David E. Davis, Jr., with wife Jeannie and son Matt
Talking about my dad just after the day of his death, I'm sort of forced to quote him. Right up to the last, he was "one tough summbitch" as he would say in praising anyone worth their salt. He saved that Burnside, Kentucky, inner country boy just for such moments as these.
His amazing wife Jeannie Luce Kuhn Davis (one of the great names in the annals of stepmothering) and I drove up to the hospital yesterday before I had to get to the airport to head to New York City, where I am writing this now. Jeannie was in her Chrysler minivan – her favorite for hauling dogs and people, in that order – me in a nice Saab 9-5 sedan. We'd brought the two big Italian Spinone hunting dogs, Tavi (for "Ottavio") and Pucci (for "Puccini"), to the hospital the two previous days so they could give some love to their bedridden master. Jeannie was going to bring them again in the afternoon since my dad and everyone else on the floor got such a kick out of them with their silly bearded faces and warm affection.
In the morning my dad was fine and we had a good last bye-bye, saying we'd see each other really soon again anyway. After all, all post-op tests revealed that he was now completely cured of any cancer and he'd be heading home in maybe five or six days to heal up completely. We were all telling as much to the many well-wishers who phoned the room.
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I got here to New York on a gorgeous sunny late winter's day and was hammering out a couple burning news stories when my cell phone rang and showed it was Jeannie. This was an unexpected pleasure. After the mutual "Hi, how are ya" etc. I heard the tone of her voice and asked right away, "What's up? Everything okay?" And, in simple words that is our way generally in situations brimming with emotion, Jeannie said, "Your father died."
There are so many memories that come and, in this dad's case anyway, a lot of them involve cars. More memories than I can ever recount in adequate detail actually. Driving a 965 Porsche Turbo together from Ashland, Oregon, over to Klamath Falls, and up to Crater Lake seemingly without coming across any other cars the whole way. Driving Chevy Suburbans and Volvo wagons absolutely everywhere together. He and my recently deceased mother Norma Jean Wohlfiel Davis driving us all in several Country Squire station wagons (with the pop-up rear-facing back bench seat where we'd get truckers to honk their horns for us) across the country way too many times to remember. Having my first significant stint at the wheel in 1976 in a spanking-new white Rover 3500 across all of France with him in the passenger seat for the consummate masterclass in how to drive.
There's so much to talk about from the car side, but frankly those who knew him best in this profession from phase to phase can do it all a little better than I can. All I have ever known was that David E. Davis, Jr., loved and adored the freedom of the automobile, he knew how to write about it all like very few others, and that was good enough for me. I was his youngest kid and his life fascinated me, and it still does. He always remembered to tell me how proud he was that I had managed to set up shop in Europe all these years, something he had always wanted to do. I just hope he could feel that I, along with so many others, was many times more proud of him.
We shot together, fished together, wrote together, laughed like hell together a lot, fought like hell a few times, and we wouldn't have done it any other way.
Gonna miss that summbitch.