As the wife of a dairy farmer in Idaho’s Boise Valley, Jean Davis didn’t get the chance to travel often. It’s not that she didn’t want to; there just wasn’t time to get away. “We had to be there morning and night to milk those cows,” says Mrs. Davis, who worked alongside her husband, Fred, on the farm from the late 1940s until they sold it in 1980.
She also worked full-time outside of the farm, first for the telephone company, then as the owner of a ceramics studio that began in her laundry room and expanded into a successful retail shop. She eventually became a business management assistant for the U.S. Forest Service.
In 1981, when the Forest Service offered to transfer Mrs. Davis to Seward, Alaska, she and her husband jumped at the chance, knowing it was an opportunity for a new life and a chance to travel.
She admits that her initial enthusiasm waned a little when she first arrived in Seward, a fishing village and port town on the Gulf of Alaska. It was January 1981, and although it was the middle of the day, it was “cold, dark and rainy,” she says.
“It was definitely a shock at first,” Mrs. Davis says of Seward’s short periods of daylight during the winter—just six hours of light in December—and long stretches of daylight during the summer. “For a month in the summertime, the sun never sets,” she says.
For two years, she worked with the Forest Service in Seward, assisting rangers who oversaw recreation camps, fisheries and other activities taking place on federal land. In her spare time, Mrs. Davis immersed herself in the local community, spending time in her garden (weather-permitting) and with new friends and neighbors.
In 1983, Mrs. Davis transferred back to Idaho so that Fred, a World War II veteran, could receive treatment at the Boise VA Medical Center. She retired from the Forest Service in 1987.
After her husband passed away in 1985, Mrs. Davis began searching for something new to occupy her time. She had long thought there was a chance she could prove her Patriot ancestry on her mother’s side of the family, but tracing her lineage had been too much of an undertaking to attempt while she was raising five children. Now that they were out of the house, and at a friend’s urging, she started her application for DAR, a project that took three years to complete.
“The genealogy research became an all-consuming project, but it came at a time when I needed something to start a new life,” she says. “I was a widow, and it opened up a whole new set of friends and activities.”
Mrs. Davis says being able to prove her ancestral heritage back to the early days of the country is a source of great pride. She also is proud of the involvement of her daughter Cindi Gryder, who currently serves as Alaska State Regent. Two of Mrs. Davis’ granddaughters also are DAR members.
Mrs. Davis returned to Alaska in 1991—this time to Fairbanks—to be closer to her daughter, and that’s where she became an active member of the Alaska Chapter, Fairbanks, Alaska. She moved back to Idaho in 2006 for the milder climate and to be closer to her sons John and Alan and their families.
In addition to spending time with her large family (she has 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren), Mrs. Davis enjoys gardening, sewing and volunteering at the local library. She continues to be involved with the Alaska Chapter and travels to Fairbanks in the summer.