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Fairmont veteran Asa Davison spent a century of good deeds in his community

Times West Virginian - 6/13/2024

Jun. 13—FAIRMONT — On June 5, Brian Davison noticed his father, Asa Davison was particularly upbeat.

Although Brian Davison lives in Texas, he did his best to stay in touch with his father. The two would talk multiple times throughout the day. At around 5 p.m. Eastern time, Asa Davison called his son from St. Barbara's Memorial Nursing Home in Monongah.

"He kept thanking me," Brian Davison said. "'Thank you for all that you've done, all these trips and taxes and everything you've done for mom, I love you," he said. 'I love you Daddy, I love you too. You don't have to say thank you to me. I'm your son. I'll do anything for you. And Mom.' He was just so cheerful and bubbly."

The next day, Asa Davison joined his wife. He passed away on June 6 at the age of 100 as many countries around the world celebrated the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy.

"I don't know if he had some angelic premonition that time was getting close or what, but you know, he was upbeat," Brian Davison said.

Asa Davison served in the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters. The unit was an all Black regiment, feared by the Germans for their toughness, despite the disrespect and racism from white soldiers who wore the same uniform as Asa.

He served throughout the Pacific Theater of the war, where a close call on New Guinea almost ended his life. As Davison emerged from his foxhole, a projectile hit him in the chest. Had it not been for a metal covered Bible he held in his chest pocket, there might not have been 80 happy years with his family and friends to follow.

The fact Asa passed on the 80th Anniversary of D-Day was not lost on Brian. Watching the news, Brian heard the reporter from NBC say there where 180 WWII veterans who are 100 years of age or older. After Asa passed, Brian realized there was one less who was part of that cadre.

After the war, Davison met the love of his life, Ethel Dolores Davison. United in marriage, they spent 73 years together. She passed May 2, 2024. Even until the end he was her protector, relaying his wife's needs to the nursing staff after Dolores lost her ability to communicate from Alzheimer's. Even when Asa himself could barely move he still did what he could for Dolores.

Davison was a prominent figure in town. Brian Davison said his father loved politics and knew people from Gov. Jay Rockefeller, Sen. Joe Manchin and State Sen. Mike Caputo among others. He was also known for his volunteer work, participation with the Fairmont Community Development Partnership, which improved the community's quality of life by revitalizing neighborhoods and providing safe affordable housing. The organization also promoted economic development throughout the county.

Asa Davison brought his work ethic to raising a family as well.

"Fundamentally, Pop was a worker bee," Gregory Allen Davison said. "He had a limited education. But he made up for it in in being a hustler, a very resourceful guy. He did whatever he could to take care of his family. And, and so a lot of things that he wasn't able to experience as a child growing up, he actually was able to make things a bit more enjoyable for us."

Gregory is the youngest of three brothers.

Asa didn't reserve his kindness or generosity for his family. Brian shared one little known but harrowing moment after Asa's 100th birthday. Asa stopped breathing after he was wheeled back into his room at the nursing home. For a moment, Brian feared his father had died.

"I said, 'Daddy, if it's time God makes no mistakes,'" Brian said. "If it's not time by God's grace, fight.' I kept telling him, 'Jesus loves you, I love you. We just kept repeating it."

After 45 seconds, Asa's lungs filled with air once more. The Oximeter that measures oxygen saturation in blood read 78, a healthy number is above 90. Slowly, the number climbed back up to an acceptable level. After being laid on the bed from the wheel chair he was on, Asa opened his eyes and moved his hands. Brian asked his father how he was. Asa's eyes scanned the room.

"Y'all get cake and ice cream," Asa said.

"That's my dad," Brian said. "He's probably knocking on the door of God calling him home. When he recovers enough to speak, he's sitting there asking others, did you get ice cream and cake."

Putting others first was a character trait Asa expressed his entire life.

As a WWII combat vet, Asa was tough. He boxed while in the service, and was known as Little Joe Louis. During boxing matches on the radio, he would egg on his sons to punch him in the stomach, heartily asking them 'is that all you got,' after one of them landed a hit.

Dolores enjoyed rollercoasters. Gregory recalled his dad riding one coaster named the Jack Rabbit.

"He had tears in his eyes," Gregory said. "First time in my life I've ever seen it. He yelled, 'stop it, stop it right now!' Daddy big strong man, Baby Joe Louis. I think I see a tear in your eyes!"

Anna Nicholson, Brian's wife, recalled driving through the mountainous roads of Hawaii in Mustangs. The family was there for her wedding to Brian. Nicholson thought the hairpin turns and winding roads would be reminiscent of West Virginia. She thought wrong.

"Apparently, they did a number on him, him and my mom," Nicholson said. "They just got really sick. They got all the hairpin turns. So they didn't do too well. And we said, 'Wait, West Virginia has hills, I thought you would be you know, very familiar with those type of turns.' But he said, 'not these.' Those were hairpin turns."

Still it was a great moment of bonding for the family.

"The adventures, I got a chance to see the human side of my parents," Gregory said. "And that's a special thing."

Asa had one more piece of tremendous joy before passing. His face was placed on Smucker's jelly jars around the country. Brian, as well as his next door neighbor, turned in an application to NBC's "Today Show" to be put on the jar. Today's Al Roker highlights seniors who turn 100 and are featured on the jars. After not hearing about it in time for Asa's 100th birthday, Brian assumed the network and Smucker's didn't select him.

However, roughly a month after Asa's birthday passed, Brian received a phone call telling him Asa had been chosen for the honor. The jars feature Asa's face, as well as his age and hometown of Fairmont. Brian said his dad got a kick out of that.

Brian and the rest of his family will miss Asa very much, but his kids are glad that he's with their mom now. Asa Davidson's absence will be very much felt through a community that benefitted from his presence. Brian said his father didn't meet strangers as Asa could strike up a conversation with almost anyone. Even when money was tight, Asa did what he could to help.

"He would see somebody in probably more need or challenge than we were," Brian said. "And he gave his last dollar a number of times. I remember mom saying, 'that's our last dollar, we don't have any more money.' And he said, 'I know, but they need some milk.' He did that time and time again. That left an imprint on on me. I'm not my dad, but at least I keep that in mind. I try to help wherever possible wherever I can. Because of his example."

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