Davis and George Coates were cofounders in the 1980s of the San Francisco International Theater Festival, which brought the early work of Spaulding Grey and others to the public's attention.
"Jack was unflappable nothing threw him," Coates once told me.
Davis lived on a houseboat one of three he built over the years with his daughter, Sarah, and his son-in-law, Shawn Lytle, in Mission Creek in San Francisco's China Basin. As the longtime president of the Mission Creek Harbor Association, Davis fought developers and bureaucrats in a never-ending battle for the right of an organic, human-scale community to simply exist in this city. Many a weekend afternoon Davis could be found tinkering away on his or perhaps one of his neighbors' boats. Due in great part to Davis's efforts, Mission Creek remains one of San Francisco's garden spots, even while surrounded by new development.
Davis was seen as a Buddha-like figure in the often-fractious world of community arts and politics. He was a bear of a man who exuded a preternatural calm. Composer, producer, and photographer Doug McKechnie noted once after a particularly rough MCHA meeting, "I was in awe of his ability to get things done with such grace, style, and simplicity. He could come into a crowd of bickering people, and they listened."
Davis was also instrumental in rejuvenating the Bay View Boat Club. "One day in 1984, Jack called me up and said, 'Meet me at the Bay View Boat Club,'>" McKechnie said. "He showed me around the place and said, 'I think this place has tremendous potential. Let's join and see what we can do.' Jack talked the club into having a special, one-year membership drive that allowed people who didn't have a boat to join. We called everyone we knew, and before you could say 'Bottle of beer' the club had 200 new members, all of whom eventually got boats. Jack was elected commodore two years later and set the model for what is still one of the most astonishing, real, funky places in the world."
Davis is survived by his wife, Noriko Tanaka; ex-wife, Judith Davis; daughter, Sarah Coseby Davis; son-in-law, Shawn Lytle; son Arthur Fumiko Davis; daughter-in-law, Tesa Davis; grandchildren, Jordan Alexander Davis, Jacquelyn Rae Davis, and Olivia Davis Lytle; brother, Bill Davis; sister, Lynn Davis; and cousins, Patty Costello, Martha de la Cruz, and Amy de la Cruz. Jack's mother, Jean Davis Mueller, age 94, resides in Scottsdale, Ariz. His son Hayden Carlos Davis died in 1999.
A celebration of Jack Davis's life will be held Nov. 18 at the SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF, from 3 to 8 p.m. The family is establishing a scholarship fund for Arthur Davis. For information visit www.somarts.org.
Jack Davis will be deeply missed by all who were touched by his calm, generosity, and soothing presence over his 40-year involvement in Bay Area arts. 2
Mike Noland and Charlie Gadeken contributed to this report.