Obituary: Wayne Ray Davis – CentralMaine.com
AUGUSTA – Wayne Ray Davis, 79, died peacefully at Glenridge Long Term Care Center in Augusta on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, after living well with Lewy body dementia for five years.
Warm and welcoming, Wayne had a smile that could light up a room. He was willing to try almost anything at least once, and he was always up for an adventure, especially when it came to connecting with others in a meaningful way. He was deeply interested in travel and culture, and in the qualities that make each person unique.
Wayne was born in San Francisco, California on January 29, 1943, to Edna Barstow Davis and Clarence Head Davis. He and his twin sister, Layne Rae Kershner, were known as “super twins”, or twins conceived separately, but carried together by their mother. The twins had two loving and protective older sisters, Letha Rae White and Dixie Loreen Barton Orzell.
Two early influences shaped Wayne’s life. First, he fell in love with sea life as a teenager while visiting the Steinhart Sea Aquarium, and second, his high school English teacher, Mrs. Alice Rydeen, with her stubbornly consistent demands and unwavering encouragement, put him on the path to graduating despite his significant hearing loss.
Wayne’s educational career has progressed to nearly every level of marine science achievement. He earned an associate’s degree in engineering, a bachelor of science in zoology, a master of science in invertebrate biology, a doctorate in marine ecology, and a post-doctorate in fluid mechanics. He worked for 31 years in Environmental Protection Agency laboratories in Rhode Island and South Carolina. His early work was truly unique: determining EPA national standards for dissolved oxygen levels in marine estuaries. A decade later, the EPA was aggressively trying to figure out what was going on in contaminated landfills across the country. His focus then was on toxicology and pathology, which he felt did not sufficiently honor the sea creatures he considered his friends.
After a moment of clarity, Wayne shifted his focus from researching “the effect of pollution on marine life” to “the effect of marine life on pollution.” While studying sediment-feeding polychaete worms in oil-contaminated New Bedford Harbor, he became known to his colleagues as “Dr. Mud,” and, for the first time in an environment of controlled research, he was able to demonstrate the biological remediation of hazardous contaminants. He published more than 30 papers during his career, taught countless undergraduate and graduate courses, became the liaison for the EPA for U.S.-China Research and was the co-inventor of the Particle Entrainment Simulator, a machine that generated and measured erosion forces at sea disposal sites around the world .
Along with his role as a scientist, Wayne was a firefighter and football referee for much of his life. He joined the Arcade Fire Department in Sacramento, California in 1962, and he supported the Jamestown Fire Department in Rhode Island with his specialty underwater rescue skills. He had a passion for guiding and supporting football, and he trained as a referee in the mid-1980s. He refereed high school, college and semi-professional games for 17 years, and retired as a FIFA Class I State Referee and Assessor.
Wayne was blessed with two great loves in his life, with Barbara Baird Davis and, almost 30 years later, with Christine Merchant.
In 1971, Wayne married Barbara in a small ceremony in Tallmadge, Ohio. In 1979, he was the father of three daughters, Shana Barnes and twins Lara Davis and Sara Riley. With them, he shared his great passions for science, the ocean, volleyball and international travel.
Wayne met Christine in 2001 at a Landmark Worldwide course in Boston and she invited him to Maine for a hike. Their first date began a remarkable relationship filled with new possibilities for both of them. They were married a year later in Farmington at a festive community event. It became the family of Christine’s teenage children, Anahita Pajuhesh and Kian Merchant-Borna, and together their five children coalesced into a caring and supportive collective, adding beloved spouses and grandchildren over the years.
After retiring at the age of 60, Wayne needed a new project. He came across a For Sale sign next to a large building on Lake Minnehonk in Mt. Vernon. “Ray’s Garage” was a dilapidated 1923 building that had stood empty for years. With a waterfall feeding a lake on the property, it was exactly what he was looking for, a blank canvas for his creativity and a place on the water where Christine could swim. He didn’t realize it at the time, but this project gave him joy, purpose and a new community.
Over several years, the former garage was transformed into a home and guesthouse, The Lakeside Loft, in 2006. It has become a “bait for family and friends”, a magical place for visitors to the area and an important contribution to the revitalization of the village of Mont Vernon.
Wayne’s Lewy body dementia diagnosis in 2017 created an urgency to document his life experiences to share with those around him. Always a storyteller, he began capturing memories and later published an article – “In Search of Life-defining Moments” – in the May 2019 issue of the Journal of the 2019 Conference for Global Transformation.
Wayne Davis was a marine biologist, educator, firefighter, football referee, business owner, cat lover, mentor and loving husband, father and grandfather. He was happiest when he was experimenting with ways to solve marine pollution problems, renovating a space that others had abandoned, or reflecting on how and why the world worked the way it did. Above all, he was passionate about engaging others in life-changing conversations and positively impacting their future.
Wayne is survived by his wife, Christine and his children Anahita (Te Ruwai) and Kian (Rachel); his first wife, Barbara and their children Shana (Andrew), Lara and Sara (Martin); grandchildren Sam, Jehaan, Emerson, Mani, James, Kaelyn and Lucy; his dear sisters Letha, Dixie and Layne; and many special friends and neighbors. He will be greatly missed by all who had the chance to know him!
A Celebration of Life (with virtual capability) will be held at the Mt. Vernon Community Center on Nov. 5 at 1 p.m., followed by an Open House until 3 p.m. Interment will be in the summer of 2023 at Mountain View Cemetery in Weld. Memories can be shared in his memory book at http://www.wilesrc.com. Cremation care was provided by the Wiles Remembrance Center in Farmington.
Those wishing to make a contribution to Wayne’s memory may consider one of the following organizations:
The Hunger Project,
Lewy Body Dementia Association,
Mt. Vernon Community Partnership Committee,
Great Lake Minnehonk Association,
and the Dr. Shaw Memorial Library.
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