FARMINGTON — One of the Pierce House (204 Main St.) pioneering spirits, Elizabeth “Betty” Ella Davison, has died at the age of 96, surrounded by her daughter, Jane, and two devoted Pierce staff members, Mariam Worthley and Kaylie Thornton, on Feb. 18. She resided here from Dec. 27, 2006, not only in the company of extraordinary gifted and educated women of her era, but also in a caring atmosphere that fostered the dignity, physical and spiritual well-being of all its residents.

She was born April 30, 1914, and brought up in the best stoic New England traditions by Lewis Davison and Ella Chadwick Davison in a loving family of five children (the three sisters and one brother), whose values were faith, love, hard work and, most importantly, charity: Offer food to the beggar who might come to your door during World War II, invite a stranger without a family to your home on those sacred holidays, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.

Sunday was a day for quiet and reflection. Church, flowers and music filled her life as a child, as did love of her sisters and of nature, things that were passed onto children and great-grandchildren. Later, her own children all took music lessons, piano, trumpet, trombone, even sax, drum and base violin, so that her family could easily entertain themselves, forming their own small orchestra or jazz band, and her oldest two sang, and still do, in church choirs.

She also saw to it that her family spent summers in the White Mountains camping, and the four Davison sisters later in their years would frequently go camping just by themselves. It was to protect this rugged woods environment in Maine that she became an outspoken voice, campaigning for Maine’s bottle redemption bill (1976), one of the first 10 states to have such a bill in order to protect the woods and fields.

This same love of nature is now reflected in her youngest son’s (Jim) growing collection of wonderful photographs of birds, deer, moose and other small creatures. The oldest son, David, has carried his environmental concerns to the floor of the New Hampshire legislature, where as Republican member of the Environmental Protection Committee, he is fighting to bring bills to a successful vote to protect the environment from the careless disposal of used medical needles and junked cars.

She graduated from Woodsville High School, N.H., in 1932. From 1930 to 1934 she worked as a waitress at the Wawbeek Sports Camp to pay for her college education; it was here she met her future husband, John Franklin Knox. She attended the University of New Hampshire from 1932 to ’35, graduating with a B.A.

Then, after one year of teaching English in a Sunapee, N.Y., a stipulation of her parents before she could marry, she married John on Aug. 7, 1937, with a B.A. in English. Settling with John, her husband, in Maine, where he worked as a traveling salesman, they lived first in Yarmouth, then New Vineyard, and finally settled in Farmington in the mid-1940s.

She taught French at Strong High School from 1954 to ’55, then English in the SAD 9 Farmington school system from 1956 to 1974. She passed on the traditional Davison career as an educator to three of her children, David (retired history teacher in Wolfeboro High School), Jane (professor at Bowdoin College) and Peter (special ed director, schools of Jay.)

She completed two courses toward the then-existing M.A. program in English at the University of Maine, Farmington, advanced composition and 19th and 20th century English literature in 1968, but was unable to finish the program due to the demands of her family. She became an accomplished writer and, together with her sisters (the HECK sisters — Harriet, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Kathleen), wrote and published the HECK memories, poems and etchings of growing up in the small town of Woodsville, N.H., which reveals their view of New England as seen through the eyes of children, childhood and young adolescents with joys, humor and richness.

Her favorite activities were church, family and gardening. She was a pillar of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (Farmington-Wilton), and her passing marks the end of an era. She was one of the founding members of the Mission of the Church in Farmington; in 1949, supplying music (first piano, then organ) and flowers from the first Eucharist in the Masonic Hall with Fr. Craig, and all subsequent services, first in the basement of the Old North Church, then in the newly built parish church on North Main Street, Farmington, and finally in its present location at the corner of High and School streets in Wilton.

Above and beyond, she will be remembered for her faithful service as church organist, supplying music for so many. She will also be remembered as queen of the pie sales, a tradition that St. Luke began as early as the mid-1960s, a tradition, along with the lobster supper, where she also reigned and drew in so many from the community. Then there were the yearly Christmas crafts fairs at which she churned out her well-known aprons, note cards, with just the right tiny twig of a dried flower from her own garden, and her star directions for windows. Her activity for the Church Altar Guild was most memorable, particularly for the flowers she cultivated from her magnificent beautiful gardens on Birchwood Lane, nurtured just for the church.

Her charitable volunteer activities extended to homes for the elderly, Orchard Park and Edgewood Park, where she played the piano and sang private church services for the elderly. She volunteered at the Mt. Blue Hospital coffee shop. She put in endless hours for the Mount Blue Garden Club, caring for flowers in the park and at important buildings, such as the Farmington Court House.

Above all, she will be remembered for her kindness, calmness and graciousness to all, her sweet smile and mischievous twinkling eyes, just ever so slightly giving away a great inner strength.

She is survived by her children, John David Knox of Wolfeboro, N.H., James Knox and his wife, Elaine Knox, of Wilton, and Jane Knox of Brunswick; her grandchildren, Beth Knox, Sarah Knox Olkkola and her husband, Justin, Kimberlie Knox, Robert Knox and Scott Taylor and his wife, Caroline; and great-grandchildren, Tyler and Alexis Knox, and Anya Taylor; two sisters, Charlotte Davison Hamm and Harriet Davison Bruce; and a daughter-in-law, Patty Gillis-Knox of Lawrence, Mass.

She is predeceased by her husband, John Knox; her son, Peter Knox; her daughter-in-law, Gay Knox; and a sister, Kathleen Davison Jackson.

The family would like to thank the Pierce House residents, family, staff and volunteers, who provided a wonderful home for her last four years.

Tributes and condolences may be shared with her family at www.wilesrc.com and [email protected]

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