Watkinsville Garden Club
Mary celebrates her 98th birthday
Mary and Coach Dooley get acquainted at our October 2019 meeting.
Mary Scalia Davis was one of seven children born to Frank and Josephine Scalia. The Scalias were natives of Sicily, Italy. After their marriage, they migrated to the United States. They settled in Enfield, Connecticut. Mary’s mom told her that it was the duty of the oldest girl to help with the house and children. Mary’s sister, Annie, contracted polio at age 8 and underwent surgery at the Shriners Hospital. Mary took care of her and helped her learn to walk. With much determination and after many cuts and bruises from falling on the gravel driveway, Annie succeeded in walking.
Life for the Scalias became very difficult during the Depression. Soon after Mary finished high school, World War II began. She got a job as an inspector of small airplane parts, often working seven days a week as the war worsened. After some time, she became burned out with the job and, at her mother’s urging, went to visit her brother who was stationed in North Carolina. As Mary was waiting for her brother to arrive, a soldier came by and asked if he could sit at the table with her. That soldier, Bob Davis, would become her husband. He asked her brother for permission to take her to a dance. During the dance, Bob asked Mary to attend church on Sunday. While at lunch after church, he asked if he could write to her. Following a five-month courtship via mail, he proposed. Mary accepted and they married three months later at St. Mary’s Church with both of their mothers present.
They spent eight happy months in their first apartment. Bob had played baseball for the Southern Leagues. When he went into the Army, his assignment was playing baseball. However, as the war intensified, he was sent to the front at the Battle of the Bulge and was eventually injured. He was sent to England for a while and then to Colorado Springs. Mary joined him there and when he was finally discharged, they returned home to Connecticut and lived with Mary’s parents until they got on their feet. When their first child was born, they rented a house where they lived for seven years. They later built a home where they lived for fifteen years. During this period, Mary joined The Order of the Eastern Star at Bob’s suggestion and eventually became one of the Grand Officers.
Bob was employed by a defense plant but was laid off when the plant converted back to its former business. He was hired for a position in Georgia and they settled in Oconee County where Bob purchased a house big enough for him and Mary, their son, Bob, his wife, Carol, and their four children, Deborah, Valerie, Kimberly and Robert III. Carol served on a committee to find a location for a new church. They chose a site at Highway 53 and Northwest Woods which became Briarwood Baptist Church. The Davis family are charter members and their lives have been centered around the church. Sadly, Bob became ill after a vacation in Mississippi. He was diagnosed with cancer and underwent experimental treatment at the University of Mississipi. He died on February 5, 1981 and was the first Briarwood member to pass away. Mary had lost her best friend. Grandaughter Debbie grew up and was married at the church. Mary’s Sunday School Class helped with the reception, and it was then that she met Mildred Bell. Mary continues to be an active member of Briarwood.
Mary says that it was by accident that she became involved in planning group tours. After Bob died, she joined the Widows Club which led to her to organizing her first tour. Two years later, several women decided to form their own club in Oconee County. Marie Walraven hosted Mary, Gwen Greenway, Reba Hammand and others and The Fellowship Club was born. Mary believes this group helped her stabilize following her husband’s death. She went on to lead group tours for over 30 years.
In 1983 Mary joined the Watkinsville Garden Club. She recalls many interesting garden club projects including making a quilt for sale, a plant sale and serving as hostesses at the Governor’s Mansion. Mary served as president of the garden club 1985-1986. She remains an active member of the club and expresses her appreciation to Mildred Bell and the Johnsons for providing transportation to meetings.
In celebration of Mary’s 98th birthday, Marian Malaier and Mildred Bell organized a surprise birthday party Briarwood Baptist Church. Many friends from the church, garden club and community attended to honor Mary.
For her 100th birthday, the WGC again threw a party for her, but because of the pandemic, members drove through the portico of the Briarwood Baptist Church to give her flowers and cards.