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A Tribute To A Dad
by Jan Davis, rita and fellow skydivers from the rec.skydiving newsgroup

"My Dad" - by Jan Davis,

My Dad is a man who taught me never to be afraid of life. He taught me I can achieve anything I want if I'm willing to make the sacrifices to have it. He taught me to stand on my own two feet, to accept responsibility for my actions and decisions. He gave me my strength and my ability to overcome the often overwhelming obstacles that have been placed before me in my life. He taught me that despite the fact that I hadn't been dealt a good physical hand in this life, it was a hand that could still be played to my advantage, if I but had the courage to play it for all it is worth. He made me brave. He made me unafraid of being alone, either in my life, or in my beliefs, or in my principles.
When my Dad was young, during WWII, he was in the Navy, an aircraft chief mechanic. That's where he met my Mom, the prettiest, sexiest aircraft mechanic on the base. He rode an Indian motorcycle. He crashed in planes three times. He told us that he never expected to survive that war, he truly believed he would die a very young man. When the war ended, he was surprised to see a future stretching ahead of him which he had not planned for. So he set out to make the most of his life he could. He succeeded in no uncertain terms. He put himself through college to a masters degree with a mortgage, a wife and four children. He built his own successful business. He pulled our family together a few years ago when my Mom died. And he and my mother raised four children who have rushed into life, embracing the challenges presented to them.
Last year, at 72 years old, my Dad bought a Harley. He hadn't ridden a motorcycle in a very long time. He took an extensive course in motorcycle riding and safety. Then he spent several months with my brother, who has ridden a Harley for many years, riding first in parking lots, then on local streets, then on short trips. My brother Jeff was an excellent coach. My Dad told me many times of Jeff's endless patience during the learning curve. They planned a motorcycle vacation for this spring. A trip to Arizona, the Grand Canyon, then up to Tahoe, and home again to Palo Alto.
Last week I was at my Dad's office, doing the company accounting which I have taken care of since my Mom passed away. My Dad was studying maps, planning their trip, excited and anticipating. The last few years since my Mom left us, he really seemed to begin doing the things he had always put off, and he had been truly enjoying life.
Today my Dad was killed. He was hit by a semi truck while riding his Harley in Bakersfield, California, on the way to Arizona. They were on the second day of their trip. Reports of the accident tend to show that my Dad made a fatal error of judgment.
It's strange... when I left my Dad's office last week, I was happy for his excitement in this trip. For his sense of accomplishment. For his unfailing courage in always following his dreams. But when I said goodbye and walked out of the office, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that would be the last time I would ever see him.
My Dad. Russell Davis. He lived his life an honorable man, and he lived it admirably. He put his family and his responsibilities and his word above all else. He lived by his values regardless of the inconveniences to his desires. Everyone should have the fortune that I have had, in having such a role model, such a hero, such a Father.
I am truly blessed to have the family I was given. I pray that I don't ever forget that. Daddy ... I will miss you. But never will I forget all you have given me.


Thoughts by rita,
No, Jan, you won't forget, for his presence in your heart will be a constant reminder.
I don't know about most others on what we affectionately call our wreck.skydiving newsgroup, but I think this post is one of the most heartwarming, most beautiful, I have ever had the privilege to read. It's a tribute that anyone leaving this plane of existence would be proud to have made to them. It's a tribute that only the truly lucky--one of the few who has lived their life in a manner fitting the purpose to which life was granted to each of us would earn.
We each come into this life with a blank slate. With each passing year, we fill that slate-- with memories, words, deeds, those whose lives we touch -- for the good and the bad -- the accumulation of everything we are, what we will become, what we have still to do. And we hope that the best of the best we can impart to others so that they may learn, share our wisdom, our love, and then pass it along to others whom their lives touch. Russell Davis left this earthly plane with what was obviously a very full slate -- and one that he shared freely.
I don't know Russell Davis. Never met him, in fact. But yet I know him well--through the heart of Jan Davis, his daughter. For those who have yet to meet Jan, you've got a real treat in store. Fun loving, creative, living her life in celebration of each new day, each new challenge met, each obstacle surmounted. Those are just a few of the words I would use to describe her. There are certainly others. If you're looking to have sunshine pumped up your ass, kind words that mean nothing, you'll be disappointed upon meeting Jan. She's brutally honest, but totally giving. You ask her opinion, and you'll get it. Maybe it won't be what you wanted to hear, but you'll be richer for the experience because you'll know her words come right from the heart--no glossing over, no bullshit. Straight and to the point. You can rely on Jan's words ... because she'll use them to help you become a better person ... maybe work just a bit harder on that next skydive ... in that next relationship ... or perhaps to achieve that elusive goal.
One can readily see that life has not always been easy for Jan. In this sport, especially she's had to struggle. Not your typical skydiver, Jan had to work much harder than most. Taking up the sport after two hip replacements couldn't have been easy. To master even the basic fundamentals of body flight, of grace, had to be a difficult challenge. But meet it she did with her father cheering her on, encouraging her, imploring her to go for the brass ring, to do whatever it was that would make her happy, and thus leave her fulfilled and a more complete and happy person.
Then she took her gift, her knack for creating magic with a camera, and she used that gift to enrich the lives of others. Learning to fly video had to be another amazing challenge -- one that most people in far better physical condition fail to master. But Jan accepted that challenge, and painstakingly honed her craft, struggling just a bit harder with each passing day to achieve a result that would satisfy her demand for perfection in herself far more than she demands it in others.
And, the many first timers she's accompanied into freefall on that all-important first jump, in many cases their only jump, were blessed through her efforts. For she always strives to give just a bit more than expected, to leave a small piece of herself with each and every one of them. But more importantly, she strives to take something away from each of their experiences too, a memory here, a comment there, some key, some way of remembering everyone of them -- to truly share their experience -- every one of what must have been hundreds, if not thousands of them.
Russell Davis was obviously an incredible man for Jan is an incredible woman. And for that he will be rewarded. For his spirit is far reaching and it glows ever so brightly in the hearts he has touched. Jan is the very essence of his spirit and through her he will continue to live.
Fun loving, giving, honest, creative, taking life for all its worth, beating down the adversities, the limitations. Turning the shortcomings into challenges, the negatives into positives, taking each day and squeezing every ounce of goodness out of it. Taking every opportunity for growth and using it to become just a bit more human today than yesterday-- a bit more giving and more loving. These are but a few of the marks of a well-lived life -- the spirit of which is Russell Davis. Jan is blessed to have had him as we are blessed to have her.
When Jan posted the above heartfelt tribute to her dad, it released an avalanche of response. Even people who rarely, or never post to the newsgroup were moved to respond and to share Jan's pain. From those who know her or to those who've never had the privilege, these are but a few of the heartfelt responses made by Jan's skydiving family -- a family that shares her pain -- and her tribute to Russell's spirit and his zest for life as it is reflected through hers.
Responses to Jan in the rec.skydiving newsgroup, published with the permission of the posters.
*** Your post made me cry Jan. I am sincerely glad that I had the opportunity to meet your dad and shake his hand last year at Lodi...what a neat guy...My thoughts are there with you. - Jim Bozarth,
*** I don't know you, but my Dad taught me the same things about life that yours did, and we probably share the same feelings about these wonderful men. I can only imagine how I would feel if I were in your shoes right now. I'm sure no words can comfort right now. He sounds like he was a hell of a man. I am truly, truly sorry for your loss. I'll be thinking about you today. - Karen Boe,
*** Your Dad sounds like he knew how to lead a wonderful life. Men like him should be an example to everyone. My deepest condolences. - Ed Cummings,
*** Your spirit, courage, determination, and success have inspired me since we first met. Now I know where they came from, at least in part. I wish I could have met your father. I grieve with you for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you. - Evan Mortimore,
*** My deepest condolences to you. I lost my mom four weeks ago at 93 after a series of strokes over a period of two years. At least in my case, there was in effect, a "buffer" in her degrading condition over two years leading to her passing. Even with this in mind the emotional impact is still at a high level, so I can imagine what you are going through. Your father, like my mother had a lust for life that few, I believe have. My prayers are with you and your family. - DB TECH,
*** Your post is a wonderful tribute to your Dad. It is obvious in your words how much you loved him and how much he meant to your life. Our thoughts are with you. - Becky and Bryan Welch,
*** Your dad sounds like a wonderful man! I, too, was blessed with an incredible father. I still miss him even though it's been 17 years now. They live on through us and from what they taught us. I never learned more from anyone than I did from my dad. He has had the most influence on how I've lived my life. I pray I even have half that much influence on my own kids. I'm very sorry for your loss Jan. - TY,
*** My condolences. I hope my daughters grow up feeling towards me as you do towards your father. - Dan'l,
*** Dearest Jan, Every good dad should have a loving daughter. And you are that. A wise man once said that "grief is the price of loving". My sympathy and prayers are with you and your family. - Tom Beals,
*** Just as there are no words to say
There is no time too long for tears
Nor too short for laughter.
You will know when it is time for both
- Oconnell,
*** My friend Jan, As a young man, I was always bummed that I never had a Dad ... while walking through my pain someone relayed to me, you will never be without your father (our heavenly father). After having my rugrats, I finally was able to understand when someone asked me, "how much do you love your children?" my response obviously was, "my love knows no bounds." Well then she said, "multiply that by infinity, and know the love God has for us". I know about the love that you share with your Dad, and that love is boundless. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Skip ,Moca, Skip2 and Kyle, KiloFly,
*** I can't tell you how sorry I am. My father left home, never to return, when I was six years old. I never got the benefit of parental leadership that you enjoyed, and therefore I grieve for your loss even more, for it is a sense of loss that I will never feel. Although we have yet to meet face to face, I feel that I know your inner spirit due to your unflagging commitment to the sport indicate that you were brought up with an indefatigable sense of self-worth and adventure, which is the greatest gift a parent can bestow, aside from a lifelong love for learning. Please accept my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences on your loss. - Mark Harju,
*** Reminded me of my own father who I lost 14 years ago this month. Brought tears to my eyes. Keep your head up and embrace the joy of the memories. My condolences. Remember he will always be with you! - Bill Spangler,
Each of our lives are made all the more richer by the experiences we have, the challenges we meet, the people we love. By my reckoning, Jan Davis is amongst the richest on this newsgroup ... and I am blessed to know her. Blue skies! - rita

Page 3 - for more stories see Page 1 and Page 2

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