Obituary: Yaeko “Jean” Davis

Loving mother, teacher, ambassador of Japanese culture, soul full of life and laughter


Yaeko “Jean” Davis died peacefully in her Ontario home on Monday, June 11 at the age of 93.

She was born April 16, 1925 as the third child of a Kuge Samurai family in Kyoto, Japan. Due to her mother’s long illness she had a wet nurse until she was 3 and-a-half years old. Her mother died when she was just 8, and she was then raised by her father and maternal grandmother.

Her father, a modern man who instilled the desire for learning, sent her to the prestigious Doshisha Women’s High School and College in Japan. She remained in contact with her classmates even after she immigrated to the United States upon her marriage to American Bill Davis in 1952.

“Jean,” her new American name, and her husband had six children: two boys and four girls. She did her best to raise them in the foreign atmosphere, far away from childhood friends and family, who in Japan traditionally help with upbringing.

She instilled in all her children the curiosity to learn new things and the willingness to help others. Always interested in higher education and improving her knowledge, she returned to college in 1976 to get a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of La Verne.

With her degree she eventually became a Home Maker Supervisor for San Bernardino County Welfare Department’s Aged Adult Services. She learned to speak Spanish to help her with her Spanish-speaking clients and workers. At the welfare department she worked tirelessly, her family said, and even after retiring she continued on as a volunteer for many years. She loved her job.

In addition to her work at the county, Ms. Davis taught Japanese language and culture at Ontario’s Chaffey College, and even wrote her own workbook adapted to her personally developed method of teaching. She was always interested in people being able to have a feeling of success in their Japanese language learning endeavors and therefore structured her courses based on the knowledge of her pupils, her family shared. Her classes were quite successful and there were many students who continued courses with her for many years, eventually becoming good friends as she also organized social events with her students.

Wanting to improve her diction and English vocabulary, Ms. Davis took many elocution lessons and also joined the local Toastmasters Club, even becoming president for several years. Often she spent evening hours after teaching classes preparing her speeches for the morning pre-breakfast meetings of her beloved club.

She was an avid traveller. She ventured around the world, visiting Europe many times, returning to Japan to visit family and friends, and to South America to improve her Spanish speaking skills.

To help maintain a healthy body, she joined a sports club so she could swim in the mornings before going to work. She took Qigong lessons with senior citizens in Claremont and was an active member of the Unitarian Society for many years. There she met Roy Elliot, who became her partner for 25 years before he died in 2003.

Her first husband Bill Davis; son, Kenji Davis; and partner, Roy Elliot, preceded her in death.

Yaeko ‘Jean’ Davis, nee Takaya, leaves behind five children: Barbara, William, Mariko, Nancy and Dorine; seventeen grandchildren; and 3 great-grandchildren.

Close friends are asked to contact the family for memorial details; Her laughter and charm will be missed, they shared.


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