J.C. Davis, Jr. will be remembered in Lee’s Summit for wearing many hats. All of them fit for one reason: he cared about people.
“Coach” Davis, 81, died Research Medical Center. His funeral was Feb. 2.
He taught 26 years in Lee’s Summit - current events and driver education - and coached track and other sports at Lee’s Summit High School.
He was the first certified athletic trainer in Missouri; he drove the team bus to games and for years after retiring he’d climb into the press box to watch games.
His accomplishments were broader.
He served as director of the Lee’s Summit Housing Authority, a member of the first board of directors for Lee’s Summit Social Services, and a regular at Rotary Club of Lee’s Summit. He was part of the pit crew for a son’s race car.
Before coming to Lee’s Summit he served in the Coast Guard during the Korean War and taught school in Pilot Grove and Schell City.
Born in Johnson Station in 1932, he was also known as a raconteur, telling stories about that small town he grew up in and Lee’s Summit and appreciated as a gentleman who always had a positive attitude.
“He cared about healing people,” Rev. Hubert Neth said at the service. “The room changed whenever J.C. walked through the door.”
Neth knew Davis from his steadfast church attendance at United Methodist Church congregations.
He said under Davis the housing authority never had to evict anyone and always ran in the black, which was “almost a miracle.”
Family members said Davis liked appearing and acting younger than he was and whenever he saw a published picture of John Updike he’d cut it out and show it around, asking “who’s that?” The joke being that he had a strong resemblance to the famous author.
Bud Hertzog, a fellow member of Rotary, said Davis was a “pioneer” when it came to athletic training. He said Davis spent great effort on making certain his athletes took proper care in stretching and was meticulous in recuperating from injuries.
Hertzog said Davis was well-known and admired and as a track coach leading teams that won many conference championships. He was a mentor for students who might need to talk about their problems, offering encouragement, Hertzog said.
“Everyone had a story to tell about him,” Hertzog said. “He was the father image for a lot of people as they came along in school.”
Hertzog said he would see Davis at Rotary every Thursday and although Davis retired in 1987, “you saw him everywhere you went.”
Six months ago Davis left his cat overnight at Hertzog’s veterinary clinic for some treatment. After picking up his cat, he later accused Hertzog, a well-known Republican, of converting his cat’s politics.
“He’s a different cat,” Davis had quipped to Hertzog.
One tale Davis enjoyed reliving was the day he was hired to work in Lee’s Summit.
Bernard Campbell, then superintendent of schools, had hired Davis as a teacher and the same day sent him to interview with head football coach Bob Diekmann for an assistant coach job.
Davis recounted the story to Jeff Diekmann, a son of the football coach who’s now a teacher and baseball coach at Lee’s Summit North High School.
The team was in summer two-a-day practices and had just come off the field. The senior Diekmann was undressed, ready to shower, when Davis arrived and the two talked.
“Your dad was buck naked,” J.C. Davis told Diekmann. “It was the strangest job interview I ever had.”
The men and their families became close friends, said Jeff Diekmann said, who also had Davis as a teacher and coach.
Davis always referred to athletes as “little man,” Diekmann said, and always carried a towel around his neck, regardless of the temperature.
One day he asked Davis why, who replied that some boys were “screamers” when they got hurt and said, “I just put it in his mouth and everything’s good.”
Diekmann said Davis gravitated to athletic training because “it was his personality to help someone.
“He cared about people and was fun to be around.”