Long known for her positive outlook on life, her infectious laugh and sense of humor, Eleanor H. ("Ellie") Davies was one of Meadville's shining lights. Still young-at-heart at age 97, she died peacefully on May 30, 2017, at Meadville Medical Center.
Eleanor Hinig Bainer Davies was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 30, 1919, the daughter of Grace Singletary Hinig and Benjamin C. Hinig. Her father was a builder of private homes and Ellie lived in 13 houses by the time she was 16. After graduating from Shaker Heights High School, Ellie attended Katharine Gibbs, a business school in Providence, RI. She was then employed for five years as a private secretary to the Vice President of Purchasing for Sherwin Williams in Cleveland.
On July 20, 1942, she married and became a "camp follower" with her husband Joseph E. ("Joe") Bainer, Lieutenant in the Sixth Division of the US Army. With Joe, she relocated to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Yuma, Arizona; and Camp San Luis Obispo, California. When the Sixth Division shipped overseas in 1943, arrangements had been made for Ellie and her baby David, born in California, to come to live with her beloved in-laws, John and Otelia Bainer, in Meadville. Her own parents had died when Ellie was 16 (her father) and 21 (her mother). Ellie and a friend drove with baby David in tow across the country at 35 MPH, the war-time speed limit. "Momo" and "Popo" Bainer were welcoming and loving, always treating Ellie as their daughter. They formed a special and close bond, especially after Joe's death in the South Pacific in 1944. In a speech at the Baldwin-Reynolds House in 2014, Ellie gave recollections of a piece of her life with the Bainers, who were close friends of the Reynolds. Ellie was the last living person in Meadville to know the Reynolds family firsthand.
After World War ll was over, Lt. Commander John Llewellyn ("Lew") Davies, Jr., of Allegheny College Class of 1940, decided to return to Meadville to work for Warren Smith Motors. In 1947, Ellie and Lew met at a Charity Ball and "sparks flew" as she later recalled. After becoming engaged, it was unfortunately discovered that Ellie had tuberculosis, but thanks to Lew's persistent efforts, she was admitted to the Chautauqua County TB Sanitarium where a Chinese doctor was doing experimental work with Streptomycin, the first antibiotic cure for the disease. (Decades later, in 2003, she was asked to recount her sanitarium experience to lung doctors at a Cleveland Clinic forum, for which she was awarded an honorary membership to the clinic's Pulmonary Department.) After nine months of successful treatment for her TB, she returned to Meadville and her four-year-old son, his grandparents, and Lew, and was married in the Bainer home at 435 Sunset Drive on July 27, 1948. Original honeymoon plans to go to New Orleans in February were changed to Canada, where they went fishing!
Ellie and Lew were among the first couples to move into Jefferson Heights Apartments where they lived when their son Jack was born in 1950. In 1951, they acquired a new home (596 Chestnut Street), a new baby (Stephen), and a new business (Davies Pontiac). In 1955, they traded homes with the Bainers and Ellie moved back with her family to 435 Sunset Drive. The moving vans passed each other en route.
Ellie and Lew were members of the First Presbyterian Church where Ellie was a Sunday School teacher, a Grace Circle Leader, and a Moderator of Presbyterian Women. Ellie was a member of the Meadville Garden Club, and former President and Honorary Member of the Women's Literary Club. She was a member and former President of the Meadville City Hospital Auxiliary (now Meadville Medical Center) and initiated the program for post-mastectomy patients, "Reach for Recovery."
A natural performer, she was talent chairwoman of the hospital's first "Charity Follies" in 1949 and appeared regularly for the next 30 years as a "Follies Dolly" in some amazing, hilarious skits including one where she played Mother Nature swinging across the stage. In 1964, Ellie was General Chairman of the event. Continuing her passion for theater and events, she was chairperson of the M.A.Y.B.E (Many Activities for Your Bicentennial Events) Committee for Meadville's Bicentennial celebration in 1998. The Committee organized events every day of the week throughout the community ranging from Tunes at Noon to Lunch at the Library.
Among her other many community service contributions, she was a charter member of the Friends of Probationers, a court program, and founded the volunteer program, DOVES, at Wesbury. She conceived of and helped to inaugurate Project O.N.E. (Offering Nutrition to Everyone) at the Meadville Market House. She delivered Meals on Wheels and good cheer for ten years.
With her husband Lew, a prominent business and community leader, she spearheaded numerous fundraising campaigns for the community, including the campaign that led to the establishment of the Meadville Area Industrial Commission (MAIC). In 2006, she recounted this experience in a speech called "Rails and Ralleys," presented at MAIC's 2006 annual meeting. With Lew, she co-organized two United Way campaigns, and in 2006 served as its Honorary Chair.
Her proudest accomplishment was her term on the Recreation and Park Board, where after hundreds of planning meetings, the long-envisioned Meadville Area Recreation Complex (MARC) and its indoor pool and rink became a reality! She cared deeply about MARC during her remaining years.
Her favorite most recent activity was with her sons, with whom she established the Davies Community Service Leader Program at Allegheny College. This program is a legacy to Lew, a former trustee who long advocated for stronger links between the community and the college. Established in 2004, students continue to provide an important community-college connection, with 176 Davies Leaders having served 29 organizations since its founding. The Davies family also supports the Lew and Ellie Davies Award for Outstanding Community Service, awarded annually to an Allegheny College student who has made a significant, demonstrable contribution to the Meadville area. Ellie truly enjoyed the company of these fine students, who were equally inspired by her.
In 2007, Ellie was awarded the Community/Civic Award at the YWCA Tribute for Women dinner, and in 2009, received the Governor Raymond P. Shafer Award for Outstanding Community Service, an award also won previously by her husband. "Now we have bookends," she commented upon receipt of the award, named for one of their closest friends.
Continually looking forward to the next adventure, Ellie and Lew traveled extensively, living winters for five winters on a boat cruising in Florida and the Bahamas. For over 20 more years, they continued to spend winters in Florida.
Always eager to learn, she enjoyed participating in Book Club and adult learning classes at Allegheny College. In the 1970's she began writing poetry and her most recent collection of poems, "New Beginnings" was published on her 90th birthday by her three sons. Dedicated to all Ellie had "accomplished, survived, triumphed, learned from and laughed about," the collection continues to inspire others, and was even chosen to be the monthly selection of a book club in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who interviewed her during their meeting. As a gift from her son Jack, she was the last person interviewed by New York Times commentator, Art Buchwald, who had her read her poetry and produced a video of the occasion.
Ellie was preceded in death by her husband, Lew, in 2003; a brother Howard C. Hinig and his wife, Alice, of Camarillo, California; and a grandson, Christopher Bainer. Ellie was resilient in the face of loss. Ellie outlived nearly every one of her contemporaries but always found and nurtured new ones, including her "HAH" (Hatless and Happy) lunch group of remarkable women.
Survivors include her three sons and their beloved families. David C. and Linda C. Bainer, Barrington, R.I.; John L. (Jack) Davies, III, and Kay Kendall, Washington D.C.; Stephen C. (Steve) Davies, Brooklyn, NY.
Ellie is also survived by four grandchildren: Derek Davies, Brooklyn, NY; Keith Bainer and his wife Nicole, Walnut Creek, CA.; Katie Bainer Knox and her husband, Richard Knox, Purcellville, VA; and Andrew Bainer, Providence, RI. She was blessed with six great-grandchildren: Noah Bainer and Elijah Young, Black Mountain, N.C.; Eleanor and Josephine Bainer, Walnut Creek, CA; and Charlotte and Lillian Knox, Purcellville, VA. In addition, she is survived by two step-grandchildren: Katherine Butler, Washington, DC, and Syd Butler and his wife Amy Carlson and two step-great-grandchildren Lyla and Nigel Butler, Brooklyn, NY, as well as her former granddaughter-in-law Melanie Accino and her husband Randy Young of Black Mountain, NC.
The family wishes to express its deep gratitude to Vida Vincent for her loving care-giving and sisterhood over the years, and a special thank you the dedication of others who helped care for "Mom" and "Grandy."
Ellie loved Lew, her three sons and their families, her wonderful friends, Vida, chocolate, being on (and in) the water, travel and family vacations, a good laugh, her dogs Tippy and Sheba, home decorating, Meadville, and serving the community. Ellie loved what a good time she had in life. In her later years, however, she laughed that it took her longer to get over having a good time than to have it.
In one of her last poems, "Thoughts at 90," she reflected:
>From life's arena I've memories
like home runs in last innings
of precious ones I've love and lost
and games not always winning;
yet all goodbyes are not the end,
but only new beginnings.
Arrangements are under the direction of ROBERT W. WAID FUNERAL HOME, 581 CHESTNUT STREET, MEADVILLE with burial at Greendale Cemetery. Calling hours are Sunday, June 4, 2017, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the funeral home. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 890 Liberty Street, Meadville, with Rev. Dr. Brian K. Jensen, Senior Pastor, officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Allegheny College Davies Community Service Fund. Checks can be made out to Allegheny College and mailed to: Allegheny College, Box 21, 520 North Main Street, Meadville, PA 16335. (Designation on the check should say "Davies Community Service Fund.") Memorials may also be made to the Meadville Area Recreation Authority, 800 Thurston Road, Meadville, PA 16335.
Memories and condolences may be shared at www.waidfuneralhome.net.
Published on May 31, 2017