MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – The kids called him, respectfully and affectionately, “Officer Davis” or "Officer D." And Mike Davis, a school resource officer in the Middletown City Schools for 26 years, called each one of them by name.
It didn’t matter if he met them 10 minutes ago or 10 years ago.
Maj. Rodney Muterspaw, who worked with Davis in the DARE program in the mid-1990s, said Davis’ ability to remember names — even years after students graduated from the program — “struck a chord with the kids,” the Journal-News reported.
Davis turned a school bus tragedy – he called it the “worst day” of his career when a second-grader was run over and killed in 1989 – into a Safety Town program that taught school bus safety to every new kindergartner every year.
And he made that program fun, with lessons that kids never forgot.
Some 10 years later, Justin Anderson, now a Middletown High School student, still remembered this verse:
"Seat on seat, back on back, feet on floor, hands in lap,” Anderson recalled Thursday.
Anderson had just heard the bad news: Davis died Wednesday at the age of 65.
Davis, who served 44 years on the Middletown force, fought heart disease and prostate cancer after retiring in January 2011, according to the Journal-News.
“There are not many great people still around and he was one of them, for sure," Anderson said.
Middletown police chief David VanArsdale said Davis had been a narcotics detective in the 1970s, making drug busts on the city streets.
Davis was tough, slick and sharp, but with a soft side – and with good looks – like David Soul’s character, Hutch, in the 70s TV crime show, “Starsky and Hutch.”
When Harvey Poff, a longtime school resource officer, left the Middletown police department, he recommended Davis, the Journal-News reported. Poff trained Davis for about one week and Davis “gravitated right to it.”
“He was so good with young people,” Poff said.
Muterspaw called Davis’ death “a tremendous loss” for the city because he went above and beyond the work of a police officer. He visited troubled kids at home, and counseled them whenever it was needed, Muterspaw said.
“He was just so passionate,” Muterspaw said.
At Middletown High School, students who met Davis a decade ago remembered him fondly Thursday.
"Every kid has a story about him,” said teacher Juley Lawson. “You can ask anyone one in this whole school."
Matt Muterspaw’s story was not unusual. "I was just going into kindergarten" when he met Davis, Muterspaw said.
They met again years later.
"He said, ‘How is seventh grade going?’ I was like, ‘It's going good.’
“I was like, ‘Wow.’ "
One of Davis’ close friends, Ann Mort, said Davis became “the best friend to our kids all over town.” He knew the kids, their parents and pets, she said. That made him “a very good tool” for the police department, she said.
Greg Schwarber, Middletown’s police chief when Davis retired, said Davis single-handedly influenced the lives of thousands of children.
He called Davis “the face and the name” of the police department.
“He left a legacy that few of us can lay claim to,” Schwarber said. “He left his mark on this community.
"The Middletown community has lost an icon.”
Davis is survived by his wife, Beverly, children, Tracy (Ron Cantrell) Wells, Danny Zimmerman, Mark (Jessica) Zimmerman, and Jason Castleman; 10 grandchildren, and many family members and special friends.
Visitation will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday at Towne Boulevard First Church of God. The funeral is at 2 p.m. Saturday, with burial to follow at Woodside Cemetery. The Middletown Police Honor Guard will participate.
Baker-Stevens-Parramore Funeral Home is handling the arrangement.
See the Journal-News story and read more remembrances of Officer Davis at http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/police-officers-death-means-city-has-lost-an-icon/nbrcH/
See Davis’ obituary at http://www.bakerstevensparramore.com/obituaries/Paul-Michael-Davis2142226742/#!/Obituary