Bob Davis — an epic Little League umpire, longtime Norwalk Hospital and PTA volunteer and world traveler — died September 4. He was 93 years old.
He and his wife Agnes lived in Westport for 50 years, before moving to Florida in 2015. Click here for their “06880” sendoff.
He became president of his high school class, Eagle Scout, quarterback for the undefeated Jefferson High School football team, manager for the wrestling and track teams, and secretary-treasurer for the Letterman’s Club, while working as an usher, clerk, and soda jerk. The achievement of which he was most proud of, however, was winning the American Legion Eighth Grade Medal, which he bragged about his entire life.
Bob joined the Navy right out of high school in 1946, in time to qualify for the GI Bill upon discharge. He became an Electronic Technician Second Class. Stationed in Long Beach, California, he saw the Spruce Goose’s one and only flight.
He attended Pennsylvania State University studying electrical engineering. but in 1951 he was recalled to the Navy during the Korean conflict. He was stationed in Philadelphia, where he said he did little except rack up tips as a carhop, attend night classes at Temple University, and abuse his off-base privileges to hustle fellow sailors for 25-cent delivery fees on Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
After discharge, he graduated in 1955. At Penn State his roommate introduced him to Agnes Paler. He proposed on their first date. It took 4 years, but they were married in April 1955. They had 5 children and lived in a tiny house in Wickliffe, Ohio, until it was apparent that the children would only grow larger and take up more space.
Bob was working for Bailey Meter’ss advertising department, but his creative potential lead him to advertising positions with Babcock & Wilcox and then a job offer from Al Ries at the “Mad Men” era advertising agency Ries Cappiello Colwell in New York City. This opportunity, combined with the need for more room for his family, led to a move to Westport in 1965.
Bob thrived in the cutthroat world of industrial advertising, producing award-winning campaigns for Texas Gulf and Uniroyal, among others. He drafted his children to work for him on Sundays in Manhattan, stuffing envelopes and scar-inducing fishing lures into plastic boxes for an advertising campaign. He paid them only 25 cents an hour, and they had to buy their own lunches at Horn & Hardart.
In 1973, Bob accepted a job at Perkin-Elmer in Norwalk, reducing his train ride to a much shorter commute, and affording him additional time to volunteer even more.
In 1983 Bob was asked by Perkin-Elmer to manage their Beijing office.. He jumped at the chance (without clearing it first with Agnes). They spent 2 1/2 there. To blend in with the population Bob rode his bicycle everywhere, but as a Kenny Rogers lookalike in a cowboy hat, it was difficult.
He and Agnes considered this an adventure of a lifetime, and forged many deep friendships . They traveled extensively through China and East Asia, and learned all they could about Chinese culture. They signed up to learn Mandarin Chinese but ended up teaching English instead.
Bob was well respected by the Chinese people he met and worked with because of his integrity, honesty and fairness.
Bob was recalled back to the United States in 1985 and settled in Fairfield with Agnes. He worked for Perkin-Elmer in Norwalk until 1989, when he became their support manager in Germany. In 1992 they returned to Connecticut and resettled in Westport.
Bob retired in 1992, but did not slow down. He started International Hosts Unlimited, chauffeuring Perkin-Elmer clients to and from airports and hotels.
He retired (again) in 1996 to focus on volunteer service, including editorial assistant for the Perkin-Elmer Retiree Club newsletter.
In both Ohio and Connecticut, Bob devoted tens of thousands of hours to volunteer work. He served on the Wickliffe School Board, including president. In Westport he was an unsuccessful Democratic sacrificial candidate for the Board of Education in 1979, finishing “a lousy fifth.: Bob was also a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader.
For 21 years, Bob volunteered with the Norwalk Schools Mentor Program, as well as at Norwalk Hospital, transporting wheelchair patients and providing snacks and a smile.
But Bob’s longest and favorite stretch of volunteering was as an umpire for the Westport Little League. He umpired up to 91 games per year for 41 years. He continued into his 80s.
Bob earned the Fairfield County Sportsman of the Year Award in 2010 as the longest-serving umpire in the Westport Little League. He trained wannabe umpires, and never accepted pay. Many Little Leaguers considered him to be a “real umpire” and admired him for his fairness and his deep knowledge of the rules (especially 9.01c).
Bob is survived by Agnes, his wife of 66 years; his brother Reed (Lynn) of Graham, North Carolina; daughters Nancy Shwartz of Danbury, and Mary Lou of The Villages, Florida; sons Ed (Linda) Davis of Hollister, California, John (Ellen) Davis of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Rick (Beth) Davis of Newtown, Connecticut; 10 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. Bob was predeceased by a sister, Nancy Elizabeth; brothers, Tom and Joe, and son-in-law Jeff Shwartz.
A celebration of Bob’s life will be held in Connecticut at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Westport Little League, the Norwalk Schools Mentor Program, or Norwalk Hospital.