The Transylvania Times -

Terence John Davies


Last updated 12/23/2019 at 2:48pm

Terry Davies lived a remarkable life. He was a man of unrelenting optimism and discipline. He wore a collared shirt and shaved every single day of his life. He was a hugger and always the first person to give you a compliment. He wasn’t born into a life of privilege, but he lived each and every day as if it were a remarkable gift.

Terence John Davies was born in Islington, London, England Feb. 21, 1934. When he was 5 years old, World War II began. He was a child of the Blitz and was periodically evacuated to the English countryside to escape falling German bombs. His childhood pastime was collecting pieces of bomb shrapnel and little keys from a bombed out key factory in his neighborhood of Islington. One night a bomb destroyed the block that he lived on, miraculously missing his house. Unscathed, he thought himself very lucky and found the war (as an English child) to be exciting.

He immigrated to the United States on the ship, “The Isle De France,” in 1952. He was 18 at the time and the concept of the American dream was something he whole-heartedly believed in. It bolstered him and gave him the sense that he could finally accomplish anything he wanted, if he worked hard enough. The war had virtually destroyed his London neighborhood, and kept him from doing most of what children should do, like playing with friends and finishing school.

Upon arriving in the United States, he enrolled in Newark Preparatory School’s high school equivalency program. He went to school at night and worked full-time during the day. He passed all of the Regent’s examinations in two years and received high marks in math and science.

At the age of 20, he applied and was accepted to Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J. He went to school full-time and worked a full-time job over the summer. School was challenging, and he was very poor, but he worked unrelentingly hard and lived simply, with help from friends.

The summer of his sophomore year at Stevens would change the course of his life forever. At the invitation of some college friends, he drove out to Wildwood, N.J., for a weekend of fun. On that trip he met Penny, a beautiful, vivacious Greek/ American schoolteacher with black hair and striking features. They began dating and he fell in love.

On Halloween, Oct. 31, 1958, he borrowed $10 from Penny’s father and the two ran off and eloped at the Plainfield, N.J., courthouse. She became pregnant with their first child and March 1, 1961, they welcomed Phillip Bryan to the family. He was still in school at the time, but two months later, he graduated from college and was offered a position as an electro-optics engineer for a company called EG&G, in Boston’s Back Bay.

The couple lived in New England over the next few years, welcoming another boy, Adam Terence, and a daughter, Thalia Maria, to the family. The Blizzard of 1966 found him and 5-year-old Phillip trapped on a highway in rural upstate New York. Unable to get to Penny, Adam and baby, Thalia, he and Phillip bush-wacked across a snowy field for almost a mile in whiteout conditions to reach a relative’s nearby home.

He was separated from his wife for three days while she and the other children were trapped in a farmhouse with snow up to the second floor. They decided that winter that they needed to move west, so he took a job at EG&G in Santa Barbara, Calif., a place where it never snows.

The family thrived in Santa Barbara. He had a great deal of fun at his job working on developing special-purpose analytical systems for the national laboratories. He traveled to the Nevada test site often.

Ever disciplined, he spent weekends fixing up their home. He had an incredible knack for remodeling, painting, reroofing, planting his beloved fruit trees, building and fixing. He did basically anything and everything handy. He began a slow and steady pastime of purchasing neglected homes and renovating them himself. Once he finished a house, they moved to another one. They moved 18 times in 61 years.

In 1974, they bought a tiny bookshop in downtown Santa Barbara called The Earthling. She did all the purchasing and helped customers while he built the bookcases, changed the light bulbs and managed the accounting, all while working full-time at EG&G.

He had created quite a wonderful life for his family when the unthinkable happened. That year, while on a camping trip sponsored by UCSB, their middle son, Adam, died in a drowning accident. It devastated the family. His heart was broken.

In 1975, he, Penny and their two remaining children mutually decided that the family should have another child. Despite numerous medical obstacles, they were able to conceive and on Dec. 25, 1975, he attended his first birth, that of his little girl, Dorien Constance.

Baby in tow, they grew their bookstore into a large thriving corporation. The Earthling became a beloved Santa Barbara institution that nurtured and celebrated independent thought. The store attracted people of all kinds, everyone was welcome and everyone loved it. They hosted some of the world’s most influential authors, and showcased small local publishers.

His boundless ambition grew the store to larger and larger locations. They opened another branch in the neighboring central coast community of San Luis Obispo. The bookshop had become a full-time job, so in his early 50s he decided to retire from EG&G and help Penny at The Earthling full-time.

He still worked from dawn until 10 p.m. almost every day of the week. He absolutely loved it, and he loved the community of Santa Barbara. So much so, that in 1984, he decided to run for mayor. He ran against an incumbent and entered the race with only 30 percent name recognition, but he was not discouraged. He fought valiantly. He did not win, but the campaign planted the seed for a lifetime of political activism.

When large chain bookstores began to appear all over America in the mid-90s, Santa Barbara was no different. The Earthling suffered dearly at the arrival of both a Borders and Barnes & Noble within a half mile radius. He gambled on the loyalties of the community, but eventually the store had to close both locations. He once said, “the loss of The Earthling felt like the loss of a child.” They sold their home and moved to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., to recover and figure out what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives. He skied every day. He was happiest on the mountain.

He loved Mammoth, but they only stayed there for a few years. They missed their beautiful Santa Barbara, the ocean and the sunshine. When they returned, he got his old job back after 15 years away. In that time, everything in the lab had gone from analog to digital, but he was able to figure it all out. He always seemed to do that.

They lived in Santa Barbara until 2009, when they decided to retire for good and move closer to their oldest daughter, Thalia Brennan, her husband, Drew, and their beloved grandson, Luke. Brevard was beautiful, welcoming and warm. He made many friends right away. He hiked the mountains and renovated his homes. He adored his grandson and picketed in Asheville.

He was an active member of UUTC (Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County) and found belonging in his involvement with The Being Group, the UUTC Men’s Group, and especially singing in the choir. He loved Brevard, he loved the pace of life and the quality of character that he found in its residents.

He passed away on Dec. 6, 2019, after a yearlong battle with lymphoma. A month before he passed, he said, “I’ve been so lucky, I’ve had a wonderful life, the most wonderful children, and the most wonderful wife.”

He is survived by his wife, Penny Davies; his son, Phillip Davies; daughters, Thalia Brennan and Dorien Davies; and his grandchildren, Leah Davies, Adam Davies, Luke Brennan and Penelope Stevenson.

His memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Transylvania County, Dec. 27, 2019 at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family request a fruit tree be planted in his memory, which he would have loved.


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