Joe Woityra was first a student of Denny Davis at Lake Orion, then an assistant coach for his softball program, and then ultimately the successor to Davis when he retired as varsity head coach following the 2009 season.
Through all his interactions with Davis at Lake Orion, Woityra said he was always first and foremost about the kids he mentored.
“He was just a great guy,” Woityra said. “He loved to be around kids. The most important thing for him was being around the kids and having fun with them and teaching them things. He was always quick with a joke. He was always a Dragon through and through. He bled green. That’s where his heart and home was.”
Which is why there are a lot of heavy hearts around the Lake Orion community after Davis died suddenly of a heart attack on Sunday morning.
He was 65 years old.
“The loss of Coach Davis leaves a tremendous void in our community,” Lake Orion athletic director William Reiss said. “His special combination of sports versatility and coaching experience is hard to replace. Throw in the fact that he had an engaging personality that motivated his players and you can begin to understand why he was much loved by his players and fellow coaches. My heart goes out to his wife Terri and his children. He spoke of all of them with great pride. They have my deepest sympathies.”
A 1965 graduate of Lake Orion High School, Davis eventually came back to his alma mater to teach and coach, which he did up until his untimely death.
Davis retired as an economics and history teacher in 2003 from the Lake Orion School District but had been a part-time teacher at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes since then.
The varsity softball coach at Lake Orion High School from 1978-2009, Davis still was coaching volleyball and football at Scripps Middle School even after stepping down as softball coach following an over 30-year career that saw him win 503 games.
As popular of a figure as he was around Lake Orion and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, Davis was also beloved by fellow coaches around the county and state, particularly in the softball community.
“The amazing part about Denny was that his teams always got better,” said Troy head coach Tom Calnen, who coached against Davis for many years and is the president of the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association. “Denny was just always consistent. What a sad loss for everybody in the softball community. He was a guy that would be the first person when you walked on the field to come across the field to give you a hug or share a joke. It’s a sad loss for everybody.”
Funeral services will be held at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Waterford on Thursday. There will be a visitation from 10-11 a.m. and then a mass afterwards to celebrate the life of Davis.
Lake Orion’s softball team, which will have its first games of the season on Wednesday at Rochester Adams, will play its opener on Monday.
Woityra said he wasn’t sure if there would be any special ceremony to honor Davis before that game as of yet, but something could be in the works.
Among the students Davis used to teach at Lake Orion was current Lake Orion football coach and assistant principal Chris Bell.
“He’s a Lake Orion grad and was just able to have such a positive impact on so many people as a coach and teacher,” Bell said. “You can’t talk about Denny Davis and not have a smile on your face. He had such a positive impact. He was a fixture in our community and everyone knew Denny.”
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