A Beloved Friend: Rev. Harvey Paul Davis
At 96, Reverend Harvey Paul Davis passed away after a lifetime of supporting people in need, and KenCrest honors his memory for it.
By Sydney Kerelo
Looking back on her childhood as one of four growing up in Philadelphia, Paula Davis only recalls moments of happiness. Many of the recollections of Saturday afternoons spent in the kitchen as her father, Reverend Harvey Davis, cooked his world-famous (in their opinion) spaghetti; or Sundays watching her father deliver empowering sermons to the clergy at their small church in Germantown, Philadelphia.
And all those good memories were because of her parents, their dedication to seeing the good in every situation, and always advocating for those in need. Growing up, Paula watched her father thrive as he was appointed pastor in their church, worked for the Naval Depot (now the Philadelphia Shipyard), and became the Depot’s first Equal Employment Opportunity officer. Later, he was promoted to the Regional Director of five mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia.
From a young age Rev. Harvey Davis was passionate and dedicated to helping as many people as possible. Born in 1926 as the sixth child of eight, Harvey understood what it meant to struggle. Coming from West Philadelphia with no money and a slew of prejudices shoved in his path, he fought constantly to see the good in everything.
Reverend Paul Harevy // Photos courtesy of Paula Davis
“He was taught to think and to be educated,” says his daughter Paula. “He made the most out of the circumstances and learned to pivot. He learned that it has to be a choice, it has to be intentional because things can wear you out, things can beat you down, but you have to be grateful in life.”
Growing up in the Depression era, Harvey experienced bias, discrimination, racism, and more, but he never let it affect him. He always sought to help others who didn’t have much, and he instilled that desire in his children. He reminded them to always do well with whatever path they took, no matter what level of success that meant; much of which was taught to him by his mother, who emphasized the importance of being kind to one another. Everyone deserves respect and consideration, and for Rev. Harvey— that started within his family.
His mother used to tell him, “You are no better than anyone else, but no one else is better than you.” The first rule in his home was, to be honest and sincere in everything, which was essential when dealing with anyone.
At just 15 years old, Rev. Harvey started working and, shortly after, registered for the 1944 draft. After entering military life, he was stationed first in Germany and then in Le Harve, France, where he fell in love. In the 1980s, Harvey and his late wife, Sally, bought a second home in France, where they hosted numerous friends and traveled to Vienna, Prague, Thailand, Egypt, and South Africa. He lived part-time in France for nearly 30 years before he couldn’t travel anymore.
Rev. Harvey Paul Davis passed at 96 after a lifetime of helping others. For years, Harvey worked at KenCrest as a volunteer in the Development office working with churches. During that position, Harvey noticed families KenCrest supported who lacked funds and gifts during the holiday season. So, he took action, and created the Family Fund to raise money and gifts for struggling families.
Photos courtesy of Paula Davis
“He went around to his friends and started getting volunteers and money from donations,” says KenCrest board member Carol Hammarberg. “He would talk about KenCrest at his doctor’s office, his church, anywhere to get donations towards this Fund.”
Harvey did this year after year, gathering a list of families in need and then asking those in the community to either adopt a family and purchase gifts for them, or to donate money towards the cause. And year after year, the Family Fund grew to include as many as 200 families as of this year.
“We were good friends back then,” says Hammarberg. “He would come sit in my office and talk and talk and talk. He was insanely sociable, and every person he met he made feel important. His lack of judging people and his acceptance of everyone, no matter who they were, amazed me. For having lived the life he did, and encountered all the obstacles he did, and to come out with such a pleasant demeanor was incredible.”
Rev. Harvey Paul Davis was an incredible man who would drop any and everything to help someone in need. He was caring, considerate, and one of the best people who always made the most out of any circumstance.
“One thing that has stuck with me is something his daughter Paula highlighted for me that I used in my eulogy sermon for his memorial service, which was that he was all about service, equality, and family,” says Reverend Dan Smith from the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Arbor. “Those will be it if you have three words to describe him.”