2010-04-21 / Obituaries

John A. Davis, Jr.

Dr. John A. Davis, Jr., organist and choirmaster at the Cadet Chapel, West Point, for over thirty years, died at St. Francis Hospital, Poughkeepsie, on Thursday, March 18, 2010, at the age of 86.

Dr. Davis was a native of Pulaski, NY, where he graduated from Pulaski Academy, and went on to become an organ major at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. There he received a Bachelor of Music degree, after World War II, for he had left college in the middle of his junior year to join the United States Army Air Corps to train and serve as a bomber pilot. He flew 66 missions in the European Theater of Operations over Germany and its occupied countries from bases in France.

John Davis went on to receive a Masters Degree in musicology from Boston University. His alma mater, Westminster Choir College, bestowed on him an honorary doctorate in music.

Before coming to West Point, Dr. Davis was the organist and director of the choir at the First Congregational Church, Grand Rapids, MI.

In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him organist and choir director of the United States Chapel at West Point. John Davis concertized in many parts of the United States as well as in Germany, including 8 recitals in Berlin. He directed the Cadet Choir in many appearances in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., St. Thomas Church, New York City, the Crystal Cathedral in California, and many times on television.

For nine years he taught an annual workshop for chapel musicians of the armed forces held in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Every year he conducted the marvelous presentation of the Messiah in the Cadet Chapel with singers from all over the Hudson River Valley.

He also taught for twenty four years as an adjunct professor of music and humanities at nearby Ladycliff College, Highland Falls.

Dr. Davis was a Mason for over 50 years, and also a distinguished member of the American Guild of Organists. His affability and ready wit endeared him to everyone.

After retiring from West Point in 1985, he became organist and choirmaster of the Reformed Church, Poughkeepsie, where he served until November, 2009. In 1992 he took a six-month leave of absence from the Reformed Church to act as an interim senior organist and assistant director of music of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Dorothy Ann, his wife of 58 years, predeceased him; she was also a distinguished organist, choir director, and singer.

Two brothers, Richard and Harold, predeceased Dr. Davis.

He is survived by his daughter, Ellen McKenna, and her husband Owen, of Norwell, MA; his son, John Alec of Seattle, WA; his son Peter and his wife Irma in AZ; two grandsons, George Adam and his wife Martha, John Adam and his wife Erin; and one great grandson, Riley Adam, all of Manhattan.

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