Writer/ Christy Heitger-Ewing
Frank Davis has lived, worked and served in Plainfield for most of his life, having moved to the area when he was 10. He briefly lived in Flint, Michigan when he attended college at General Motors Institute of Technology (now known as Kettering University).
While there, Davis first laid eyes on his future wife, Sandra, at a Sunday evening church meal.
“I and three other guys from the GM Institute went to the church service where the gals had prepared a supper,” recalls Davis, who was 21 at the time. Though he spotted Sandra from across the room, he never got up the nerve to approach her. The following week, however, there was a dance so he decided to track her down and ask her out.
“I must have made a dozen phone calls until finally I got her number,” Davis says. “When she answered, I stammered. But I got the date.”
Davis claims he fell in love on the dance floor, and a year and a half later they were married.
After earning his engineering degree, Davis worked for a decade at General Motors Corporation (Allison Transmission Division), then was with Hobert Brothers and Acetylene Products before transitioning to Inweld Corporation, a company that packages oxygen and other gasses. He worked at Inweld for 23 years up until retirement.
Prior to Inweld, he worked with a welding equipment manufacturer in sales, which meant a lot of travel.
“When baby number four came along, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get off the road or else my wife will go crazy,’” Davis says.
One constant in Davis’ life has been the Kiwanis Club, which he’s been a part of for 43 years.
“I’ve always been active in local service groups — churches, schools, civic-type things,” Davis says. “I like to be involved and be an organizer.”
Seeing civic projects through to fruition is a true passion of his. That’s a big reason he chose to take on the responsibility of becoming the Distinguished Lt. Governor in 2001. Active in the Kiwanis Club of Plainfield, the Kiwanis International Indiana District is divided up into a number of divisions.
“Ours, called the Circle City division, has seven clubs,” says Davis, noting that a member from each is elected a Lt. Governor, and they form the cabinet for the president of the Indiana division.
“The Lt. Governor is one of those jobs that nobody wants,” says Davis with a chuckle.
Though he proudly accepted the position and served from 2001-2002. Those who start a new club qualify to become a Distinguished Lt. Governor. Since he formed the Danville Kiwanis Club, he received the honored title.
“It’s a perpetual project as you’re constantly seeking new members,” says Davis, who attended all of the state functions and worked with each individual club in an effort to expand membership. “I liken it to sales in that if you’re not regularly getting new customers, you’re not going to survive.”
Within the Circle City division, Davis held quarterly meetings in the area and attended all club meetings to boost morale, suggest projects and assist the local president. With this added responsibility, he had to learn how to properly manage his time. Because he had the position prior to retirement, Davis was juggling career and home responsibilities along with volunteer work.
“Now they utilize high school students, who have formed the Key Club, a student-led high school organization that is service-oriented like Kiwanis Club,” Davis says.
“They’ve been great the last several years filling in for us at various events.”
Davis maintains that it’s important for the club to always be involved in community projects.
“If you’re not actively doing something, nobody will want to join you,” says Davis, noting that membership numbers inevitably ebb and flow. Though two years ago, they only had five members, current membership hovers around 40.
The Indiana District of Kiwanis has historically donated the majority of their money to the Riley Foundation. According to the Riley Children’s Foundation, Indiana District Kiwanians began fundraising for the hospital in 1919. In 1926, Indiana District Kiwanis raised $150,000 for the Kiwanis K-Wing to be erected. The Kiwanis Diagnostic & Outpatient Center opened in 1958. In 1991, Indiana Kiwanis clubs made a $1M pledge and another $1M pledge for diabetes research in 2009. In 2013, Kiwanis pledged another $450,000 to support the Child Life program.
Davis fondly recalls many of the fundraising endeavors he participated in on behalf of Kiwanis. For instance, for several years they made and sold “elephant ears” at various community events, often setting up their trailer at Hummel Park during the Fourth of July celebration.
“We bought all the cooking equipment and the dough and deep fried it,” Davis says. They sold lots of sugary sweetness, though he admits it was tiring and extremely labor intensive.
“Every year we’d gross more than $5,000 and give it all to the Kiwanis Foundation,” he says.
During the visits with Santa, he loves to chat with people who tell him that their parents brought them when they were tots and now they bring their own children or grandchildren.
“It’s a 35-year tradition,” Davis says. “Three generations have enjoyed it.”
After 54 years of marriage, four children, and six grandchildren, Davis’ wife passed away in 2009 following a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s. Davis also now has one great-grandson who is six months old. He briefly remarried, but his second wife developed cancer six months later and passed away.
Before moving to Cumberland Trace in June 2015, Davis used to garden a lot at his home on the northwest side of Plainfield. He also played golf and traveled. Since moving into the assisted living facility, he’s embraced the joy of not having to deal with all the hassles that come with home ownership.
“At 86 years old, I’m not wanting the responsibility and expenses of a home,” Davis says. “Plus, I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
Davis is thrilled to remain in a community where he grew up and served for most of his life. Years ago he acted as Vice President of Plainfield Plus and in December was in charge of decorating the giant tree that stood in front of Central Elementary School on US 40. The tree held a special significance for Davis, who grew up across from US 40 from the time he was in fourth grade until he graduated.
“The tree was just six feet when I lived there, and now it’s 80-feet tall,” he says.
It stands as solid proof that time marches on and everything grows up.