Birthday celebrations for a long-time Paris resident known for his loyalty to country and service to others began a week ago and culminate today with an afternoon reception at First United Methodist Church, 322 Lamar Ave.
Norman Davis turns 95 today. Friends surprised him with a party after church at Applebees a week ago, he was recognized at Kiwanis Club on Tuesday, and about 50 family members from all over the country gathered Saturday night at Hole in the Wall for dinner.
“I just can’t believe all the attention I’m getting,” the long-time Kiwanian said Tuesday at a Kiwanis Club meeting where one friend after another came to greet him before wife, Patsy Davis, put a dollar in the club’s collection pot and invited everyone to today’s reception from 2 to 4 p.m. in Fellowship Hall at the church.
“And no gifts,” Norm Davis added from where he was seated.
Gifts are something Norm Davis is known for, whether it’s a table or chest made for a grandchild, or a walnut bowl or writing pen handcrafted as a gift or for a charitable auction. Norm Davis has turned out hundreds of items in a woodshop behind the family home on Audubon Street. His walnut bowls have been used as speaker’s gifts by the Paris Chapter of the NAACP for years, with one gracing the office of television news anchor Clarice Tinsley.
Known as “Mr. Patriotism,” the New Hampshire native gets emotional when he speaks of the debt owed this country’s veterans and the many who gave their lives to protect freedom.
“What a price we have had to pay, ” the U.S. Air Force veteran said. “Somehow we’ve got to convey the message to our young people.”
In the early ’90s, Norm Davis helped initiate the Kiwanis Club flag program, which puts out American flags at businesses throughout town for every patriotic holiday. He helped organize the city’s Celebrate America Parade and built several floats beginning in 1991. In 2006, he was honored for his efforts when he was named parade marshall.
“For that first parade, I built a float dedicated to the U.S. Marine Corps that was 17 feet tall, 17 feet wide and 17 feet long,” Davis recalled, explaining state and local officials told him it was too large to be on the highway. “I told the Marines we don’t have any business out here, but I spent three months building this, and we’re going to be in the parade. I won first place and no one said anything about it.”
Davis’ love of country extends to his love of Paris and the community’s history. He was one of about a dozen men who spent about four years constructing the Lamar County Historical Museum, home to Lamar County artifacts dating to the early 1800s.
Davis became a Parisian in 1952 when he married the former Patsy Williams. The couple met while he was in college at Sam Houston State in Huntsville and she was at Baylor University in Waco. Together they owned William Sporting Goods Store in downtown Paris for many years.
When asked about his philosophy on life, Davis said, “If you put something in, you’ll get something out,” and “it’s not what you can do for me, but what you can do for others.”
About the many things he has handcrafted and given away, he said, “I like to give things away to people who I know appreciate it.”