Obituary: Marian Davis

Marian Frances (Larson) Davis, a former resident of rural Goddard, died July 27, 2017.

Marian was born Feb. 5, 1930, in Northville, Mich., the only child of Birger (“Bergie”) Larson and Frances (Yerkes) Larson. She grew up in Ferndale, Mich.

Marian’s paternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden to Michigan in the late 19th century, and her father, Bergie, was born in the United States.

Frances’ wealthy parents, relatives of the transit tycoon Charles Yerkes, were concerned about their future son-in-law’s immigrant background and job prospects, but the marriage went forward. Marian was raised in a comfortable home in Ferndale.

Marian loved to read. She was valedictorian of her Ferndale High School class and attended the University of Michigan to study English and psychology. At U of M, she lived in the Martha Cook building, an all-female honors residence hall still in use today. Marian stayed in touch with several other “Cookies” –  as Martha Cook residents are called – for the rest of her life. In fact, her experience at Martha Cook was so formative that she named her first child Martha after the residence building.

Upon completing her degree, Marian set out for the Rowland Hall Episcopal boarding school for girls in Salt Lake City, where she had secured a one-year teaching position. Newly arrived in an unfamiliar city, Marian quickly made new friendships. A local Quaker group, the Wider Fellowship of Friends, was meeting in the front parlor of Rowland Hall. Marian was curious about Quakerism, so she attended the meeting on her birthday. There, she met Robert Louis Davis, a young lawyer from Kansas, a birthright Friend, who had moved to Salt Lake City to work for Gulf Oil.

At the end of the school year, when Robert and Marian were still becoming acquainted, Marian left Salt Lake City and embarked on a long-planned visit to Greece and Italy, traveling on the Andrea Doria just a few years before it famously sank.

She returned to Michigan at the end of her European tour, and Robert returned to his home base in Wichita to practice law with his father.

Marian and Robert continued to correspond. He proposed marriage in a letter, and she accepted.

The couple married in 1955, and Marian joined Robert in Wichita. Again, Marian reached out to build friendships in her new surroundings. Over time, the couple had four children: Martha, Alison, Carl and Janet.

Marian served as a room parent, drove the children to lessons and sports practices and took leadership roles in the local Girl Scout troop, the American Association of University Women and several stock market investing clubs.

She was also active in Great Books and in women’s groups such as the P.E.O. and Goddard Woman’s Club.

She became a valued leader of University Friends Meeting in Wichita. She also took leadership roles in other Quaker organizations, including the Friends World Committee for Consultation.

As the children got older and Marian was able to take more time for herself, she earned a masters degree in gifted education at Kansas State University and returned to teaching for 14 years, this time in the Sedgwick County Educational Cooperative.

Upon her retirement from that position, Marian was still brimming with new ideas and goals. She wrote poetry and took writing classes. She learned to weave and began showing her pieces in a local gallery. She was an early adopter of computers.

The family had always traveled around the United States, but now she and Bob took several international trips – to England, China, Sweden and Denmark. Though her father, Bergie, had not emphasized Swedish customs as Marian was growing up, she did know a few Swedish phrases, and she was thrilled to finally visit Scandinavia. As early as their honeymoon, Marian and Bob regularly spent time in the Rocky Mountains, which they loved. A 1930s-era cabin they bought in the mountains continues to be a site for family vacations.

Following her husband’s death in 2014, Marian led a quiet life that included many visits from children, grandchildren and friends. She found things to enjoy until the very end of her life. She will be remembered as a generous, upbeat and adventurous friend and an energetic supporter of creativity.

Survivors include daughter Martha Davis of Brookline, Mass.; daughter Alison Jack and her husband, Kenneth Jack, of Goddard; son Carl B. Davis and his wife, Kristine Davis of Wichita; daughter, Janet Donaghue, and her husband Douglas Donaghue of Maize; and 10 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7, at University Friends Meeting, 1840 University Ave., Wichita, KS 67213. Memorial gifts may be sent to the church.