By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Cancer claims Garden Club leader Shirley Davis
Shirley Jean Davis had an obsession to see the "Let Freedom Ring" grove become a reality in a Ceres park. Two Saturdays ago, Mrs. Davis helped plant the first of 44 aristocrat pear trees honoring America's presidents along a meandering sidewalk in Smyrna Park.

Shirley Davis died Monday evening, a victim of a battle against liver cancer. She left Ceres better than she found it.

"I've never known a lady like her," said Pat Askew, a member of the Ceres Garden Club who served alongside Shirley and who was mourning her loss yesterday. "I've never known a lady who was so nice and so dedicated. She was obsessed in recent years to get those trees planted."

The grove was just one of Shirley Davis' contributions to Ceres during her 22 years of residency here. For years she played Mrs. Claus - along side of husband Del Davis who played Santa Claus - at the annual Ceres Christmas Festival. As a member of the Garden Club, Mrs. Davis put her green thumb talents to work with a number of tree plantings at school sites, and roadside gardens such as the spot on El Camino Avenue near KFC. Shirley also read books to Ceres students during the Ceres Rotary Club's annual "Read-In" program.

The Ceres Chamber of Commerce honored Davis as its 2009 Citizen of the Year. At the January 2010 ceremony, state Assemblyman Bill Berryhill called Davis "a shining example for this community." In receiving the honor, Davis tearfully spoke from her heart saying that she loved her community and served it to "make it a better place."

Mrs. Davis was also involved in the Ceres Historical Society, was active in the Persephone Guild for 12 years and also belonged to the Scottish Rite.

Last year she realized a lifelong goal to write a book. She recently spoke about her book, "My Life in Alaska," at the Persephone Guild. The book recounts her life, which started in 1929 in Des Moines, Iowa, where she lived until she left home in 1950.

"This is everybody's loss," said daughter Clare Atkins. "She will be remembered as a lady but a very stern person with her kids. She'd give you the look and then you did everything she said. But she loved us and we knew it. She would do anything for anybody. It's been said by many people that if you came to her house as a stranger you'd leave as a friend."

Mrs. Davis enjoyed sewing and traveling around the globe. Her traveling days started when she met husband Del, who became an employee of Wien Air Alaska after they met in the Bay Area. At the time Mrs. Davis worked as a records supervisor for SFO Helicopters in Oakland.

"Wherever she was was her favorite place as long as she was with grandpa (Del)," said Clare.

The family was finalizing funeral plans for 11 a.m. Friday at North Modesto Church of God, 1918 Sherwood Avenue, Modesto, with a reception to follow.

Beside her husband, Del Davis of Ceres, Shirley leaves behind three children, Nancy Johnson of Ceres, Clare Atkins of Tracy, and Grant Erickson of Newberg, Ore.; two stepsons, Darwin Davis of Napa, and Troy Davis of Piedmont; her sister, Alice Mitchell of Pleasanton; her brother, Al Reeves of Des Moines, Iowa; and 14 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by son Lynn D. Erickson and stepdaughter Janet Davis.

Remembrances may be sent to the Ceres Garden Club, P.O. Box 282, Ceres CA 95307.