Tribute | Jack Davis was a physician who touched many lives


Jack Davis of Kansas City.

When and how he died:

Nov. 28, of natural causes, at age 89.

An organized planner:

From humble beginnings on a farm in northern Missouri, Jack Davis understood hard work and the importance of treating every one with respect. An exceptional drive coupled with a brilliant mind led Jack to a 49-year medical profession both in Raytown, where he founded the Raytown Clinic, and Kansas City at Research Medical Center and Baptist Memorial Hospital.

“He had more energy than anyone I have ever known,” said his son Stephen Davis. “He could get more accomplished in a day than anyone I have ever known.”

As a “hobby,” Jack and his wife, Jacquelyn, owned and operated a 20-acre farm for 30 years where they raised more than 200 registered Black Angus cattle. Jack woke up early and made lists to keep up with his fulltime duties as a doctor and farmer. He often left his children with to-do lists, as well, which plotted out what he wanted them to do for the day. One lofty yet grounded note for Stephen read “apply for a Rhodes Scholarship and buy four new tires for the truck.”

“I didn’t apply for the scholarship, but I did get the tires,” Stephen said.

A great storyteller:

Jack achieved much, but his success never separated him from his roots.

His daughter, Melinda Davis Wingate, said his “folksiness” gave way to brilliantly woven stories, which he loved to tell his children and grandchildren. One of his favorite tales was about how he worked hard on his family’s farm as a child and earned a nickel on Saturday night. With that nickel, we would venture to Smiley’s Drugstore on the main drag downtown and go up and down the aisles trying to decide what he’d buy. Maybe an ice cream? Or hot cinnamon balls? Or, maybe, a Cheerio? (It was always a Cheerio.)

He also loved to tell stories about the hard work he and Jacquelyn did on the farm. He told the children that they built miles and miles of fence, and that Jacquelyn cut miles and miles of barbed wire, which is how she earned the nickname “Yankee Clipper.”

“The story got bigger and bigger as my dad told it. First it was yards and yards of fence then it became miles and miles,” Melinda said.

An understanding sawbones:

One endearing legacy Jack left is the relationships he built with his patients.

“My dad said ‘Don’t be afraid to touch people because people need to know that you’re there with them,’” Melinda said. “It’s all about human touch. Being a good doctor starts with human touch.”

Jack’s other son, John, was able to incorporate this in his own life, as he too became a doctor. John went with his father on rounds at the hospital as a child and while in high school. Eventually, after medical school, he worked with his father for 13 years.

His dad taught him valuable lessons not found in the textbooks, such as looking his patients in the eye, shaking hands and patting them on the back — treating them as friends, not patients.

“He spoke in a language patients could understand,” John said. “His biggest thing was to listen.”

Survivors include:

his wife, two sons and daughters-in-law, one daughter and son-in-law, a brother, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Final thought:

The relationships he built and the lives he improved were evident at his retirement party. More than a hundred people turned out. John said that his father had great charisma. The testament of that was seen in how people reacted when they talked about his father, not just what they said. Friends’ and patients’ faces would light up and their eyes world sparkle.

“They were moved by him,” John said. “He touched their lives.