MADISON—Eleanor Loree Davies left this earthly life early Tuesday morning, Nov. 7, 2017, on her last great adventure, accompanied by the spirit of her son, Evan. She departed peacefully in the firm expectation that there is a life of the spirit that transcends this mortal life and being.
Loree came from a family of adventurers and continued this tradition. She was born April 4, 1934, to Ina (Purinton) and Claude Metzger in Hoisington, Kan. She was granddaughter of a girl who rode her pony from Iowa to Oregon beside her parents’ covered wagon; the daughter of parents who, during the Great Depression, left their home in Kansas to begin a new life farming and living in a log cabin in Price County, Wis. As valedictorian of her class at Westboro High School, Loree earned a scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison. However, the principal counseled her against attending because “there would be many bright students from bigger schools and she might not have much academic success.”
When this spunky and determined girl gave her mother this “news,” her equally determined mother said “I guess you will attend the University of Wisconsin!” So Loree began her UW-Madison adventure, living with families and providing child care in return for room and board, to make financial ends meet. Here she thrived as a university student, chose a career as an occupational therapist and made friends from around the world in the campus Baptist Student Fellowship.
One of these friends, whom she met while they were both peeling potatoes for the eating cooperative, became her husband of 63 years, Wynn Davies. They married on June 19, 1954, the day after Wynn graduated from the University, and also received his commission in the U.S. Army. So Loree put her dream of becoming an occupational therapist on hold, and began her adventure as a new army wife in the racially segregated city of Augusta, Ga., where she gave birth to our first baby, Marianne, in a crowded army base hospital.
Following Wynn’s discharge, they briefly returned to Madison where Loree resumed working toward completing her degree before yet another adventure came along: moving with all their possessions in a U-Haul cross country to Syracuse University, so Wynn could attend graduate school. While living in a converted student housing army barracks, Loree experienced her second adventure in motherhood with the birth of son, Evan.
Loree’s and Wynn’s early wanderings ended in June 1958 when he accepted a position in the Wisconsin Department of Public Welfare and bought their first house for $18,500 in Madison’s Westmorland neighborhood. Spunky Loree went back to work to earn that OT degree and proudly accepted her diploma in 1960. There is a photo of her, smiling, in cap and gown, holding little Marianne and Evan, with her proud mother and father at her side.
Enjoying two more motherhood adventures (the births of daughters, Gwen and Amy), Loree also made time to participate in community organizations and the life of First Baptist Church. Once all her children were in school, Loree refreshed her occupational therapy skills and began her professional career as a practicing therapist at Methodist Hospital (later with Meriter Home Health). During the following decades Loree actively participated in community life, serving on and as president of the Westmorland Community Association Board, Madison Friends of International Students and, following retirement, the Wisconsin Friendship Force.
Loree’s and Wynn’s interest in the broader world sparked both a desire to travel and to extend hospitality and friendship to international students attending the University of Wisconsin. Over the years, they have helped countless students settle in a new land and culture, invited them to stay in their home, and to share an American Thanksgiving, or Christmas festivities. She and Wynn have helped find furniture for their apartments and taken them skiing or canoeing on the Wisconsin River.
In return many of these former students and their parents throughout the world think of Loree and Wynn as their “American Parents.” Loree especially treasured an invitation to the wedding of Norbert, in Stuttgart, Germany, who introduced her to the wedding guests as his “American Mother.”
Many more overseas adventures followed in Loree’s retirement years: leading Friendship Force visits where she and Wynn were guests in the homes of hosts In Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand, and served as both guests and hosts of Friendship Force folks from Cuba, Korea, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Germany, and Japan. Loree and Wynn also helped to lead a multigenerational church mission trip to Costa Rica.
Loree has been adopted by Wynn’s Welsh family, who declare her “more Welsh” than Wynn and better able to pronounce those double LLs in the language. They have adventured in Paris and Great Britain with their four children, explored Europe in a VW camper bus, and piloted a 55-foot canal boat for a week with friends, Coral and Rich, down the LLangollen Canal—stopping for pub meals with their many Welsh family members.
As grandchildren have arrived, Loree and Wynn have taken care to help them see a larger world. Following each high school graduation, they asked each grandchild: “Where in the world would you like to go with us?” Stuart took them to Paris and the Normandy beachheads, Ashley took them snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef and camping in Australia, Dylan took them on a Baltic cruise and midsummer day in Stockholm. Bryn and Carys took them to unforgettable experiences in Venice, Lake Maggiore, the Cinque Terre, and Rome, in Italy.
Loree and Wynn have developed another community of friends in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where they have helped build Habitat for Humanity houses (Loree was one of the few women who could hold her own nailing roof shingles with the “Old Boys”!). For years, they have enjoyed singing in the New Smyrna UCC choir, who looked forward to augmentation of their sound from the northern “Snowbirds.”
Now, as Loree departs on this last great adventure, she leaves a loving family of friends and children and grandchildren who will never forget this adventuresome, spunky, beautiful, loving, and welcoming girl from Wisconsin’s north woods!
Thanking God for the gift of Loree to all of us are her husband of 63 years, Wynn; her daughters, Marianne, Gwen, and Amy, their husbands and her “sons,” Steven Daggett, Jeff Abramson, and Wayne Bischel; and grandchildren, Stuart (Lauren) Bischel, Ashley (Jeff) Rudy, Dylan Abramson (and Tawnee), Bryn Abramson (and Rachel), and Carys Abramson (and Martin). Yet another generation of Loree’s prospective adventurers are making their appearance, Madelynn and Wynn Bischel (children of Stuart and Lauren) and an un-named little adventurer who will be born to Ashley and Jeff Rudy in February. Loree is also survived by her brothers, Kelvin Metzger and William Metzger (Donna); sisters-in-law, Peggy Fair and Carolyn Miller; many dear nieces, nephews and cousins, and by her countless, cherished friends. She was preceded in death by her son, Eva;, her parents, Ina and Claude Metzger; and her brother, Gene Metzger.
A celebration of Loree’s life and gifts to us will be held on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. at FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, 518 N. Franklin Ave, Madison. There will be lunch and storytelling afterwards and then a graveside service (to which all of those who knew and loved her are invited) at FOREST HILL CEMETERY on Speedway Road, Madison, where her earthly body will rest beside son Evan’s. There will also be a Visitation at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, on Madison’s west side, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.
If you wish to make a memorial gift in honor of Loree’s life and service among us, please consider any of the organizations mentioned here, including First Baptist church, where a memorial fund in her name has been established, and it would be most welcome.
Please share your memories at www.CressFuneralService.com.
Cress Funeral and Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road, Madison