To meet the ebullient Davey, one would not think she had grown up a loner, muddy and daydreaming and hunting tadpoles in Ohio streams.
Or that she once had a pet pony named Dollar Bill -- because "if you give us a dollar bill, we'll give you a ride on the pony," she and her older sister Charlotte told friends.
Davey has been a columnist; the mayor of Los Altos Hills; director of Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing; assistant to the executive director of Economic and Social Opportunities; chief executive officer of Advocates for Women, Santa Clara County; Executive Offices housing advisor; president and CEO of Peninsula Volunteers, Inc. and Planned Parenthood Santa Clara County; interim executive director of Palo Alto Red Cross; executive director of City of Palo Alto Centennial and Palo Alto Endowment Fund (now Palo Alto Community Fund); a board member of Hidden Villa; a mother and a happily married wife.
She was also a card-carrying Republican turned liberal Democrat.
"It was in Lois Hogle's living room in 1972. I found out that Assemblyman George Milias, a moderate, was no longer going to be an assemblyman. In the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I became a card-carrying Democrat. Lois had been after me for some time. She already had the registration form at the house," Davey said. "I laughingly say, we all grow up, eventually."
Davey grew up in a three-generation household in Columbus, Ohio, where her father was a surgeon at Ohio State University and a groundbreaking researcher on the role of iodine in disease prevention. Her mother was the first woman in the diplomatic foreign service, she said. At the dinner table, her father discussed the operations he had performed that day and drew pictures of the various organs. Davey and her sister would copy the illustrations, and the next day he followed up with a quiz.
Davey was an avid reader. In college, she majored in English and government. During the Korean War, she married Jack Davey, an engineer and member of the U.S. Air Force. They have three grown children. The couple moved to a suburb of Baltimore, Md., during the war. It was the beginning of a rude awakening, she said.
While looking for a home, she was shown a beautiful housing development. A sign out front noted it was a restricted area. Asked who was restricted, the Realtor had replied "those people," Davey said.
"They meant mostly Jews then; for blacks to move in -- no way," she added.
Thereafter, Davey joined the town's first human-relations commission. Brown vs. the Board of Education had set a precedent for desegregating schools, and Davey used her position on the commission to open doors.
"I saw to it that schools opened up for people of color," she said.
When the couple moved to California in 1961, she continued to support diversity and moderate- to low-income housing.
To help "those people" attain equal housing opportunities, Davey helped create the Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing with Jing Lyman (wife of former Stanford University President Richard Lyman).
As mayor of Los Altos Hills in 1966, her housing-diversity support caused her to be recalled from office in 1973, she said.
She has always seen a connection between providing affordable housing near employment and the environment, she said.
Looking to the future, in the next 20 years Davey hopes to buy more land through Midpeninsula Regional Open Space, perhaps in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. In housing, she wants to develop a system for housing that could include the middle- and low, low-income population. Thinking of that challenge in the current real estate market, Davey put her head in her hands for a moment. The task is Herculean, given that the federal government doesn't provide many subsidies anymore, she said.
A world traveler who has explored 64 countries, Davey has seen everything from penguins in Antarctica to whirling dervishes in Turkey. She has witnessed the displacement of 1.5 million people to make way for the dam on the Yangtse River in China and miles of air pollution covering that same river valley in the name of building a structure for world admiration.
The lessons she brought home only reinforced what she learned locally long ago: the importance of public will to effect positive -- or negative change. Locally, people haven't developed the will to accept diversity in housing, she said, but she is hopeful.
"I learned that humanity and people are basically built with the same good hopes and the same good aspirations. I honestly think we're all built with that goodness in us," she said.
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