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Jackie and Buddy Davis in Ocean View after one of their good friend Johnny Brown’s art shows.

 

Buddy Davis and Mrs. Skip Wilkins shared many stories of Skip at Max and Erma’s.

A Tribute
Buddy Davis Was Everybody’s Buddy

By Gary Ruegsegger
Downtowner Senior Editor

After a long and very productive life, Frank Augustus Davis Jr. passed away on December 2, 2016. He was Norfolk’s best friend by his given name or any other.

The only trouble is nobody knew who Frank Augustus Davis Jr. was. Buddy Davis now was a very different story. He was everybody’s buddy. If you ever needed a friend, Buddy Davis was the man.

His son Geoffrey delivered his father’s eulogy and began by saying, “For those here who never met Buddy, he was an amazing man and for those who did know him, you already knew that.”

Truer words were never spoken. To say Buddy was an amazing man is truly an understatement. He kept us all amazed with his knowledge, wisdom and especially his kindness.

Buddy loved music and he loved jazz like the publisher of the Downtowner loves rock and roll.

As a kid, the Saturday morning wakeup call at home for Geoffrey was not an alarm clock, it was a rousing, cranked up dose of "Take The A Train" or "One O'clock Jump "

There’s never been a shortage of Buddy Davis stories. His late pal Johnny Brown had more Buddy Davis stories than the law allows and the law allows plenty. Like Johnny, Geoffrey has more than his share of stories about his dad.

“Like the time he decided to turn the tables on my siblings and I when we were toddlers. There's a photo of him seated in a folding chair he placed inside the playpen, reading the Sunday newspaper in his pork pie hat. We little ones on the outside now suddenly wanted to be inside because, now, it was apparently THE place to be,” related Georey in the eulogy.

Wherever Buddy was, it was the place to be.

“Or the time he was trying to cash a check back in the days when our social security numbers were printed on our checks; he'd forgotten his ID and some quick thinking prompted him to pop the (his) partial dental plate . . . and showed it to the clerk because his social security number was laminated into the roof of the partial. It worked,” continued Geoff in the eulogy.

My favorite Buddy Davis story was when he was stationed on a remote island during World War II. Back then, Buddy had a stubborn streak and didn’t particularly pay much attention to orders.

“The commanding ocer had about enough of Buddy Davis and called him into the oce,” Buddy told me on more than one occasion.

“He took me over to the window and pointed outside the fence. 'Davis, a man could get lost out there (a jungle).' That straightened me right out,” continued Buddy.

Nobody could tell a joke better than Buddy Davis. Johnny Brown was always amazed that Buddy could tell any joke in mixed company and the ladies would never complain. Johnny could get away with a lot, but he couldn’t get away with that.

“I wish I could tell a joke like Buddy, but—more than that—I’d like to be able to get away with telling some of his jokes,” Johnny told me in 2010.

My wife and I once had lunch with Buddy, his beautiful wife Jackie and Skip Wilkins’ widow at Max and Erma’s at MacArthur Mall. Before and after our lunch, Buddy and Jackie never stopped holding hands.

For those of you who don’t remember Skip, he authored the book “The Real Race.” His dreams of playing professional football ended with a water skiing accident in 1967 shortly after his high school graduation. Skip eventually took up wheelchair athletics and earned lots of gold medals and a spot in the National Wheelchair Hall of Fame.

Skip was a good friend of Buddy who often helped Skip to wheelchair events. Preferring to talk about Skip’s wife Daphne and others, Buddy never took any credit for Skip’s great success. That was just a way of Buddy’s. In another footnote, Buddy never took any credit for helping to start the ODU Foundation, but curiously there’s a building at ODU which bears the name Davis Hall in his honor.

For years, Buddy was in the trucking business. Many say he was the best there was, but you would never hear that for him. He managed a good part of the renovation at Maury in the eighties using all teenage employees, but Buddy always preferred to help others quietly.

Buddy married Jackie Austin in what he termed “the smartest move I ever made.” They were married 67 years. In 1947, Jackie was elected “the prettiest girl in her high school class” (Maury High School). They were longtime members of Freemason Baptist Church.

Buddy’s good friend Johnny Brown always commented that he couldn’t understand how Buddy got such a pretty wife. That was about the only point that Johnny and Buddy agreed on.

Her obituary read: “Jackie was a loving wife and devoted mother to not only her five children, but any nieces, nephews, or friends that came through her door. She was quick with a smile, clever, and beloved of everyone who met her.”

But Buddy was her biggest fan and she was his greatest admirer. They would sit for hours on the balcony of their downtown home looking up and admiring Norfolk’s ever-changing skyline.

Today Buddy and his beloved Jackie are holding hands again, but now they’re looking down on the Norfolk skyline from heaven.


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