Monday, April 23, 2007

'He was beautiful inside and out'


Neighbors remember local Blue Angels pilot killed in Saturday's crash
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Monday, April 23

PITTSFIELD — When Navy fighter pilot Kevin J. Davis learned he had been accepted into the Blue Angels, the elite Navy flight demonstration squadron, he didn't tell anyone.

"He wanted to surprise his parents," said Doris Andersen, a longtime Pittsfield resident and a close friend of Davis' family. "He kept it a secret."

Instead of telling them in person, Davis, a Pittsfield native, somehow managed to get a radio station in South Carolina — where his parents now live — to broadcast the good news.

The 32-year-old Navy lieutenant commander was killed Saturday during a Blue Angels air show when the F/A-18 Hornet jet he piloted crashed in a residential area of Beaufort, S.C.

His parents, John and Ann Davis, were present at the air show.

Davis attended Pittsfield High School until his junior year in 1991, and he graduated in 1992 from Reading Memorial High School after the family moved east when his father, the former superintendent of Pittsfield schools from 1978 to 1985, took the job of school superintendent in Somerville.

Davis graduated with honors in 1996 from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., according to the Blue Angels' Web site. In September that year, he entered officer candidate school at Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. He flew missions supporting the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and graduated from Navy Flight Weapons School in 2004. Davis was accepted into the Blue Angels in August of 2005.

Tom McGill, a former Taconic High School English teacher, recalled Lt. Cmdr. Davis as a "sweet, sweet boy" with a great smile and a gift for silly pranks.

"When he was a youngster, he would come in our back door and hide behind our sofa," McGill said with a chuckle. "When we came home, he would jump out from behind the sofa and startle us. We had to start locking the doors after that."

McGill said the Davises were neighbors for 16 years, and he worked with John Davis when the latter was principal of Taconic High School from 1973 to 1978. "They became like family," McGill said in a telephone interview yesterday.

McGill also said he assumed a local memorial service for Davis was in the works, but it was too soon to tell when and where it would be held.

Andersen, who knew Davis as a little boy growing up at 99 Commonwealth Ave., recalled a "thoughtful, beautiful and driven" young man who loved to fly and was the perfect embodiment of the heroic Navy pilot. "He was so proud to be a Blue Angel," she said.

Fighting back tears during a telephone conversation yesterday, Andersen recalled a vision of Davis, two or three years ago, walking on a tarmac in his flight suit after a demonstration exercise in Norfolk, Va.

"In my mind's eye, I can see him," she said. "He was just so tall, blue-eyed and handsome. Kevin was beautiful inside and out."

The last time she spoke to him was on Christmas Day, she said.

Davis would regularly send her pictures of the squadron, Andersen said, and she noted that first-year members of the Blue Angels were required to perform one year of public relations for the team before they flew in any of the precision demonstration exercises.

"That's why when I heard of the crash, I thought it couldn't be Kevin," she said. "I thought he hadn't started flying (for the team) yet."

She said her son Kent, who lives in the Sturbridge area, called her at 7:30 yesterday morning, asking her if she had heard the news.

"As he was asking me this, I looked at the (television) and saw Kevin's face on the screen, and I knew," Andersen said.

Although Andersen hasn't spoken directly to Davises since the crash, she said a spokesman for the family has been calling her with regular updates about the grieving family's welfare.

Andersen said she last spoke to Ann Davis on Thursday, as Davis was walking out the door, on her way to her son's air show.

"I told her to give Kevin a hug for me," Andersen recalled. "And she said, 'I'm sure he's giving you a hug right back.' "

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

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