Words of Remembrance for Brother Edward Davis, FSC
Mass of Christian Burial
La Salle University Chapel, Philadelphia, PA
July 12, 1213
Given by Brother Charles Gresh, FSC
Thirteen days ago, Death, uninvited, stole from us one we all knew well and loved much. I knew Brother Edward Davis for 60 years. Some here may have known him longer or better than I; therefore, I dare to speak to you only by way of invitation. Fortunately, some of his closest friends have expressed sentiments which will be read at the conclusion of these remarks.
Born James Edward Davis in Baltimore to Evelyn Armiger and Stuart Davis, he was an only child. Reared in the Methodist Church, he became a Catholic at age 21. He entered the Brothers’ Novitiate at Ammendale, MD in 1952, and was known as Brother Francis Adrian. He professed his final vows in 1958.
A graduate of Loyola of Maryland, La Salle, and The Catholic University of America, his credentials include a doctorate in Religion as well as advanced studies and field work in archaeology, Greek and Hebrew. He was a lecturer in Divinity at Christ’s College of the University of Liverpool, England.
An intellectual, he was down-to-earth and very funny. He was a person who lived in superlatives, exuded calmness, and was exceedingly well organized. Above all, he was a superior teacher.
He spent untold hours preparing lectures to ensure that students would have the best possible educational experience, thereby developing a life-long love of God. He was a true son of St. La Salle.
Alumni recall a man who explained the most complicated theological and scriptural issues in understandable terms, laced with a keen wit.
He once said that “educating a student, while a necessary ideal, is not a panacea for the ills of American schools.” His thinking was that while a student should benefit from the teacher’s wisdom, it is the teacher who is basically a servant of the student. “Our job,” he said, “is to make the student do things that are really beneficial – like, say, think – which they might not do otherwise. We’re not out to produce well-rounded students, but students with sharp edges.”
Many years ago I was engaged in a casual conversation with a freshman who was complaining that after 12 years of Catholic education he had to take yet another Religion course. A few weeks later he appeared in my doorway announcing: “That Brother who looks like Bob Hope is an absolutely fantastic teacher.”
Later on, he took on the role of administrator here with the same success: Director of Housing, Chair of the Undergraduate Religion Department, and Director of Graduate Religion.
From 1967 to 1974, the extraordinary success of the graduate Religion program was due in no small measure to his efforts as the administrator. He was able to attract many high caliber Religion teachers from both sides of the Atlantic. Excellent enrollment followed.
Brother Edward had a variety of interests: opera, food, liturgy, travel, museums, Jane Austen, symphony, Bette Davis movies. He was as much at home in an opera house as he was in a casino – a favorite pastime. With his zest for life, is it any wonder that he encouraged older Brothers to join him in retirement?
He once told a student reporter: “You sleep eight hours, you work eight hours and you will have eight hours to live.”
Another student journalist asked how he uses his free time. His reply: “Some people drink, some people take heroin: I watch late movies. It wipes away the cares of the day. I’ll watch almost anything – with the sound off, of course. It is easier to fall asleep that way, since you aren’t distracted or annoyed.”
Edward often attended the annual Retired Professors’ Luncheon. Last year he was asked to give the opening prayer. Listen, then, to the appropriateness of his words:
“We of the La Salle University past are gathered here today for companionship, sharing old and new times, firm in our friendship. But the important time is the future. Let those of us who lived almost all of our academic lives without a computer or a cell phone or an ipad happily hand over La Salle to the generation that has never lived without them.
O Timeless God, grant your blessings to us and to the students and teachers of the past and the present and the limitless future. Keep with you those who have gone before us in death but are still here in spirit. Grant peace to a weary world, and keep us all in your divine providence.”
May Edward rest now in that peace. May he rejoice again in the company of Gavin Paul, Daniel Bernian, Joe Keenan, Bill Martin, Hughie Albright, J. J. Sprissler, Rich Breese, Benilde, Mutien, Miguel and St. La Salle – and all the blessed whom the Living God has taken to himself.[The following Words of Remembrance, also read by Brother Charles Gresh at Brother Edward’s Mass of Christian Burial, were written by Ted Hull, Tom Heigh and Ann Lee, whom Brother Edward considered to be members of his immediate family.]
All the children of Brother Davis’s close friends knew him simply as Uncle Edward. Uncle Edward cared for each of them as though they were true blood relatives. He was a constant fixture during the holidays and life events (weddings, graduations, births) and he was even known to show up for a few days during summer vacations.
During those visits, he often recounted stories of his childhood and early adult life. Stories of summers at one of his best friend’s summer house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore abounded. The American poet Adrian Rich was often involved in those stories, and he cherished (and saved) the correspondence he received from her as well as that of many of his other close friends. It is unknown if she was in the car that almost ended up in Lake Roland, but that tale was talked about often and always accentuated by Uncle Edward’s expressive story telling style and infectious laughter.
He would also recount stories of his interactions with his students. In later years he would tell of their visits, often ending with, “You know how old he is now? Sixty – something,”. During his teaching years, one of the Christmas presents that he enjoyed was the daily Far Side Calendar. It was soon discovered that this needed to be an annual gift, as one of his students would come in every day for the ritual tearing off of the previous day’s sheet. This went on for the duration of the student’s time at LaSalle, even though Brother Davis was no longer his teacher. Other can’t miss presents involved anything Boynton, or anything relating to cats.
His favorite cat was the spaghetti eating Morris. Morris was a fixture at the Boyer Street house, living into his twenties, and a constant fixture at pool parties hosted by the Brothers.
Edward would spend hours preparing a lavish spread of exquisitely prepared food. It was a virtual guarantee that guests would be treated to a 5-star meal and at least one wheel of brie cheese. In preparing those feasts, Edward spent hours in the kitchen, preparing his own recipes and those he found along the way. When he tasted a new, better variation of a favorite dish, he had no problem abandoning his old recipe and replacing it with the new one, if he could get it. It was not uncommon for him to write to a restaurant to request a recipe for a signature dish that he loved. They often responded by sending him the requested recipe which would be incorporated into the rotation of meals prepared for guests.
Parties often occurred both inside and outside the Boyer Street house, usually on the meticulously maintained grounds. While each Brother left his mark on the house, Edward was key to the ongoing, landscaping master plan. Over the course of forty years, he worked with many people to maintain the property. High-school students would be recruited to work around the house and often (if they remained in the area) continued to help out well into their married lives. This was a testament to Edward’s mentoring spirit and his love for his fellow man.
One of his annual projects was spring cleaning the Boyer Street house. As he spent hours in the kitchen, this was the main focus of the annual project. He always had an assistant and the goal was to get rid of things that weren’t used. “When in doubt, throw it out” he would say. They would go through each cabinet and when they got to the cabinets with all his cooking tools and utensils, that’s when the stories came. He knew the history of every item, the recipes he used it for, and how valuable it was in comparison to his other utensils. He was having fun relaying the information and enjoying the teaching moment. The process showed his inherent appreciation for every little thing. When he bought a new product, he would research heavily, ask many about it, give it some time, ask others for their opinion, and then fire away. And when he got the new item, he cherished it.
Edward also embraced new members of his extended family. He accepted significant others, fiancées, and spouses, and loved them even though he didn’t have the same, long-term relationship as with his ‘kids’. Solely by association, he embraced them and their often diverse cultural backgrounds. It was an unconditional love that many had never experienced before. Through every visit, phone call, and card, he made them feel as if they were a treasured part of his life, because they were. He could explain the history of so many art pieces in the Philadelphia Museum where he loved to visit and share time with those close to him. He often shared his extensive knowledge of ancient cultures of the east and west, his love of classic film noir (especially the final scene of Double Indemnity), and, of course, opera.
After he retired from teaching in the mid-nineties, Edward dove headfirst into furthering one of his great passions: Opera. Not only would he videotape (and eventually record to DVD) operas, but he would attend them, and a lot of them. He spent hours researching where he would travel during the course of the opera season and compiling a detailed list and background for the 100 plus productions that he attended. He loved taking the train across country for his opera trips to Chicago. He would travel as far as New Mexico and, of course, to New York. After he turned 65, he loved telling people that he could get to New York for less than three dollars by using numerous forms of public transportation.
He loved opera so much that he and one of his childhood friends wrote one about Anne Frank. He had reams of organ music and was the go to guy for selecting the organ pieces for various church events. In preparation for weddings, he would often pick not only the readings and hymns, but even the pre and post ceremony selections. Many in attendance would comment on how beautiful the music was at events he helped coordinate. His love of music was so extensive that he even built a harpsichord. It was as beautiful looking as it sounded, and it sounded very good.
Along with his love of opera was his love of blackjack. He played it because he knew it was the game that the player has the highest chance of winning. He knew (and kept written lists of) every location and time of the local masses when he was traveling. He also knew a lot about the country’s, and even some of the world’s casinos. His trips to Atlantic City were not only a way to help fund a new TV or tickets for the opera, but another excuse to spend time with relatives and friends. He made many trips with his cousins and would often show up just to get the key for a complimentary room (which he would then pass on to close friends and family members so they could enjoy a free night in the hotel. He loved the buffets, but absolutely hated the loud music. As Halloween approached, he would often complain that the holiday music was coming. To combat this, he’d bring not only his iPod (loaded with his favorite opera and classical music) but a pair of bright red, industrial, noise-cancelling ear muffs; it must have been quite a sight to see.
One of his very close, longtime friends said that there was never a child that didn’t love Edward, even babies. Their minds are completely uninhibited by the “facts” of the world. Everything is brand new, and every moment just as beautiful as the last. Edward embodied the spirit of a child, and he never lost his child-like sense of wonder. He knew how to enjoy life and live it peacefully. His lifestyle was a great example to all of us. He did things in his own, unique way. He was so realistic and practical, and he deliberately slowed the pace of things. He truly understood the beauty of life. He enjoyed every step he took along the way because it was more about the journey than it was about the finish line. He believed in finding the beauty in everything and everyone around him, and we will remember him as the person who showed us what unconditional love feels like; that is his lasting gift to us.
Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of
Br. Edward Davis, FSC
Born James Edward Davis in Baltimore, MD, on February 7, 1929
Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate on June 6, 1952
Received the Religious Habit and the name, Brother Francis Adrian, on September 7, 1952
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Ammendale, MD, on August 29, 1958
Br. Edward died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on Saturday, June 29, 2013
Friday, July 12, 2013
Brother Edward has chosen cremation.
Guests will be received from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Mass of Christian Burial at 7:00 pm
La Salle University De La Salle Chapel
1900 West Olney Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19141-1199
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Burial in the Brothers’ cemetery,
Ammendale, MD, at 11:30 am
Luncheon to follow
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER JOHN
District: 50 masses
De La Salle Hall community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother Edward passed away peacefully during the afternoon. A close friend of Brother Edward’s was with him at his time of death. May he rest in peace.
Elkins Park, PA
Elkins Park, PA
La Salle University
St. John’s College High School
De La Salle College
Calvert Hall College High School
La Salle University
La Salle University
St. Mary’s Hall residence
One of founding members of St. Mary’s Hall Community;
served as Director of the community for many years
De La Salle Hall