By Sheryl Stanley
All of Colleen Davis’ friends agree she’s a natural born storyteller.
“She’s a walking history book,” Ernie Cecil, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, described her.
And her stories are even more charming because they are her own true-life experiences and adventures.
During her 99th birthday party held Nov. 20 at Antioch Southern Baptist Church, Davis treated the friends and family who celebrated with her to lots of stories and they all listened raptly.
Davis was born Nov. 20, 1920, the daughter of Wilda Ethel Adams and Jesse Albert Frances, in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She was the second child and second daughter in a family that ultimately included three girls and one boy.
When she was 5 years old, the family set out in a Ford touring car, a Model T, to find a new home in Kansas or Missouri. Davis recalled the open cab car with her father driving and her mother and infant brother in the front seat. She described the running boards on the side of the car where her father would stretch out to sleep at night and the way her mother used the family’s blankets and pillows to make a bed in the back for her and her older sister, Jessie Pauline.
All was going well until the travelers ran into a spring snowstorm near Galena in southeastern Kansas.
“A lot of the farmers were out with their teams helping folks who had gotten stuck in the snow. It was snowing so hard I couldn’t really see what was happening, but all of a sudden, I saw this team of horses right in front of us. It nearly scared me to death.”
Luckily, the kind farmer who pulled their car out of the snow also took them to his house, where they had supper, warm beds for the night and breakfast before they continued on their way the next day.
In time, the family arrived in Louisburg, Kansas, where Davis’s father got a job at the local brick plant. Eventually, the family settled in Harrisonville. She remembered their first house which had two rooms and a basement.
Davis attended school in Harrisonville, graduating from eighth grade in 1934 and from high school in 1938. Eventually, she was able to attend college and graduated from Warrensburg State College (now Central Missouri State University) in 1945. She received a Master’s Degree from Missouri State University (now the University of Missouri) in 1955.
Early in her career, Davis taught in rural one-room schools and in other locations, including Chilhowee, Belton and Kansas City. Eventually, however, she said she wanted to see some place she had never seen before and she applied to teach in the American schools set up for the children of U.S. servicemen stationed overseas.
“I put down Germany as my first choice and Japan as my second. I was assigned to a school in Japan.”
While teaching in Japan, Davis also met Oral Davis, whom she married. After returning to the United States, the couple made their home in Casper, Wyoming, where he was the superintendent of schools and she taught. Eventually returning to Harrisonville, she continued to teach in the elementary grades before retiring after almost 40 years.
Retirement didn’t mean Colleen retired from life, however.
When she was 80, she confided to her friend Norma Baldridge that she wanted to stay in good physical shape so she “could walk where Jesus walked.”
“And when she was 92,” Baldridge said, “she traveled with us to the Holy Land.”
Wynolla Holden, another friend, said Davis still lives in her own home.
“I check on her about once a week and we chat. Her love for others is so inspiring and her stories are a delight.”
Mary Hartzler, Gunn City, who regards Davis as an adopted grandmother, agreed. “I admire her strong determination and her joy of life. And the stories, I love to hear her tell her stories.”