By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
The inspiring legacy of a former longtime Yukon educator who died recently after receiving a double-organ transplant last year is being shared by those who knew her best.
Yukon’s Kathy Davis, who spent 40 years with Yukon Public Schools before retiring in 2017, passed away last week more than a year after a life-saving transplant in Oklahoma City.
She was 68.
Davis received a new liver and kidney on April 30, 2019 from an anonymous donor during a 10-hour transplant surgery performed at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center.
Davis, who worked 32 years as a classroom teacher and eight years at YPS curriculum director, was Yukon’s district “Teacher of the Year” in 1998.
“People like Kathy should be celebrated at every opportunity,” retired YPS teacher Vickie Kastl said. “Kathy was a go-getter, over-achiever and a determined force. She was all these and more.”
Kastl called Davis a friend and important part of her life as they connected on many levels.
“She understood my quirky thoughts, and she had a wisdom I needed,” Kastl shared. “I was blessed to be her pod mate and thank her for the gift of friendship. I will hold her close to my heart.
“I am sure Kathy is now bouncing on the wings of euphoria.”
Retired Yukon teacher Neta Duke’s friendship with Davis began when Davis came to teach at Parkland Elementary.
“Kathy was a fantastic teacher and loved each of her students and taught them from the minute she got to school to the end of the day,” Duke shared. “She had both of my boys in her class and loved them, as much as we did.”
When Davis became ill in 2019 and was told she needed a liver and kidney transplant, Duke said it was an “honor” to be with her every step of the way during the process. They forged an even closer bond.
“The many days she was in the hospital, never did she say an unkind word to the doctors or nurses as she walked this journey,” Duke said. “She fought every day through the journey with an attitude that she would be fine.
“That journey was from October through July, then she finally was able to come home with a successful transplant to her beloved doggies.”
WHAT AN INSPIRATION
Davis’ “indomitable spirit, can-do attitude, unfailing faith, and commitment to live life to the fullest” were an inspiration to all who know her, said former teaching colleague Kathleen Smith.
“Her legacy will live on in our hearts and in our lives,” said Smith, president of the Beta Beta chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma.
Members of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international organization of current and retired teachers, provided much encouragement for Davis during the pre- and post-transplant process.
Davis loved belonging to Delta Kappa Gamma and held local, state and national offices.
“She was admired and a great role model for other officers,” Duke said.
The incoming Delta Kappa Gamma International president, Becky Sadowski, shared these thoughts about Davis:
“We will miss her fun-loving spirit and strong ‘can-do’ attitude.”
Michelle Wallace, a retired YPS teacher and Beta Beta sister, said Davis was a lifelong learner who inspired others to be the same.
“Kathy was called to serve and do so unconditionally,” Wallace related, describing Davis’ amazing smile. “She was a teacher of many and a friend to all.”
Sheila Urton, Davis’ curriculum co-worker and another Beta Beta sister, said Davis was “all in” in everything she did – whether loving her family, dealing with health challenges or advocating for educators and students.
“Regardless of what she was doing, she set the bar in doing it with excellence while also having fun.”
Davis thanked her fellow Beta Beta members for their support during the local Delta Kappa Gamma chapter’s October 2019 meeting.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all of you; we truly are family,” she said. “Your patience and sacrifice, your cards, your prayers – saying ‘thank you’ just doesn’t seem like enough.”
The legacy Davis left in Yukon classrooms was summarized in words shared this week by her former students.
Jason Guy – who was in Davis’ sixth grade class at Parkland Elementary in 1985-86 – described her as his favorite teacher who was loved by so many.
“You influenced, encouraged and touched so many lives, students and teachers alike!” Guy wrote in a Facebook post. “I have no doubt that you are dancing on streets of gold and seeing all those that have gone on before!”
A NEED FOR ORGAN DONORS
After working a couple years at the Enid YMCA, Davis started her education career in 1978 as a substitute teacher in Oklahoma City Public Schools. The next year, she was hired as a physical education teacher at Yukon’s Central Elementary School.
In 1981, she had major surgery to remove cancer after melanoma metastasized under her left arm and chemotherapy impacted her immune system.
In 1983, Davis moved to Parkland Elementary and taught fifth and sixth grade language arts through 1995. She was at Independence Middle School from 1996 to 2010, teaching language arts, social studies and American history.
Davis was diagnosed in 1997 with primary biliary cirrhosis, a chronic disease in which the bile ducts of her liver are slowly destroyed.
Davis served as the YPS curriculum director from 2010 until her retirement.
In a March 2019 interview when Davis was awaiting a transplant match, she wanted to heighten awareness about the need for organ donors.
“Not just for me, but for everybody,” she said. “Through my network, I’m asking people to talk to their friends and family, because you need to talk now. When someone passes away, everyone is more emotional and they’re not thinking about giving away organs. I want people to have those conversations now with friends and family.
“We all know we’re going to die. It’s inevitable. When it does happen, consider giving those organs and, if possible, donating in my name.”
Yukon teacher Lisa Corn called Davis a great mentor to her co-workers and friend to everyone. She had a large impact on others, including thousands of Yukon students.
Davis’ outlook on teaching and in life were enhanced by her compassion, work ethic and willingness to always help others, Corn added.
“I was blessed to start my teaching career off with Kathy as my mentor,” she said. “She instilled the ideal that you can have high expectations of your students, while also demonstrating care and compassion for them.”
Retired YPS teacher Theresa Parham saw Davis as the sister she never had. Parham nominated her for membership in Delta Kappa Gamma.
“Then I shared her with educators from around the world, but we still had time to care for each other’s ‘fur babies’,” Parham shared. “We will miss her so much.”