Dan and Karen Davis
Life’s journey often takes many twists and turns, leading to people, places, and events never imagined. It is this surprising quality of life that always resonates with Dan and Karen Davis when they say, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Dan and Karen’s early lives were two very different paths, not expected to cross. But through many twists, turns, valleys, and bumps, their paths intersected and became one.
On June 1, 1944, Dan was born in Salem, Indiana to Robert and Wanda (Zink) Davis. While Robert served in WWII, Dan and his mother lived in Salem. In 1949, Robert moved his young family to a fifteen acre farm, three miles from town. Not long after, Dan’s two brothers Tony and Dave were born, followed by his sister Marla.
Eventually, the family farmed one hundred twenty acres while raising cows, pigs, and chickens. All four children helped do the chores needed to farm successfully, learning the value of hard work. In addition to farming, Robert worked at the Smith Cabinet Factory. For much of Dan’s childhood, Wanda stayed home with her children. As Dan and his siblings grew older, however, she started working at BF Goodrich.
It was not until later in life that Dan better understood why his parents worked so hard. When they moved to the country, Dan and his siblings should have attended a small, one-room schoolhouse nearby. However, Robert and Wanda wanted the children to attend school in Salem. Dan said, “My parents paid for us to go to Salem because they thought we would get a better education. It was their gift to us, though I did not realize it at the time.”
Dan was involved in many activities in high school. He enjoyed running track and playing basketball. Also, Dan played clarinet in the band, sang in choir, and was chosen to be in the special Baker’s Dozen chorus. Dan usually rode his bike to school and back home, carrying what he needed for the school day. High school was a good time for Dan; he very much enjoyed it.
Upon graduating from Salem High School, Dan attended Indiana University in Bloomington. College was not high school for Dan, and he soon realized academic success would take more hard work than he had given in high school. After his freshman year, Dan returned home, got a job, and attended classes at IU Southeast Jeffersonville. In 1969, after seven years, Dan received a BS in Marketing from the IU Kelly School of Business.
During this time, Dan married and started a family. Upon college graduation, he was hired for what seemed like a “dream job.” The job required constant travel, however, and Dan soon realized that the stress of travel was not conducive to raising a family. He wanted to be home to spend more time with his three children: Ondra, Shanda, and Daniel. Dan chose to leave the “dream job”, and started on a new path, complete with twists, turn, and bumps.
In Scottsburg, Indiana on April 16th, 1955, Karen was born to Dean and Carol (Berna) Stead. The small family lived on the edge of Scottsburg. Dean was a self-employed upholster. His business was located next to the family’s home. Carol was a secretary for the United States Soil Conservation Service.
For a time, Karen was an only child. However, she was friends with many neighborhood children and enjoyed her childhood. She spent much time with her maternal grandparents. Karen says, “My grandmother was a big influence on my life.” Her grandmother was a school teacher at Finley Elementary School in Leota, Indiana. Karen would often spend summers with her grandmother while her parents worked.
Eleven years later, Karen’s younger sister, Lynda, joined the family. About the same time, Dean and Carol inherited a farm, about eight miles out of Scottsburg. After remodeling the farmhouse, the family moved into it. Having spent eleven years living near or in Scottsburg, the move to the country was a challenge for Karen. She remarked, “I adjusted, but farm life was not for me!”
Growing up Karen was active in the Scottsburg First Christian Church youth group. She played the piano, was active in Girl Scouts, 4-H, and other school activities.
In 1973, upon graduation from Scottsburg High School, Karen attended Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. In 1977, she graduated with a BS in Speech and Hearing Therapy, and completed a MS in Education from IU/IUS in 1981. Life filled in with a job, marriage, and the birth of two sons: Scott and Drew. Karen too, experienced valleys, bumps, and twists. In 1996, Karen was raising Scott and Drew while working for South Central Special Coop at Salem Community Schools. Her journey was about to get interesting!
In 1996, Ondra, Shanda, and Daniel were grown, and Dan worked in hardwood lumber sales. The new journey Dan was traveling lead to an unexpected encounter. Ondra, then a French teacher at Scottsburg High School, decided to travel overseas with her students in order for them to experience Europe. She and a teacher from another local school planned a trip to Paris and London. It was here that Dan and Karen met: Dan was chaperoning Ondra’s students, and Karen was chaperoning with the other group. Dan remarked that “there was really nothing at that time, I just met someone whom I thought seemed like a nice person.” Karen said, “There was certainly no time for romance chaperoning teenagers in Europe.”
However, back home in Indiana, Dan and Karen started dating. In June of 1998, the couple once again traveled to Paris as chaperones for the same two schools. This time, the groups were traveling with different tour companies, but were in Paris on the same days. Dan and Karen agreed to meet by the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum. Karen joined Dan and Ondra’s group for the rest of that day. Following a lovely romantic French dinner, including escargot, the company of twenty-five Scottsburg High School teens plus their chaperones, Dan and Karen walked to Notre Dame Cathedral. In a surprise move, Dan dropped to one knee and proposed to Karen. She said, “Yes!” He then gave her the ring he had carried with him from the USA.
Two months later, On August 8th, 1998, Dan and Karen married at the Gladden House Bed and Breakfast. Their five children, close friends and family joined in the celebration. The family has blended from “yours” and “mine” into “ours”. Six grandchildren have joined the group, and there is much laughter when the whole family is together. Dan often says to Karen, “Enjoy the journey.” They agree it is a great journey. Both Dan and Karen have a strong faith in God, believing strongly that doing good to others will come back to you. They say, “He is with us through all the bad, all the good, all the time.” Dan and Karen are blessed with friends and family. Time is spent playing cards, gardening, reading, golfing, traveling, and just enjoying time with friends, family, and each other.
Dan and Karen feel their lives are blessed and they want to share those blessings with other people in Washington County. Washington County is a unique community, as people are always ready to help neighbors. But since “you don’t know what you don’t know” it is in the best interest of our county to plan for the future. By establishing a Touch Tomorrow Fund with the Washington County Community Foundation, Dan and Karen Davis have planted a seed. Later, this fund will provide needed gifts for the citizens of Washington County. May you enjoy the journey for good, forever, for Washington County.