For Bryan Heikes and his wife, Dewey Davis was a welcoming face in a sea of strangers when they first moved to Zachary 21 years ago.
It was Davis who guided their four small children at school.
The Heikes children are not the only students who were guided by Davis.
Davis, the district supervisor of elementary programs and longtime principal, will retire this month after 31 years in education — all in Zachary.
“We love Mr. Davis,” Heikes said. “Always have and always will; he is one of best.”
Scott Devillier, superintendent of Zachary Community School District, has worked closely with Davis in recent years and echoes Heikes appreciation.
“Mr. Davis has served the Zachary community as a teacher and administrator for many years,” Devillier said. “His loyalty and dedication to the children and educators of our school system will never be forgotten.”
That loyalty greatly predates the creation of an independent Zachary school system.
A 1985 graduate of Louisiana College with a degree in religious education and minor in special education, Dewey Davis, who grew up in Baker, returned home after college and took his placement as a special education teacher at Zachary Elementary. Years later, he became principal.
The Zachary Community School District was created in 2003 when the northern community made a break from the East Baton Rouge school district. Davis was the only principal that remained in place when Zachary became an independent school district. He served as principal of both Zachary Elementary and Copper Mill Elementary before spending the last two school years in the central office.
Those schools, like the rest of the district, were models of excellence, and the district has been the state’s top performing school district since 2005. Teachers who have served at Davis’ schools say the positive growth was on the part of both the students and faculty.
“I'll never be able to thank Mr. Davis enough for taking a chance on a five-year-experience teacher that was me,” said Nita Martin. “Mr. Davis always had an encouraging quote and words of wisdom. I'll never forget his reaction to some of the wardrobes at our CME staff ‘What Not to Wear’ Fashion Show.”
Copper Mill teacher Karen Jones reflected on his support as an administrator.
“I have many fond memories of Mr. Davis. He hired me 13 years ago and has been a stellar example of true leadership,” she said. “He was very supportive of teachers and he had a true heart for doing what was best for the students.”
Dewey Davis is the middle of three generations dedicated to the education and well-being of the community’s children. His mother, Frances Davis, was a retired East Baton Rouge school bus driver who remained a community and hospital volunteer into her '90s.
Patty Davis, his wife, has worked in the school system for 27 years. She worked alongside him at Zachary Elementary as a teacher's aide until he became its principal. She then worked at Bakerfield’s Elementary School until the new districts were created. She has been the secretary at Northwestern Middle School since that time.
Patty Davis explained their work in education had a big effect on their oldest three children. The kids painted, cleaned, and hauled books growing up, she said.
The Davis’ daughters, Megan Kinkindoll and Aimee Stablier, were inspired to work in education and until recently, both in Zachary schools. Their son, Jacob Davis, was inspired in other ways, he joked, and works as a nurse anesthetist. The family’s youngest child, Ashlyn, is still a student at Zachary High School.
Stablier taught second grade at Rollins’ Place until a very recent move to a Texas school district. “Aimee always wanted to be a teacher,” her mother recalled.
Dewey Davis became Stablier's ultimate role mode.
“My father is one of the many reasons I decided to become a teacher,” she said. “I remember growing up watching how hard he worked to give his students the best education he possibly could. Learning came to life in his classroom. I wanted to be the kind of teacher that he was to his students. He has always been there for me and such an encouragement to me and my teaching career.”
Kirkindoll returned to her hometown as a counselor and is on the counseling staff of Zachary High.
“It definitely was a huge impact seeing my dad work in a school setting and it impacted my decision to become a school counselor,” Kirkindoll said. “One of the biggest things growing up was seeing how my dad impacted students, and I knew that I wanted to impact students, maybe not in a classroom setting, but there are different ways you can impact a student.”
Jacob Davis married a nurse and loves his life as a nurse anesthetist, but he explained that his takeaways from his father’s life and career are still huge factors.
“When thinking about my dad’s career, some of the characteristics that come to mind are work ethic, compassion, dedication, and selflessness,” he said. “From an early age, he taught me work ethic — never doing the minimum and always trying your best.”
Jacob Davis doesn’t recall ‘idle time’ from his childhood. Instead, he said most of his childhood and teenage years involved free time being spent working on projects around the house, trying to fix issues with the cars, helping people through the church, working in his father’s classroom when he was a teacher, and later on when he became a principal, working at his school.
“At the schools, I remember performing tasks such as delivering textbooks, bringing trash from the classrooms to the dumpster, moving furniture, striping the parking lot, painting classrooms, and more,” Jacob Davis said. “The list goes on and on; this was part of the deal when your parent worked for the school system.”
“I remember him working in his classroom or office many times till late in the evening or night, only to come home, eat, tell us goodnight, and head back to the school for a few more hours,” Jacob Davis recalled. “He would often say that being an educator was a 24-hour job and to be successful would often require those characteristics that I mentioned above.”
All the time spent around the school birthed a desire to be a part of the education system for his sisters, but Jacob Davis said it had the opposite effect for him and he went into the medical field.
“He loved the students and it was always his goal to make a positive impact in their lives that went beyond the classroom,” Jacob David said. “Even though I chose a different career, he’s still the man that I strive to be.”
Retirement looms for Dewey Davis, but those who know don’t expect grass to grow under his feet. Patty Davis said her husband, an ordained minister, has been a part of Cornerstone Fellowship in Central for 33 years.
“He’s real involved in our church and he was the youth pastor for our church for years,” said. “I suspect he will get busy — even though he’s always been busy — with the church.”
During the Christmas season, Dewey Davis reflected on retirement and having more time to spend with his recently widowed father. Harvey Davis, a decorated World War II veteran, worked in the plastics plant that later became a part of Exxon and is now a resident at Oakwood Village in Zachary.
A smile lit up the younger Davis’ face as he touched his father’s shoulder and pronounced, “I’m going to spend some time with this fellow right here.”