eyes and heart. Their first date was at a Northwestern football game, and he asked Kate to marry him during halftime. She refused him then, of course, and on every subsequent date for the next couple of weeks. Finally worn down by his persistence and charm, she relented on the tenth date. They married in 1962, and for 55 years they traveled together on a path paved by love, laughter, passion, occasional strife and a voracious appetite for life.
They raised four children— daughter Lisa, son Nick, daughters Kiki and Tessa—and that family unit was, and remains, forged by the nuclear strength of Dick and Kate’s love. The family as a whole is, in many ways, a reflection of some of Dick’s most defining characteristics: loud, unapologetic, messy, glorious, funny, honorable, and most of all, unquestionably devoted to each other.
Dick was at once his children’s greatest critic and cheerleader. He relentlessly pushed them to understand that their potential was unlimited, that the world rewarded those who acted boldly, and that no matter what, he always had their back.
Dick’s loyalty extended to his friends and employees – as Dick’s career in the financial industry progressed, his natural leadership skills led him to manage several brokerage offices for Merrill Lynch, Kidder Peabody and AG Edwards. Dick constantly challenged his employees to be better and work smarter, and, as such, may not have been the easiest of bosses. But the results spoke for themselves – Dick’s offices consistently ranked among the highest earners in their respective
franchise, despite their relatively modest size. Many of his employees leveraged that success into bigger and better futures for themselves. Dick took great pride in the accomplishments of all his employees, even when that meant losing them to other opportunities.
Dick reveled in the natural world and made sure his family shared that connection. A small cabin on the banks of the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula served as a family incubator during the children’s formative years, and those experiences – from crystal clear spring water to impossibly beautiful brook trout to skinny-dip snow-sprints between the A-frame sauna and the icy river – are foundational to the Davis family. Later on, Dick was able to fulfill his lifelong dream of establishing a family compound in his beloved Colorado high country, where they skied, fished, hiked, laughed and loved together.
As fiercely protective as Dick was about his family, he was not averse to expanding its ranks once a prospective newcomer passed his initiation test (it was no coincidence that Dick happened to be cleaning a shotgun when the men who would become his sons-in-law made their formal introductions). And once a newcomer was accepted into the family, he or she (as well as their entire extended families) immediately became full-fledged members with all the attendant benefits and responsibilities.
Of course, family growth as a result of generational additions pleased Dick to no end, and his grandchildren occupied their own special place in his immense heart. Though his grandfatherly tactics and advice were at times decidedly unconventional, his influence on his grandchildren is undeniably invaluable and eternal.
Dick Davis was, quite simply, a force of nature. And as much as he will be missed, his legacy will remain for all time.
Dick is preceded in death by his parents, Gordon and Louella, and his brothers Donald, Roger and Larry. He is survived by his wife, Kate; children Lisa (Chris Crain), Nick (Dawn Podolske), Kiki (Jeff) Walker, and Tessa (Tommy) Wright; grandchildren Kyle (Kimmy), Sam and Jackson Crain, Finn Davis, Hannah, Katie, Davis and Tate Walker, and Lily Wright; sisters Mary, Betty and Julie; and brothers Ron, Fred and Kenny.
In lieu of flowers, the family has established the Dick Davis Memorial Fund (2215 S. 10th St. W, Missoula, MT 59801), all proceeds of which will benefit Dick’s favorite trout stream, the Fraser River in Colorado. www.grandcountylearningbydoing.org.
A celebration of Dick’s life will be held on Dec 16, noon to 4 p.m. at the River Club of Mequon, 12400 Ville Du Parc Dr. Everybody who was touched by Dick’s life is encouraged to attend and welcome to share their stories.