Reva Davis: Fun, caring and unstoppable, former teacher drives on

Reva Davis, a retired teacher, has become an integral volunteer with National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Community Center and other organizations. Here, she carries donated items for NCJW’s 2019 Back to School! Store. Photo: Bill Motchan

By Ellie S. Grossman, Special to the Jewish Light

While most people who reach their mid-80s start to slow down, Reva Mae Davis is a proud woman who lives each day to the fullest. 

At age 85, this retired schoolteacher, world traveler and professional volunteer has more hours in her day than most of her younger counterparts. A native St. Louisan, Davis has a passion for helping others, especially children, that goes back to her noteworthy career as a middle-school teacher and continues today as a vibrant volunteer for many organizations.

Since 2007, Davis has played an integral role in the fulfillment of the National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis (NCJW-STL) mission, which is inspired by Jewish values to advance social and economic justice for all women, children and families. She is on the steering committee of the Back to School! Store and chairs the Family Resource Room, where she interacts with parents, guardians and children, sharing valuable information, books and gifts to enrich their lives. 

Davis lends a hand at numerous other NCJW-STL programs as well, including Project Renewal, which empowers underserved women to gain new skills and build confidence to take control of their lives and achieve their goals. She also volunteers at the signature designer event Couturier, the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.

Susan Witte, past president of NCJW-STL, calls Davis “the quintessential volunteer, passionate, creative and dependable.” 

“When she connects with an organization and decides to share her skills, she gives 120 percent,” says Witte, who participated with Davis at the NCJW conference in Washington, D.C., where they defended equal rights for women and minorities.

“It’s obvious that Reva loves what she does. She has fun, and therefore it is fun to work with her. Most importantly, she truly cares about the parents and children she connects with, and they can sense that warmth and caring.”

Davis also is Chair of Ticketing for the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, president of Ladue Educator Association of Retired Personnel, and helps at the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival, the Jewish Community Center’s used book sale and anywhere else she is needed.

“I love all my volunteer jobs, and it’s very rewarding to help people, especially children,” says Davis, who credits her late parents, Sarah and Isadore “Kitty” Katz, and her late younger brother Jerry for teaching her the value of love and giving. “I feel if you belong to an organization, you should be active if you can. 

“I’ve been lucky to have a wonderful life so far and try to cope the best I can when I hit a rock in the road,” says Davis, who lost her husband Paul before his 40th birthday.

Davis was a cheerleader and competitive athlete at Soldan-Blewett High School and then graduated from Harris-Stowe Teacher’s College with a degree in Education K-8th grade. During the summer, she worked at the public schools as a playground instructor and dance supervisor for pageants. 

As a young mom with kids under her wing, she started the fitness program Tiny Tot Gym and taught swim lessons at the J. Davis has been a swimmer all her life and still enjoys keeping in shape with water aerobics.

Throughout her life, Davis has gone above and beyond in everything she does, including during her distinguished career as a teacher for 29 years in the Ladue School District. For example, during her years at the middle school, she coached Road Scholars and taught them the necessary tools to succeed in the Science Olympiad program. Davis often traveled throughout the United States with the winning Ladue team and, under her guidance, some of her students took first place in the nation and earned other top honors. Even to this day, long after retirement, she continues to coach and create tests for regional and state competitions.

Davis was fortunate enough to combine her gift of teaching with her other passion: traveling the world with other geography teachers. She has visited Puerto Rico, France, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and other countries that allowed her to share her hands-on experiences with different cultures in the classroom.

“I was lucky to have traveled to every continent on this earth, except Antarctica,” Davis says. “Plus, I’ve been to all 50 states and many state parks. I’ve had wonderful, interesting trips with a lifetime of memories, including Israel that made me feel proud to be a Jew.

Davis, who stands only 4-feet-8 (shrinking from 4-feet-11) jokes: “Us shorties need to stick together. Now I use a pillow to sit higher in the car, and I have trouble closing the trunk.” 

But that doesn’t stop her from driving around her friends in need. And she has no plans to slow down anytime soon. 

Reva Mae Davis

Age: 85

Family: She has four sons and 10 grandchildren

Home: Olivette

Fun Fact: Davis grew up in Kingshighway West, known as Emerson School neighborhood, a diverse community with many synagogues, kosher butchers and people from various backgrounds, including Polish-Catholic and Greek Orthodox. Her happy childhood included playing stepball, marbles and outdoor games with her friends, and spending fun summers at camp.  As a preteen, her home away from home was the Council House, a community center run by students of Washington University’s School of Social Work who were role models and  taught her many life skills, some of whom went on to become pillars of the Jewish community.