Bertha Davis, lifelong teacher, dies at 97
Bertha Davis, who worked on countless causes, including fundraisers to create or renovate the Nordic Heritage Museum, Ballard Hospital and Ballard High School, and was a teacher in Seattle for a half-century, will be honored at a memorial event Thursday. She died May 20.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In February, a few days before her 97th birthday, Bertha Davis enjoyed an experience she'd been seeking for years: hearing Ballard's historic city-hall bell ring again in the heart of her longtime neighborhood.
"Bells make you feel alive," she told The Seattle Times' Gabriel Campanario, who interviewed and sketched Mrs. Davis for the newspaper in early March.
Though she didn't live long enough to hear the 1,600-pound bell again ring regularly — something backers hope will be possible with equipment to be added by the end of summer — those who knew Mrs. Davis said it will help keep her memory alive.
Mrs. Davis, who died May 20 after an illness of several months, will be honored at 2 p.m. Thursday in a "celebration of life" at Ballard First Lutheran Church, 2006 N.W. 65th St.
"If she believed in a cause, she didn't just talk about it, she got involved," said longtime friend Amy Ayers of Whidbey Island.
She said Mrs. Davis worked on countless causes, including fundraisers to create or renovate the Nordic Heritage Museum, Ballard Hospital and Ballard High School.
Mrs. Davis's greatest impact stems not from any building or civic project, but in the influence she had on generations of Ballard residents in a half-century of teaching and tutoring.
"It seemed like she never forgot anyone," said Ayers, who will speak at Thursday's memorial.
In recent years, Ayers often felt she was accompanying a local celebrity when she helped Mrs. Davis get to appointments and errands.
"Whether we would go to Bartell's, Safeway or the fabric store, someone would come up and say, 'Mrs. Davis, I was a student of yours.' And she not only knew who they were, she knew their parents and she would remember a story about them," Ayers said.
Born Bertha Dorothy Hansen on Feb. 15, 1914, Mrs. Davis lived her early years in the Queen Anne Hill area, graduating from Queen Anne High School in 1932.
In 1940, she married Walt Davis, and the family moved to Ballard in 1945.
Putting her teaching career on hold until the youngest of her three daughters was in first grade, Mrs. Davis attended the University of Washington, receiving a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1956 and completing her master's degree in 1962.
For 23 years, she taught at Ballard's Webster Elementary School, which closed in 1979 and was converted in 1980 into the home of the Nordic Heritage Museum. She later worked as a substitute teacher and tutor in public and Catholic schools in Ballard and Magnolia.
When she stopped working in schools in her mid-80s, she continued tutoring her great-grandsons, particular in reading. "She never really retired," said a daughter, Carol Hoover of Seattle. "At least once or twice a week she was teaching somebody something."
Her husband, a longtime meat cutter, died in 1979.
In 1985, Mrs. Davis moved into the Sunset West condominiums at Shilshole Bay, where a favorite activity, well into her 90s, was playing pingpong with her great-grandchildren.
She also organized a walking group among Sunset West residents. "I think most of them had walkers, but she believed they should still get some exercise," Hoover said.
In addition to daughter Carol Hoover, Mrs. Davis is survived by daughters Karuna Davis, of Seattle, and Judy Harper, of Whidbey Island; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandsons. Mrs. Davis was an avid traveler who had visited many European countries, along with Australia, New Zealand and other destinations.
A few years ago, Ayers asked Mrs. Davis where else she'd like to travel. "She thought for a minute and said, 'I'd like to go to Antarctica,' and you know, I believe she really meant it."
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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