By Jenn Watt
Friends and family are remembering Bill Davis for his caring nature love of family and commitment to the betterment of Haliburton County. The former municipal politician spent 29 years serving the community before retiring in 2014 and during that time built a reputation for coming through for constituents. He died on Saturday Nov. 30 in his 78th year.
His daughter Sherry Mulholland said she remembered scrutineering for him on his first election when he ran to become deputy reeve of Dysart et al. He had already served on several committees before deciding to run and had a longstanding interest in politics.
“As long as I can remember he’s had his finger in politics whether it was helping somebody stuff envelopes put up signs [or] campaign even before he became involved directly” she said in an interview last week.
It was the opportunity to help people that led him to run for office and to continue year after year. Mulholland said he was unswayed by social status and gave everyone equal attention.
“Because he started with nothing he had a real soft spot to help people. No matter [whether they were] rich or poor he could have cared less. He just liked to help people” she said.
Davis was born in Haliburton and was raised by his grandparents. He didn’t have much material wealth growing up and didn’t know that he had a brother until about 1989. When he met Freda and they started a family of their own welcoming Ed Sherry and Charlene into the world Muholland said he concentrated his love and attention on them.
“He didn’t have much family so what he had meant the world to him” she said.
At his funeral on Dec. 11 his grandchildren told the attendees about their fond memories of being taken on car rides around the county and going to the coffee shop enjoying doughnuts together while their grandpa chatted with all the people he knew.
Bill and Freda seen here on Sherry Mulholland's wedding day: Aug. 31 1985. /Photo courtesy of Sherry Mulholland
Davis’s easy way with people meant that he seemed to always know someone no matter where he went.
Bob English who worked with Davis when they were both paramedics for Dysart et al prior to Davis’s political career said they would joke about how many people he knew.
“One of the things I remember about Bill was … he was so personable and friendly and wanted to get to know people. We would be on the ambulance call – didn’t matter if it was the back side of Harcourt Park or the top end of Kennisis Lake or we were in Oshawa on a transfer or Toronto – we would always run into someone who knew Bill. It was uncanny” English said. “He either knew them through his political career or prior to that he knew them from when he lived in Oshawa. He may have coached their kids in baseball or hockey … he just seemed to know people. It didn’t matter where we went. It was kind of a standing joke that whoever was partners with Bill … who did you run into today that Bill knew?”
After growing up in Haliburton Davis moved to Oshawa where he worked for General Motors before returning back to the Highlands where he worked several jobs over the years including selling real estate opening a Color Your World store working as an ambulance attendant and becoming an ambulance dispatcher for the Ministry of Health.
“Bill picked up cars for many years for Curry Motors” former Dysart et al mayor Murray Fearrey said during his speech at Davis’s funeral. “I am sure part of this job was the enjoyment he had driving the many shiny new vehicles. You could see the grin on his face when he would wheel into the municipal office on his way to or from a pickup.”
“Bill became a paramedic for Haliburton County emergency services and ended his working career dispatching ambulance. Some of you may remember Bill and his caffeine high. He always seemed to have a coffee in his hand and buzzing from here to there but as an ambulance dispatcher he was the best. He was steady and thorough and calmed people to give him the information he needed to help. I am sure some of you in this room experienced the care and help he gave to people – sometimes in bad situations” Fearrey said.
English said that being helpful was one of the things he remembers most about Davis.
“He was always one who was wanting to help whether it was through the ambulance or through his career on municipal council or county council and I think that those thoughts have been echoed by other people … that’s genuinely the guy that he was” English said.
Davis saw his role on council as one of transparency making sure that people knew what was happening and he would go to great lengths to ensure he got the answers they needed Mulholland said.
Bill Davis removes his campaign signs after being re-elected as deputy reeve in the 2010 municipal election. He died on Nov. 30 in his 78th year. Davis is being remembered in the community as a kind hearted person always trying to help his neighbours. /DARREN LUM Staff
“Whenever someone asked him something and he didn’t know he told them he would get them an answer [it] might not be the answer they wanted but he would get an answer” she said.
Davis also loved to fish and would take Mulholland’s son out on the water every weekend.
“That’s what my son posted on Facebook if he could have one more cast with Grandpa. That made me cry” she said.
Many decades ago Davis was out fishing with his son Ed on Redstone Lake when they came upon four local fishermen whose boat had overturned.
“My brother was eight or 10. Quite young” Muholland said. “… my dad and Ed could hear them yelling for help so they got over there in time that they were able to save three local guys. Unfortunately one was under the boat and they couldn’t get him out and my brother was devastated. My dad too. It was the first night the only night that my dad let my brother have a little sip of whiskey. It was not good.”
One of the survivors of that night wrote a note to Mulholland’s family that he had never forgotten that Davis saved his life.
Patrick O’Reilly deputy mayor of the City of Kawartha Lakes served on a housing committee with Davis and they became friends. He said he saw the impact Davis made.
“I think the … common theme that I always found with Bill – he had a big heart and he always put his family and community first” he said.
Fearrey said Davis will be remembered for his strength of character. “Bill you will be remembered for the character you brought to the political arena. In your time in office you impacted this community in a special way. Rest well my friend. You did make Haliburton a better place.”