Aug. 11, 1916 — July 25, 2013
Former El Dorado County resident, William Davey passed to the Beyond on Thursday, July 25, 2013, at age 96 — 19 days short of of 97 years. Bill was born Aug. 11, 1916, at the Woodland Memorial Hospital in Jones Hill Georgetown, Calif., which was an old gold mining district near Georgetown, Calif. He follows his father and 49er grandfather over the Great Georgetown Divide into the Beyond. He was called Bill by everyone who knew the resilient and remarkable Bill Davey.
Like his grandfather, Bill too was a gold miner working in the Davey Mine 1934 to March 1, 1938. He was a 44-year resident of El Dorado and a 47-year resident of Dixon, Calif., having been engaged in farming in Solano County with his two sons Irving and Walter, commencing in 1963 near Hastings Island. Planting God’s magical seeds in the rich Dixon soil and watching his crops grow into excellent fruition was his first and true love. His green thumb made it possible for him to grow the most beautiful tomatoes and sunflower plants ever seen in Solano County. With his sons he became one of the most successful row crop farmers in the region, farming 10,000 acres from 1980 to 2006, when at age 89 he down sized to 2000 acres. In April 2006 it became necessary that Bill operate the entire operation single-handed as son Walter became ill. As a result he operated the farm by himself up until the day of his passing.
Bill began his early farming experience in 1939 working for his sister, Florence, on the James W. Sweeney Pear Ranch in Placerville, Calif. In conjunction while working at the ranch 1940-41, he owned and operated the Hangtown Roller Rink near Smith Flat in Placerville. On May 27, 1941 at the roller rink he met his future wife, Doris A. Clifton. They were married in Reno, Nev., on June 21, 1941. They moved to Rio Vista in January 1942, where he worked two years as a troubleshooter for PG&E, with his eldest brother Ellison Davey.
Farming, Bill’s true love, was constantly calling him back to the life-giving soil — a calling far too strong to ignore. It brought him back to El Dorado County in June 1945. Working for his sister, Florence Sweeney, farming the pear trees at the Sweeney Ranch was his life and home for the next 18 years, from June 1945 to June 1962.The Sweeney Ranch was his training ground, where he gained his farming knowledge. Like his father, James Davey, Bill instilled solid, everlasting work ethics in his sons.
On May 1, 1953, Bill became infected with polio and was sent to the Children’s Hospital in San Francisco by Dr. Earnest Sorroco of the Placerville Sanitarium. Dr. Sorroco’s ability to quickly diagnose the poorly understood disease actually saved his life. Bill suffered in the hospital for an entire year, losing 60 percent of his muscle mass. After his long stay in the hospital, he returned home completely paralyzed in his legs and not expected to ever walk again. He designed and built a contraption similar to parallel bars and for more then a year he hobbled between these bars using his hands and arms to support his entire body weight, as his his legs were nearly useless. Eventually his legs became stronger and within two years he recovered the full use of them. This was just one bout with a life-threatening illness. There were a dozen more episodes before and after the polio. He had the resiliency of a rubber ball, always bouncing back, being the tough nail that he was.
In conjunction with operating the Sweeney Ranch, Bill was President of the El Dorado Farm Bureau from 1954 to 1960. He belonged to the Placerville Fruit Growers Association from 1950-1962. He was on the Board of Agriculture and Conservation and also served on the Missouri Flat School Board. He accepted full responsibility for managing the Sweeney/Davey Ranch up until 1962. In 1960 an unknown pear disease called Pear Decline began to reap havoc on the trees. Within a two-year period 80 percent of the pear trees in El Dorado County died from this disease. Losing the pear ranch made it necessary for him to start a new farm.
In June 1962, financially destitute, Bill packed up his family and moved to Clarksburg, Calif., where he formed a partnership with Leland Coulter. He gleaned a little row crop farming knowledge from Leland. He gained even more experience from a lot of hard work — the best teacher of all. Bill’s motto was, “Work from sun up to sun down,” which forced him to get a good night’s rest and be ready for the the next day’s work — the same routine that he followed his entire life.
Bill’s early life was also a life of hard work instilled by his father, William James Davey. His great-grandfather, William Davey, on April 10, 1851, immigrated from Perrenaworthal Cornwall, England. He came with thousands of other immigrants from all corners of the world, seeking the richness of gold. They came for the great 1849 California Gold Rush, which erupted in Coloma, Calif., on the South Fork of the American River. Naturally, Bill Davey had a gold mining upbringing and was engaged in gold mining from the early age of 12 years. He worked in the Davey Gold Mine adjacent to famous Black Oak mine at Garden Valley with some of his best friends from 1934 until March 1, 1938. These friends who worked in the mines with him became lifelong friends. They were Jim Foose, Claude Ford, Roy Davenport and Irving Martin.
Bill leaves behind two sons, Walter J. Davey of Dixon and Irving L. Davey of Miami, Okla.; four grandchildren, Debra L. Davey of Boulder, Colo., Michael J. Davey of Sacramento, Calif., Eric Irving Davey of Grove, Okla., and Edward Howard Davey of Dixon. He also leaves four great-grandchildren to carry on the Davey name. The remarkable hands of God made it possible for Bill’s first great-grandchild to be born on Bill’s birthday. Naturally, baby William was named after Bill, and his brother Kage Davey both belong to Eric of Grove, Okla.
Preceding William L. Davey in death were all six of his siblings. From the oldest to the youngest they were Florence Ethel Sweeney, Ellison Crawford Davey, Mildred Alice Murray, Mable Jane Calvin, Hazel Edith Peterson and Arthur Laselle Davey.