Allan F. Davey passed away peacefully at his Vineyard Haven home on June 29th. He was 85.
Allan was born on Jan. 13, 1935, the son of Doris, an accomplished pianist, and Clarence, a well-known mechanic and partner in Dukes County Garage. He grew up in his family’s home on upper Main Street, when neighbors were Hancocks,Tiltons, and Carrolls. Lifelong friendships and the “Daggett Ave. Gang” were born from this neighborhood, and Allan, his younger brother Martin, and their posse had themselves a fine time and loads of adventures, back in the day when many roads in this part of town weren’t yet paved, if they were there at all. Childhood friend Megan Alley recalls the “L&A Ranchhouse,” a clubhouse built by Allan & buddy Leigh Carroll in back of the Carroll’s house, as being their base of operations and shenanigans. Brother Martin recalls that their dad Clarence, after having seen his first wartime Jeep, built a smaller replica from memory, all out of plywood. It ran on batteries (a novelty in the ’40s), and the two young brothers would cruise up and down the neighborhood in their “Jeep.” They also spent plenty of time on the water together from an early age, enjoying many fun-filled days at Lagoona, their family camp on the Lagoon. Although it was just a short ride over the bridge from Vineyard Haven, it was a world away in those days, and they would stay for weeks at a time. They raced their open sailboat in the Lagoon yacht club regattas, and also had their share of adventures with powerboats, learning to ski on the Lagoon, just as their children and grandchildren would decades later. The camp remained at the center of Davey family summer fun well into parenthood, giving their children memories they will cherish for a lifetime.
Allan attended the “newish” Tisbury School, which had been built in 1930, just five years before he was born. He was a solid athlete, playing baseball, softball, and basketball — he was class marshal, class VP, and according to one former classmate, he was “a flirt,” a talent that no doubt won over his future bride Judy, a Long Island transplant attending Oak Bluffs High School. He was voted Best Looking; Best Future Husband; Most Optimistic; Best Smile, and Most Class Spirit.
Allan and Judy married in 1955 at the starry-eyed age of 21, like many of their friends at the time. They wasted no time procreating, and counted three children in the backseat before the end of the ‘50s — Shauna, Allan, and Kenneth Paul, named for Allan’s friend Ken Silvia, who tragically drowned in his teens. Six years later, a surprise delivered their youngest son, Wayne.
Early on in their marriage, Allan worked at his dad’s garage, where he learned everything he could about engines, auto repair, and electricity. He also spent some time as a carpenter, most notably working on James Cagney’s house in Chilmark. Like many resourceful Islanders back in the day, Allan was a consummate diy-er, and the skills he acquired with these jobs would serve him well; they were passed on to his kids, to whom his cellar seemed like a magical wonderland of tools, gadgets, and machinery, some of which was passed on from his own dad. The Davey kids were using power tools, almost always without incident, at a very young age.
There were always boats, some that floated, others that never did. Allan’s 11-foot skiff, which he built in high school, for many years was docked behind “Frankie Frank’s” Portside Dairymaid on Beach Road. This was the little blue boat in which each of his four kids would learn to fish, spending many fall nights on the Middle Ground wishing for “the big one.” He was endlessly patient with his young crew, and probably spent more time untangling lines than actually fishing. This is also the boat he used for scalloping, and his family would enjoy the harvest all winter, or at least what made it to the freezer. Still sporting his waders, his shucking went something like this: one for him, one for the dog, one for the bowl. There were other boats over the years, but none quite like that blue skiff with the 10-horsepower Johnson.
Allan became the “go-to” dad for his State Road neighborhood, and every winter in the ’60s and ’70s constructed a skating rink over his garden, where his four kids and countless friends and neighbors learned to skate. If any guests needed skates, it was likely they’d find a pair at the Daveys’. There were skating parties, and near-nightly hockey games, in which he’d don his own skates and knock around with the kids. And of course the rink was well-lit, as Allan thought it only logical to install a full-on streetlight over the action. Allan played men’s softball for years, as a left-handed pitcher for the Bandits, and the family would routinely pile into the car on warm summer nights to see him play. He was also an avid league bowler, spending many action-packed nights at Al Brickman’s bowling alley in its heyday; every once in a while a ’70- era trophy surfaces in his house.
Shortly after he joined the Cape & Vineyard Electric Co. (now known as Eversource) Allan was just 23 yrs old when his dad passed away. Clarence was instrumental in steering him to the company, where he started out as a meter reader and worked his way through the ranks to become a lineman, back when lineman actually climbed poles. His family recalls many nights where he was “called out” during storms, working alongside Roy Hope and Matt Perry, Jimmy Ciciora, and others; it was hard, hazardous work for this fraternity of tough-as-nails men who were charged with keeping the lights on back then. Allan was a hard worker, and did what was needed to provide for his young family. He carried a no-nonsense black metal lunch pail to work every day for what turned out to be 36 years; he finally retired from ComElectric at age 55 as line supervisor. Much of his well-worn climbing gear, along with his original work locker, remains in his cellar.
While the Cape & Vineyard was his occupation, the Tisbury Fire Department was his passion, and Allan was a member for over 40 years, until he aged out at 65 as assistant fire chief. He loved it, and the friendships he made on the department would last a lifetime.
Allan never aspired to write a novel or sail around the world in his retirement. He was a homebody, and aside from a few trips and cruises with Judy, he was pretty much content to putter, especially in his garden, which expanded to include not only vegetables, but a vast array of wildflowers he and Judy would bunch up and sell in cans out front, the honor system being their preferred means of payment. Allan had a green thumb, and for years was starting plants in his greenhouses and babying them throughout the season. He always had a project going; he built Adirondack chairs (which he also sold out front), children’s furniture, and became fascinated with digital cameras when they first came out; in his mind they were more akin to “gadgetry” than computers, and he loved emailing pictures and keeping up with old friends.
He became Judy’s caregiver as her health declined — he was above all else a devoted, loyal husband. His list of errands became an occupation of sorts, and he was a social butterfly as he made his way around the Island, in his later years often stopping in at John’s Fish Market at dinnertime (thank you, Pachico family, for your kindness and patience). Everyone knew Allan for his easy smile and good nature; if there was ever a man comfortable in his own skin, it was him. And of course there was his legendary mangling of the English language, a quality that was both hilarious and endearing.
Allan was laid to rest next to Judy in the family plot of Oak Grove Cemetery, not far from the house where they’d raised a family and spent their lives together. He was given a proper fireman’s sendoff, and his final ride was on the back of Tisbury’s recently restored 1949 American LaFrance fire truck, which happened to be driven by Darren Welch, the son of his best friend, Neil Sr., who passed away in 1975. The Firemen’s Prayer was read by the department chaplain, and Molly Canole sang. Being a humble and salty Islander, he probably thought it was all a bit much. But it seemed just right. Somewhere, every day is a perfect gardening day. Allan is whistling off-key while tending to his tomato plants, and Judy is happily arranging flowers on the back porch. That seems about right too.
Allan was predeceased by his wife Judy, and Pepper, his beloved springer spaniel, with whom he is now interred. He leaves behind four children and four grandchildren, Shauna Nute and her husband Bob of West Tisbury, Allan M. Davey, his wife Ann and their sons Ben and Jason of Vineyard Haven, Ken Davey, his wife Katie and their daughter Caroline of Oak Bluffs, and Wayne Davey, his wife Anne and their daughter Sarah of Atlanta. A special thank-you to Allan’s caregivers, Gloria DeBettencourt, Gina Brobbey, Sandie Corr Dolby, and Rachel Perry of Horizons Geriatrics, as well as to Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Leland.
Donations may be made in Allan’s name to the Tisbury Firefighters Association, 215 Spring St., Vineyard Haven MA 02568.