Friends, family and community leaders came to honor Joe Davies and his wife, Audie, during a life celebration and memorial Oct. 25 at the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center in Palmdale, Calif., where guests shared humorous stories of a man that was an integral part of making Palmdale the prosperous city it is today.
Mr. Davies died Sept. 7 at the age 93. His wife of nearly 67 years, Audie Davies, died July 23 at age 95.
“Joe did so much for our city that in 2008 we renamed the airpark after him,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, referring to the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at Air Force Plant 42. “He was a great man, probably one of the most honorable men I served with; he had all the character you want your children to have.”
Davies helped shape the city during the population boom in the 1980s playing an important role in the city’s long term-values. “We still carry out his values,” said Ledford, stating that Davies was responsible for championing the Palmdale Playhouse, the Antelope Valley Mall, the naming of Poncitlán Square and was involved in at least 15 other organizations throughout the Antelope Valley.
“Audie brought color to Joe and also helped him loosen up on some of his spending — he was pretty tight with the buck.” Ledford said they complimented each other for a complete match. She was a great cook, entertainer and if she excused herself at a restaurant, you could probably find her making new friends at the piano bar.
Davies met Audie Hall at a dance at the Officers’ Club at Mather Field in Sacramento. They were married Dec. 27, 1949, and had four children: Joe Davies III, Marilyn Tenbrook, Diana Dees and Jane Gold, who attended the celebration. Joe (III), a musician living in Nashville, also shared a beautiful instrumental he wrote titled, “Duct Tape Over my Heart.”
Davies brought his family to Palmdale in June 1962 and served as a commander of Air Force Plant 42 from 1963 to 1967. He was then sent to Vietnam.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1973 the couple returned to Palmdale. “Out of all the places in the world, I’m so glad they chose Palmdale,” said Ledford.
Davies was elected to the City Council in 1988 and re-elected in 1992 and 1996. He opted against running for a fourth term at age 76.
Raised in Polka City, Okla., Mr. Davies used to brag about his home town for having two theaters and wondered why Palmdale didn’t even have one. Instead of copying Lancaster’s theater, Davies suggested that they build a theater to compliment Lancaster’s and to expand the arts in the Antelope Valley and started working on the Palmdale Playhouse.
Serving along side Mr. Davies and 18 other Plant 42 commanders, Lorraine Sadler said that Mr. Davies was so involved in the community, they referred him to him as the quasi Palmdale Mayor. “Joe was a man of integrity, honesty, fairness and good judgement — he was fun but had some quirks.” Sadler said Davies was the third commander she worked for and they remained lifelong friends. Her children affectionately referred to him as Colonel Joe. “One quirk was — he liked to eat paper. If he’d had a bigger appetite, I wouldn’t have needed a shredder,” laughed Sadler.
Living across the street from the Davies, Hernando and Fran Marroquin said that when they moved to the Antelope Valley from Torrance, the Davies’ were their first friends.
“The movers were pulling out, we were so exhausted and Joe knocked on the door with a chicken casserole as a welcome gift,” said Mrs. Marroquin. She reminisced about Joe being a whistler — at 6 a.m., while walking around the neighborhood, waking up the birds and dogs. “He knew everyone in the neighborhood, what they were doing, who was moving in, moving out, who got a new car, who was getting a divorce — he was our town crier.”
He also enjoyed gardening and tending to his 50 plus fruit trees, beautiful flowers and was a car enthusiast.
Davies served in the Air Force as a pilot during World War II and received a Bronze Star. He retired as a lieutenant colonel and then spent 21 years in the aerospace industry with North American Aviation, Rockwell International and Boeing.
“Joe was proud to talk about the Antelope Valley,” said Al Hoffman of Boeing. Working in communications after retiring from the Air Force, Davies also briefed guest on tours of the Space Shuttle program. Hoffman said Davies would tweak his tour depending on the audience, but it didn’t matter if he was talking to a sixth grader, an executive or even President Regan when he visited in 1984, “Joe always gave everyone equal respect.”
Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., said he can’t remember a time in his life when Mr. Davies wasn’t around. “I think he was here from the very beginning. He was one person that made a huge impact on the entire Antelope Valley.”