"Remembering Captain Fred Davis"
By Kelly Niebel
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2019

His eyes. They said it all. Every. Single. Time. It will, perhaps, be what I remember most about my friend.

Captain Fred Davis was a staple at the Tribune long before I joined its ranks as a reporter in 1994- and long after I left the editor's desk in 2008. As his family recently shared with readers, Fred penned his first Boat Smart column for Woods-N-Water News in 1990. The column served as a vessel to educate others and promote safe boating practices.

It was born from his years of experience teaching power squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary classes, operating his salvage and towing business Thumb Marine, and as captain of his fishing charter, the Miss Port Austin.

By the time I returned from the Midland Daily News to become the Tribune's news editor in 1997, the Boat Smart column was a fixture in the Tribune's summer publication, the Thumb Resorter. It marked the beginning of my professional relationship with Fred and his wife, Pat. More importantly, it opened the door to what would become a cherished friendship.

Through the years, we have broken bread and lifted a glass or two while doing our best to solve the world's problems. Fred was never shy with his opinion. And even if he happened to be debating the tone of his delivery, well, the eyes … they had already ratted him out. You weren't going to have to guess where Fred stood on an issue, which is what led to his inquiry about writing a non-boating column. Fred was a keen observer of the world around him, and he had some things to say about it - how he saw it. And, in 2005 his column "As I See It" was born.

As Fred saw it, the Upper Thumb was a true gem. He was a staunch supporter and promoter of the region and his beloved home base of Port Austin. He sang its praises far and wide to any who would listen - and even louder to those who tried to turn a deaf ear. He touted the vast recreational opportunities, the majestic sunrises and sunsets, and the people. He loved the people and his community, a community he served in numerous ways through the years. He and Pat were always grateful they put down roots in the Upper Thumb and raised their four girls here.

Speaking of his girls, those eyes of his would beam with pride when Fred talked about them and the lives they've carved out for themselves. As for the grandkids and the "greats" that came after them, well, they evoked a look of unending joy, sheer and pure joy.

he was gearing up to launch his latest good-natured zinger, those eyes would flash an undeniable glint of mischief. Of course, there were other times, those times when you'd know in a split second if you'd said something deemed foolish or, heaven forbid, out of line.

And, with one look he could size you up on a dime as he once did with this then kid-editor, deciding she probably wasn't half bad and the sassy streak that caused her parents fits during her teens might just be amusing along the way.

Through the years, my friendship with Fred and Pat grew as we pondered politics, talked Tigers, maneuvered medical maladies, celebrated milestones and mourned the loss of loved ones. But more than anything, we have laughed. About everything. About nothing. About things that can't be shared here. And sometime over the course of these years, though I'm not sure exactly when, I became an honorary Davis. Number 5.

Now, I'm not the first Number 5. There's at least one to come before me, and I suspect if we rounded up the others we could field a baseball team of our own. But whether it's 5 or 59, that doesn't matter. Heck, it could be 159. I got drafted to a championship team.

By Captain Fred's side at the helm of that team has been his bride, Pat. If you were to describe to someone what love looks like, no words would be needed if they could see Fred gaze upon his "first mate."

It was a love affair that spanned decades, a partnership in the truest sense of the word. They were a dynamic duo that welcomed me into their little corner of the world showering me with friendship and love. What a gift.

Thank you, Fred. Fair winds and following seas, my friend.

Kelly L. Niebel is the former editor of the Huron Daily Tribune.

Return to Home Page of Tipsforboating.com


Copyright © Fred Davis. All rights reserved.