Lake County Ohio GenWeb
Written by Cynthia Turk from census and those sources cited within
Leon P. "Lee" Davis was the middle child of George and Victoria Davis. George was a farmer in Willoughby in 1900. George's son Charles was a salesman in the grocery business. His daughter, Mildred was a student and that middle son, Leon, although working as a farm laborer at age 18, was also in school full time. He attended Adelbert College of Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Later he attended and received his diploma from Massachusetts Embalming School in Columbus in 1904. By 1905, Lee was in the undertaking business.
The first "store" was on Erie Street in Willoughby. Most funerals were still being held in homes or at churches at the time. Embalming was usually done in the home, but later this was done at the funeral home and services were offered there as well.
Mr. Davis was concurrently teaching at the local high school, substituting for S. D. Shankland.
In 1906 Lee married Jessie I. Langshaw and about a year later, Roger V. G. was born to them. Lee was working on his own account and owned his home free of mortgage by 1910. He appears to be number 13 on the farm schedule, so there must be some amount of property included at the home at 49 Second Street in Willoughby. The family had enlarged to include daughter Nancy L. and Helen.
As was the custom of the day, Davis offered ambulance service to the community. A picture of his horse-drawn ambulance appears in Lake County, Ohio: 150 Years of Tradition by Bari Oyler Stith, which also has some interesting stories. In 1914 he purchased a Packard, the Tri-County area's first motorized ambulance.
Although the business began in the Austin Building on Erie Street in Willoughby, in 1914 the Cleveland Trust building became its next location, adding a furniture line.
The 1928-1929 Buyers Guide of the Lake County Directory lists L.P. Davis at 49 (now 37812) Second Street in Willoughby. He and his wife Jessie also resided at 49 Second Street. Children Nancy C. and Roger V., embalmer are also listed at the same residence.
By 1930, still at the Second Street location, Lee's wife Jessie is now officially an undertaker. Jessie was helping in the business, and when licencing became a requirement, she was grandfathered in for her considerable experience. Their son Roger V. got his diploma from Cleveland School of Embalming in 1928 and joined the family business. In March of 1932, Roger married Frances and she began assisting in the business as well.
In April of 1932 Davis purchased the current location at 4154 (then 36) Clark Avenue. The home they bought had replaced the Grover Home, the oldest house in Willoughby. There is a photo and brief discussion of its history in Historical Willoughby 1853-1953 Centennial Celebration on page 8. There is a picture of the newer home that Davis bought in Willoughby The First 150 Years The Picture Story of Willoughby, Ohio from 1800 to 1950 by Clarence F. Sindy. Since that photo, there have been several additions. One to the north (right) side of the building, created a flat roof at the second floor level. A more recent addition removed the round porch, the old addition, and carport to add a large brick section to the south side of the home. A large brick garage was also added. There is now a breezeway connecting the home to the house to the south. The original home maintains its historic homey atmosphere.
The 1945 Painesville Willoughby Telephone Directory has a discrete advertisement on page 37 under Funeral Directors. It reads:
Davis Funeral Home
Howard W. Taylor joined the staff in 1948 and worked there until his retirement in 1982.
In 1959 Lee retired, and the family business was passed down to his son Roger. In 1967, Roger's son Charles "Chuck" Davis graduated from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. He joined the family business about the same time his classmate John R. Vaughan did. The business ownership passed to Charles in 1979.
Lee Davis died in 1969 at the age of 87. His wife Jessie died in 1974. Their son, Roger V. died in 1993.
On January 11, 2002 Davis Funeral Home was honored by the Willoughby Area Chamber of Commerce as its Distinguished Business for 2002. A photo of Chuck Davis was in the News-Herald along with staff Dick Vaughan, Dick Spotton, Mitch Babcock, and Sandy Grimaldi.
Davis Funeral Home holds the distinction in 2006 of being the oldest funeral home in Lake County, and the oldest business in Willoughby. It continues into its second century serving the community.
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Last updated 20 Oct 2007
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