Going Strong: At 93, She's the Heart of Florissant
Rosemary Davison has been serving and preserving the city of Florissant since 1958, and she shows no sign of stopping. She's our Greatest Person of the Day.
Florissant is more than just home to Rosemary Davison. It's her life. Davison has helped form the character of Florissant, especially when it comes to its historic buildings.
Since 1958, when she move to Florissant from St. Louis with her husband, Leslie Davison, she has had a hand in writing the city charter; held the office of city clerk for 17 years; established the Old Town Florissant Historic District and founded Historic Florissant. And she shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
“I just sort of figure that I have a decently good mind, a recently good body, and I shouldn’t be sitting in a rocking chair,” Davison said.
A life of service
Born in St. Louis on August 7, 1918, Davison has lived a life that could be described as anything but ordinary.
At the age of 17, she applied with the Department of Justice to be a deputy United States Marshal operating out of St. Louis. She was hired and stayed on the job for eight years, from 1935 until 1943.
“If you have sloppy handwriting, a 17 looks a lot like a 19,” she said on being hired at such a young age.
Following stints as an adjustor for Traveler’s Insurance during World War II and a five-year term as acting vice president of Accredited Hospital and Health, from 1955-1958, she and her husband moved to Florissant during the post-war suburban boom.
She quickly found herself drawn into formulating Florissant’s foundation.
“I decided I wanted to be a part of what was going on,” Davison said on discovering the movement to write a city charter for Florissant. “So, I decided to run for the Board of Freeholders, which actually wrote the charter that Florissant is still under today.”
She spent more than a year working with the other members to draft the charter. In 1963 Florissant officially adopted the charter and elected James Eagan mayor. He asked Davison to be city clerk.
“I told him I could give him two weeks,” she said. “I ended up staying on for 17 years.”
A Florissant pioneer
As Florissant’s first city clerk, Davison wrote her own job description. Her duties and powers were not specifically outlined in the charter, and she used this to her advantage in establishing Old Town Florissant as the first zoned historic district in Missouri.
Ward 4 Councilman Keith English has known Davison since the mid-1990s and has worked with her on preserving several buildings in Old Town Florissant.
“She’s done everything but staple herself to a building to preserve it,” he said.
English said Davison been influential in saving the Meyer’s Building as well as the Missouri Mercantile Building, which now houses Stem’s Florist.
A life still in bloom
She was also instrumental in the formation of the annual Valley of Flowers festival. First celebrated in 1963, it was seen as a way for people who lived in Florissant to identify with the city rather than the county. They hoped it would inspire those who lived in Florissant.
As it comes upon the 50th anniversary of the festival next year, Davison believes that it has grown into so much more.
“It unites those living here with the organizations working on their behalf,” Rosemary said on the evolution of the festival.
Even today, at 93, Davison continues to work for the Florissant community. Her continued work with Historic Florissant, historical societies and so many other groups displays her love and constant commitment to the city.
*Editor Aja Junior contributed to this story.