About 15 years ago, the passenger-side door handle broke on James Francis Davis’ car. Until a new handle arrived, and the problem was fixed, whenever he and his wife, Carol Lynn, used the car, he had to open and close the door for her from the outside.
One day, they had parked at Tri-Star, and James Francis got out, walked around the car, and opened the door for Carol Lynn. Not knowing the circumstances involved, an elderly lady passing by on the way to her own car beyond them on the parking lot, turned and said—quite tellingly—“It is so nice to see a real gentleman opening the door for his wife.”
That small incident was but one reflection of the person James Francis was. To this day, his schoolmates still speak of his gentlemanly demeanor from his childhood forward. He knew how to treat everyone he encountered with respect and courtesy. He never was rushed in speaking with another, and he thoroughly enjoyed good conversation and fellowship, a trait perhaps he learned early in life as a youngest child and only son with five older sisters. He treated all persons in his life as having the dignity that God had given them. That characteristic was his hallmark.
James Francis was gifted in mechanics and in handling machinery. He had succeeded his father in charge of the shop at the fish factory in Weems, and he had grown up in the menhaden business. He could answer questions from those less endowed, such as the present writer, with patience and aplomb.
On the other side, he would like to engage in discussing history and public matters with equal enthusiasm. He always enjoyed learning in any form, whether by reading or conversation, in practicing the latter of which he frequently mentioned what materials he recently had read. He wanted to keep up with both the past and the present, as well as with people.
He was fascinated that he had been born on the 361st anniversary of the proclamation of the Gregorian calendar. He also spoke of Hurricane Hazel having come on his 11th birthday. Since the great, unnamed storm of 1933, Hazel—which came in 1954—remains the most remembered storm to batter the Northern Neck in the last century. James Francis remembered it vividly.
Sadly, one day in December 2011, Carol Lynn suddenly became ill, and James Francis was in the process of rushing her to the hospital, when she died in his car as they were turning onto Harris Road. They had been married for 46 years, and he never recovered from her loss. He said that at every funeral he attended thereafter, he relived the experience of her service.
Three weeks ago, on a spring morning in late April, James Francis suffered a stroke while walking in his yard and fell to the ground. He died four days later without regaining consciousness. He lived a productive and fruitful life, ever willing to be of assistance to others, and with no thought of himself when he could help his neighbor. For many, he served as a model of how to live a good life by seeing the best in everyone else.
James Francis Davis, October 15, 1943–May 1, 2021. R.I.P.