Blog 106 Once Again
This is gonna’ be kinda’ long—and sad.
Marsha Davis called yesterday to tell me that Jack Davis
died on February 29th while wintering in Tucson. This is still another sad occurrence but one that stirs good memories.
Jack and I have been in relatively close contact since I located him in Montana in 1989 and convinced him to come to our five-year reunions. We exchanged a lot of emails over the years, especially in 2018 as we co-planned a trip to Glacier National Park for Penny and me. Sadly, a large forest fire broke out in the area; part of the park closed and heavy smoke saturated the air, so the trip was cancelled.
For the past few years, Jack and Marsha have been wintering in Tucson, finally giving up on the harsh Montana winters. They last passed through San Antonio in time for the April lunch a year or two ago.
Over the past several years, Jack had some health issues but bounced back with vigor. He had fallen late in the year and spent a week in the hospital, then rehab, but he did not dwell on that. I last spoke with Jack on January 29th. He did not disclose that as we spoke, they were waiting for an ambulance to come for him for one more hospital trip. Marsha said that was his last call with a classmate. Jack spent a month in the hospital, where he fought with his usual vigor but did not win this time.
One amusing memory from 1989: At reunion planning committees, some of the “girls” were wishing we could find Jack and get him to a reunion. I recall vividly that they raved about Jack’s generous blonde curls that they wanted to see once more. After locating Jack, I mentioned this. Jack chuckled and said, “Well, they will be sadly disappointed, because there is not much up there anymore.”
Here is Jack’s obituary. It is followed by a front-page article from the Kalispell newspaper, extolling Jack’s many contributions to the Kalispell area. If that is not satiation, I have included the article from our class history book of 2015.
March 7, 2020 9:11 PM
On Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, Dr. Jack Davis made his exit from this world. It makes sense that he passed on a leap year, as Jack has always marched to the beat of his own drum. Jack was equal parts rancher and doctor; his love for the great outdoors matched by only by his passion for medicine.
Jack grew up in San Antonio, Texas, his childhood filled with Boy Scouts, ranch visits and good friends. After completing his undergraduate at the University of Texas in Austin, he ignited a lifetime love for medicine at UT Galveston, going on to Parkland Hospital/UT Southwestern in Dallas, then to the University of Arkansas Medical Center where he met the love of his life, Marsha, who, in Jack’s words, was the “cutest little RN and the spunkiest one, varying little over (their) 54 years together.”
When the Vietnam War broke out and duty called, Jack served as a physician in the Air Force at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, where he met lifelong friends who later followed him on to “paradise” in Montana.
Jack spent his life fighting to make a difference. From practicing internal medicine and cardiology in Kalispell for more than 35 years, to helping to create the hospital’s Advanced Life-Support and Emergency Rescue Team (better known as ALERT— for which he served as medical director for 17 years). Jack was a leader in advanced cardiac life support, gathered the equipment for the Cath Lab, focused on training nurses in ICU and relentlessly developed innovative programs to educate and further the medical community in the Flathead Valley. Jack was a hard guy to keep up with as his hunger for service never ceased. He served on the board of the American College of Cardiology and was the president of the Montana Medical Association and was, understandably, the recipient of their lifetime achievement award.
Jack savored life. He loved a good meal and relished every bite, from the gourmet feasts his wife Marsha prepared, to crispy fried chicken, Texas barbecue, and any Mexican food he could find. He loved to soak up the warmth of the sun on his face, take in the spectacular beauty of the mountains in Glacier and soulfully sing along to George Strait and Johnny Cash. Jack had an insatiable hunger for learning. For most of his life he awoke at 4:30 a.m. to read journals, articles, business and finance magazines and the newspaper. He studied with an intensity that few could match and saved clippings from his readings for everyone he loved — anointing each one with a personal note. Even after retirement, he kept himself current on the latest medical research and continued to attend association meetings and conferences. He re-ignited his lifelong passion for the Spanish language and guitar, practicing both for hours on end each day. He approached Rotary and his gardening club with serious commitment that few professionals could match. Jack modeled growth and development for everyone around him. His hunger for knowledge was contagious.
Jack cared deeply for people. He knew no titles and valued everyone he met. Having served as the secretary for the Montana Limousine Association (cattle, not cars), Jack would travel the state going to bull sales, chatting it up with the other ranchers, bonded by their love of hard work and wide-open spaces. Jack would have rich conversations with complete strangers, maintained a lifelong connection to his classmates, and would spend hours on end reaching out to old friends to let them know he was thinking about them.
Jack is reunited with his father, Lavern, who was also his Boy Scout troop leader and who taught him the importance of doing the hard work and not disappointing himself; and his mother, Mabel, who left him her love for dancing.
He is survived by his loving wife Marsha, his son Todd, daughter Kimberly, son-in-law Tim, and he’s passing the torch on to his grandson, Jeremy.
Along with a lifetime of remarkable accomplishments and a legacy that helped build the Kalispell medical community, he will be remembered for his smile, twinkling blue eyes, signature whistle that you could hear an acre away, incredible bear hugs, love of life, and his huge heart.
A celebration of Jack’s life will take place this summer in Kalispell (details to be published at a later date).
Donations in his memory can be made ALERT, the Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation, Flathead Valley Community College, or Kalispell Rotary.
From the Kalispell Inter Lake News front page article:
By Lynnette Hintze
Daily Inter Lake | March 4, 2020 1:00 AM
Dr. Jack Davis, who helped create the ALERT emergency helicopter service based at Kalispell Regional Medical Center and was integral in developing the hospital’s cardiology program, died Saturday in Tucson, Arizona.
“His contributions were absolutely incredible,” said Tagen Vine, president of the Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation.
In addition to his long tenure with ALERT, Davis led the development of Kalispell Regional’s cardiology program and had a hand in developing the research component of the program that offers clinical trials in cardiology, Vine pointed out.
Another part of his legacy at Kalispell Regional are the “countless hours” he devoted to educating nurses, physicians and other health-care professionals in the latest treatment protocols, said Pat Wilson, executive director of education services for Kalispell Regional Healthcare. Wilson worked alongside Davis as a flight nurse for ALERT, and recalls how he started ALERT critique meetings.
“Every ALERT flight was reviewed with the goal of what can we do better next time,” Wilson said. “He dedicated his whole career to providing the very best patient care possible for Flathead Valley residents. He was passionate about patient care.”
Wilson recalled one time in the 1980s when Davis asked her to train a patient’s wife in how to use a home defibrillator.
“I had never seen one before; it was cutting edge back then. Now they’re everywhere,” Wilson said, adding that Davis was a pioneer in embracing new technology to help patients.
In a Daily Inter Lake interview in 2016 to promote the annual ALERT fundraising banquet, Davis recounted the specific incident that led to the founding of the Advanced Life-support and Emergency Rescue Team that today is known simply as ALERT. He was making his rounds at Kalispell General Hospital in 1975 when a nurse pulled him aside and told him there had been a logging accident in the remote area of the South Fork drainage along the Hungry Horse Reservoir, and crews were working to evacuate the 26-year-old logger.
A helicopter was in the area, assigned to a Forest Service project. It wasn’t equipped for such a wilderness rescue, but using a wire basket dangling from the chopper they flew the young man out. His injuries were too severe, though, and he died en route to the hospital.
“I know that they did everything they could for him, and we did, too,” Davis recalled in 2016. “But we knew there had to be a better way.”
Desperate for a solution, Davis worked with the pilot who transported the injured logger, emergency officials, hospital employees and the logging community to help create ALERT.
“It was an energetic time,” Davis noted in that interview. “Medical workers around the country were learning together how to make this tool better. It was such a new concept.”
Davis went on to serve as medical director for ALERT for 17 years, and following his retirement served on the ALERT board for another decade or so.
When other ALERT backers have passed away in recent years, Davis humbly shined the spotlight on their contributions. After ALERT charter board member Dr. Van Kirke Nelson died in 2015, Davis told the Inter Lake Nelson “was probably the most amazing man I’ve ever known … a sort of godfather, the guy that would arrange everything.”
Following the death of Clyde Smith in 2008, Davis lauded Smith’s role in the air ambulance program, remembering him as “Mr. ALERT” and noted how Smith and his family stepped up and backed the loan for the first helicopter with the equity in their logging business.
In addition to his work with ALERT, Davis was a leader at Kalispell Regional, practicing internal medicine and cardiology for more than 35 years.
From our class history, submitted by Jack Davis in 2015:
Senior Class (Treasurer)
Student Council (reporter)
Declaration (Sports Editor)
Quill and Scroll
(The above from the yearbook)
Following graduation from Jeff, I attended UT Austin and UT Med Branch, Galveston. During a couple of the summers, old friends and classmates, Dick Brusenhan, Bob Tate, and I worked at an SA church furniture manufacturer. Having not lost digits planing wood, we completed medical school. Graduation for med school in ’62 was followed by an internship at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, then internal medicine/cardiology (Im/Card) residency at the U Arkansas Med Center. That is where Marsha and I hooked up during sailing and bass fishing.
The Viet Nam War was cranking up and, as for many of our classmates, military service loomed. Stationed for 3years at USAF Hospital Elmendorf in Anchorage, Alaska we were the first off-load site coming out of Nam which led to the development of critical care units for service personnel to ill to complete the trip back to hospitals in the lower 48. There was off duty time for loads of out-of-door adventures and conceiving our two children in the land of the midnight sun.
With that experience, I returned to the med center in Little Rock with the goal to create a med/surg intensive care units and develop courses for cardiac care for hospitals throughout Arkansas. Although the tasks were completed, there was virtually no time for family thus, when out of the blue, I heard from a former colleague from Alaska that he had found paradise in Kalispell, MT, only 30 miles from Glacier National Park. The kicker was that we would be the first board certified Im/Card specialists in NW Montana. Thus began a life changing experience for over 40 years. The team that eventually joined us there was able to develop a regional referral center with all medical and surgical specialists and a nationally recognized clinical research institute.
Life was never dull. As I had worked on ranches in Texas, we were able to fulfill a boyhood dream of owning and operating a cattle ranch and farm. Marsha’s folks relocated from Kentucky dragging a big truck and 4020 John Deere tractor. The Lazy Three Ranch continued for almost 20 years and morphed into a purebred cattle operation-a feat possible as we were located less than 10 miles from town. Both of our children grew up on the ranch.
Finally, at the end of 2005, I retired and we became snowbirds and bought a second home in Green Valley, just 30 minutes S of Tucson. I am still involved to a small extent with the research program and med center in MT. We are constantly on the go. Marsha, as an artist, has a studio in AZ and MT and gallery representation there and Laguna Beach,CA (firstname.lastname@example.org). There is a myriad of out-of -door activities. Both of us volunteer for the MT Rotary Club in a very rural area of western Mexico in projects, primarily to improve the education of children and the first medical clinic in 2010-11. While never able to pursue music for many years, since retirement I now have time to play the guitar and sing ballads, country-western songs, and even Mariachi music with a small group in AZ and MT.
For all of us who are able to attend this 60th Jeff reunion, George Strait sings a song on his album-Love is Everything- that signals how lucky we are: “I believe there is someone who’s looking after me, someone beside me, night and day to light the way. It’s hard to conceive something you can’t see, but I BELIEVE”