How many people you know have served the same employer for 40 years? The members of Plymouth Haven Baptist Church in Mount Vernon recently honored one such person, church custodian Harry Davis.
Plymouth Haven's Wednesday dinner in April was dedicated to celebrating Harry Davis's faithful service to the church and its members, which began on April 12, 1964.
Les Gilbert, emcee for the evening's festivities, began by welcoming more than 130 church members and friends who had gathered to honor Davis, including his family and friends from his home church, Zion Baptist, of 714 Lee Street, in Alexandria.
Noting that Davis's 60th birthday is on April 19, Gilbert led the gathering in singing "Happy Birthday" to Davis. Joined by his "best friend," wife Dee, Davis cut the ceremonial cake. While enjoying their cake, the gathering watched an audiovisual presentation that included pictures of Davis working around the church, as well as of the ministers who have served Plymouth Haven during Davis's tenure, church members at a variety of Plymouth Haven events throughout the years, and, a familiar sight to many in the area around Plymouth Haven, Harry Davis washing his beloved car, the "Deuce and a Quarter," a 1970 Buick, on a Saturday morning in the church parking lot.
Next, the floor was opened for sharing Harry stories and testimonials. Among the many speakers were Rachel Hoggatt, former church secretary, who remembered how Davis would bring her "every penny and nickel" he found in the pews following Sunday worship. She also recalled advising a very young Harry Davis to save his money in order to pay cash for the new car he hoped to buy. She told the gathering that she never expected Davis would keep his car for so long, then told Davis that he had her "permission to buy a new car."
Davis's nephew, Michael Ford, praised Davis for setting a wonderful example for him as his "father figure," an example he tries to emulate in raising his own daughters. With others nodding assent, several members rose to thank Davis for his vigilance in caring for Plymouth Haven and its members; Virginia Stirewalt said that she always feels safe "knowing Harry is in the building."
Rev. Tom Johnson, pastor of Plymouth Haven, read a letter from former pastor, Rev. Charles Nunn, in which Rev. Nunn stated that "It has certainly proven to be one of the best decisions I ever made as Pastor when I recommended to the Properties Committee and to the church that Harry [Davis] be employed as custodian in the spring of 1964."
Deacon Odell Young from Zion Baptist thanked Plymouth Haven for honoring Davis and noted Davis's faithful adherence to the Biblical injunction to deacons in his service as Zion Baptist's chairman of the deacon board for more than 20 years. Herb Yarus, long-time Properties Committee member at Plymouth Haven, told the group that it would be almost impossible to replace Davis and that the Committee was finding it challenging even to find a part-time worker to help him. Two of Davis's young grandsons then took the mike to declare, "We love you, Pop Pop."
Cliff Perrin, chairman of the Plymouth Haven Properties Committee, presented Davis with a check and a plaque recognizing his long service, and then invited Davis to share his own thoughts.
Davis recalled being introduced to Plymouth Haven in 1964 by former deacon, Mike Kilpatrick, who introduced him to Rev. Charles Nunn. He reminisced about charter member, Billy Harrell, who taught Davis about the church and its custodial needs, about charter members Eddie and Lillian Knupfer, and other members past and present, about each of the pastors who have served Plymouth Haven during his tenure and about some of the many staff members he has worked with.
Davis also recounted how the youth group some years ago enjoyed socializing at the church, especially with pillow fights that would leave a "mess all over." Davis did not repeat a line that has become famous at Plymouth Haven, "Preachers! I've seen ëem come and I've seen 'em go, but I'm still here."