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In Memory of William R. Davis – A Founding Partner of RisCassi & Davis

William R. Davis

Fr. LeBlanc, Fr. Sicard, Fr. Quigley, Russell, Susan, the Davis family, the Knapp family, the Gleason family, the St. Timothy's family, the R&D family and the Providence College family:

Because of Bill Davis, we are one family.

And this family has gathered here at St. Timothy's countless times over the years.

In prayer, in celebration and too often in deep sadness. Sadness in losing people that Bill loved and cherished. The kind of sadness that shakes one's faith. But not his.

And as we gather today there is, yet again, a profound sense of sadness. How could there not be? Each one of us has lost this good and decent man.

But I sense something truly different today. Despite our sadness, despite the void in our lives with Bill’s loss, I feel an almost overwhelming sense of gratitude.

For many of us, part of the foundation is missing from our earthly life. The world just feels different.

But again, how can we not have this almost joyful sense of gratitude?

I'm quite sure and certainly hope that most of us had loving and caring parents who would do anything for us. Who loved us unconditionally. Who stood by us.

And I assume most of us had dedicated and devoted teachers and coaches to guide us when we were young.

Many have the good fortune to have a generous and wise mentor to help navigate through adulthood or a chosen career.

But through what must be divine providence, those of us who mourn Bill Davis today-particularly me, my partners, the staff at R&D-have been blessed-truly blessed-to have been granted ALL of those gifts through this one wonderful man.

Just as a parent would, Bill provided for us, encouraged us and most importantly believed in us.

He believed in a bunch of young lawyers when they probably didn't believe in themselves and probably for good reason. But Bill was our biggest cheerleader. He gave us confidence as much as inspiration. He reveled in the successes and milestones these young lawyers more than he celebrated his own dramatic victories and success.

And just like a parent would, he was the first to comfort and console us in our difficult times-whether they were professional or personal. He would invite you into his office. He would show up at your door, he would call you at night or he would send you a handwritten note. He was the first one at your family wake. And he would always ask "what can I do"?

The beautiful thing was that he didn't have to do anything. He was just there for you and you could feel it. You could feel his strength. You could feel his faith. You could feel his unwavering support.

I suspect there's not one person that has worked at R&D in the 65 years of its existence that does not have a unique story of Bill's kindness, generosity, sympathy and genuine concern.

Bill was the rarest of teachers. I'm sure he didn't think of himself that way. It may be cliché but what Bill taught us-all of us-you don't learn in any book.

He taught us how to talk to clients-but more importantly how to listen to them. How to empathize with them. How to advocate for them as people, not just clients.

He taught us how to view a case through the lens of humanity and to use the craft that he so skillfully refined to help people. Just that. To help people.

He taught us that being successful didn't require self-promotion, loud noise, aggressive conduct, incivility, disrespect or underhanded trickery. And God forbid it should not result in prideful arrogance that sometimes afflicts successful men.

He taught us how to prepare for trial and work harder than your opponent. But more importantly he taught us how to respect the system, the institutions of justice that he so revered. And to go about your work as a trial lawyer with dignity.

And humility.

Dignity and humility. Most of us will never know another person in our life who embodies those two words more than Bill Davis.

All of this may be rare enough but what makes our gift and our story so special is that he taught us those things without EVER telling us what to do. That was Nella's job!

He just showed us. Every day. Every case. Every trial. Every client.

And as we have heard this morning, one of Bill's greatest lessonswas how to handle suffering. And as always, he simply taught us by example.

I remember being on trial with him many many years ago only to find out years later that it was at a time of great personal pain for him. Despite his suffering, he maintained his gentle spirit, his patience with others, his kindness and his dignity.

He continued- each day- to pursue a purposeful and holy life which was Bill's way of seeking happiness.

He genuinely felt he was saved by GRACE. And he lived just that way.

You can only imagine how I struggled to put together a brief, certainly imperfect and undoubtedly incomplete remembrance of Bill Davis.

And I wondered how I would end my remarks.

It seemed to me that it should be some reminder to us all of this debt of gratitude we have towards Bill. So I thought I would share words that he found meaningful.

One of the very first lectures I saw him give had lawyers from all over the state eager to ask him questions as he concluded his presentation. And rather than answering all those questions, he took the last few minutes to read a poem. At the time, Bill thought, as many did, that this poem had been found in St. Paul's church in Baltimore hundreds of years ago.

At or about that same time Bill had given me this beat up old three ring notebook with various outlines he had prepared on trial strategy, legal principles etc. It was his old “trial notebook” as he called it.

In going through it, I saw that the very last page of that notebook contained that same poem. And it's been in that notebook for 40 years now as you can see.

In Bill's own words he said "if trial lawyers would strive to adhere to the precepts found in old St. Paul's church, Baltimore, dated 1692, entitled DESIDERATA, they would enjoy genuine success, without tearing themselves apart so as to eventually lose the effectiveness as advocates.

These words do not only apply to lawyers and these words conjure this good and holy man that we celebrate today.

So here's what Bill would say:

“GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

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