I met former premier Bill Davis on two occasions, once in 1985 and then again 15 years later, in 2000.
In 1985, I was the host of a morning radio show in Brampton, where Bill Davis was elected as MPP in 1959 and quickly rose to become premier in 1971. In 1985, Mr. Davis retired from politics.
Liked by many Ontarians, Bill Davis, while not confrontational, and was eminently likeable. He was easy-going with a keen sense of humour and was always on the right side of history, regardless of politics.
To honour and celebrate his accomplishments, the Conservative riding association held a farewell party at the Brampton Golf Club.
It was a Friday evening, with dinner, dancing and, of course, speeches. The radio station had purchased a ticket for me and, after dinner, I joined a receiving line to say a few words to the premier and to shake his hand. I introduced myself and his response was, “I listen to your show from time to time. Good job.”
A short time later he spoke, without notes, for about half an hour. By the end of it he was crying. Many of us were crying, too.
Skip ahead to the year 2000, the year Robert Welch died. He was Ontario’s former attorney general and deputy premier to Bill Davis.
At that time, I was living in Niagara-on-the-Lake and was campaign manager for Gary Burroughs in his first run for lord mayor.
Together, Gary and I attended the memorial service for Robert Welch, held at Brock University. Bill Davis gave a heartfelt eulogy that was peppered with humour.
Prior to the event there was again, a receiving line with Bill Davis. When it was my turn, I said, “It’s nice to see you again, sir. I last spoke to you …” He interrupted “at my retirement gala at the Brampton Golf Club.”
And that cemented my admiration for William Grenville Davis, whose death at 92 this past Sunday was, for many, the key to so many memories.