October 9, 1942 to October 17, 2018
He sensed his calling
Teacher, youth counselor, and Baptist pastor, Charles Joseph Davis—a deeply religious man who sensed his calling at an early age—succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Wednesday, October 17, at his home in Woodstock, GA, his wife of 51 years, Ellen, at his side. He was 76.
Despite the serious role he assumed in life, Joe—as he preferred to be called—always had a twinkle in his blue eyes and a welcoming grin on his face. He adored people and was most at home ministering to those in need.
Refusing to take himself too seriously, on the other hand, he relished playing practical jokes on his family, friends and students.
A loving home
The first of two children, Joe was born on October 9, 1942, in Charleston, SC, to U.S. Army Lt. Col J.M. Davis and Verna Lee Whaley. Although his father was a strict disciplinarian, Joe and his sister Barbara were raised in a loving home in Meridian, MS, where good values and a strong work ethic prevailed. An Eagle Scout, he enjoyed every genre of music, from gospel hymns to rock ‘n roll.
Graduating with a BA degree from William Carey College, Hattiesburg, MS in 1965, Joe earned a Master of Theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1969. Along with his Master of Theology, the chance to study at Golden Gate Seminary in San Francisco and work there as a summer missionary while in school were among Joe’s most memorable accomplishments.
He also knew how to have fun, adored playing basketball as a youth and devouring fresh-caught seafood, especially if he caught it himself. A lifelong history buff, he grew to love bird watching, photography, reading, and visiting flea markets. He preferred to read history books and anything related to the Bible; and his movie tastes were wide-ranging, from Ben Hur to Shane and Rocky.
One memorable story: As a young man, working part-time at a reptile farm in Waveland, MS, Joe lost a rare white ape. It had somehow escaped. Luckily, it was found a short time later and ended up sitting between Joe and his friend in the front seat of Joe’s car as they returned it back to the zoo.
Pastoring was his passion
A teacher by profession, Joe taught history at Hancock North Central High School (now Hancock High), Kiln, MS, from 1971-1991. But pastoring was his passion, whether for students or members of the many churches he presided over. He served as Associate Pastor & Youth Director at First Baptist Church, Bay St Louis; and Pastor at First Baptist Churches in Waveland; Pass Christian; Lakeshore, and (Gulf Gardens) Gulfport—all in Mississippi.
A mutual friend introduced Joe to the love of his life, Ellen Brown, at graduate school in New Orleans, and they married in 1967, moving to nearby Bay St Louis, MS in 1969. They enjoyed being together most of all. Even though they would see each other at home at night, Joe would send cards to Ellen at work. It was a case of opposites attract, Joe’s laid-back style balancing out Ellen’s serious side.
Two sons came along, Steven in 1968, and Scott in 1971. An extraordinary father, Joe spent a great deal of time with both boys, coaching little league baseball and shuttling them back and forth to various after-school activities. He taught them the importance of being kind and compassionate to all.
Joe and Ellen moved to Woodstock, GA following Hurricane Katrina that devastated Bay St Louis as well as New Orleans. The same day Joe learned that Katrina had demolished his home of nearly 40 years, he traveled all over town, handing out coloring books and crayons to neighborhood children that had also lost everything.
Moving to Woodstock allowed the couple to be just a car ride away from their children. Steve and his father had a fondness for eating gulf seafood, especially fresh crawfish. Scott felt “very fortunate” to devote a good part of the last thirteen years to his dad.
Joe anticipated birthdays and anniversaries with glee, celebrating them with family at a fine restaurant or with a steak dinner at home. He regularly commented that the last birthday or Christmas was the “best ever.”
Civic minded, he tended to disregard party and vote for the candidate he considered best suited to the job.
The giant-brimmed hat
At 6-feet tall, his brown hair turned grey, Joe made a somewhat whimsical first impression with his casual dress (except on Sundays) and giant-brimmed hat that blocked the sun. He loved the hat and didn’t give a hoot what others thought. Sundays, however, found him scrupulously attired in a suit and tie. Although he kept his own time, he was never, ever late for church.
An extrovert personified, Joe was a chronic story-teller (remember the white ape?) and would repeat the same stories over and over, even when knowing the listener had heard them before. But his focus was as a pastor, a listener, who looked you straight in the eye. His favorite saying: “Major on the major, and minor on the minors.”
Joe was a lifelong dog lover. His favorite pet, an Australian Shepard mix named Bailey, was always by his side—up until she preceded him in death.
At the end, Joe was a member of the First Baptist Church of Canton, GA. If he were still here, he would undoubtedly be buried in a book or attending to members of his church congregation. He always made time for pastoring, visiting the sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.
Joe is survived by his wife Ellen Davis of Woodstock, GA; sons, Steven Davis of Suwanee, GA and Scott Davis (wife, Robin) of Atlanta, GA, and sister, Barbara Grider of Meridian, MS.
A memorial service is planned for 11:00am, Monday, October 22 at Woodstock Funeral Home, 8855 Main St, Woodstock, GA 30188, Woodstock, GA, with burial and service to follow on 11:00am, Friday, October 26 at Serenity Memorial Gardens, 8691 Old Pascagoula Road, Theodore, AL.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Salvation Army, American Cancer Society or First Baptist Church, Canton, GA.