ENGLEWOOD, Ohio – Bill Davenport wore a badge for 38 years, earning the reputation in the city of Englewood as the police sergeant “everybody knew, and everybody liked.” Bill lost a 10-year battle with blood cancer in 2011, and for his son Brett and the whole Davenport family, there was no better way to honor him on his birthday, July 31, than with a Community Blood Center (CBC) blood drive in his name.
Brett recalls the diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. Many transfusions followed, plus trips to the Cleveland Clinic for bone marrow procedures that left his bones dangerously brittle. “It helped extend his life,” says Brett, who served as chairman of the blood drive. “If we can extend someone else’s life, that’s all we want.”
The family focused on July 31 for the inaugural Bill Davenport Memorial Blood drive at the Englewood Government Center as an uplifting way to celebrate Bill’s birthday, and to help boost CBC donations during the sluggish summer months.
“When he passed away in January it was a sad time,” said Joann Davenport about planning the drive in her husband’s memory. “We thought we would do it on his birthday, it’s a good time of year and a special way to celebrate the day.” It was a success on all counts. The drive reached 131 percent of its recruitment goal with 59 registrations, and 15 were first-time donors.
One of the first-time donors was Karen Moss, mother of Brett’s wife Molly, who described her son-in-law as “a very purpose driven young man.” The just-retired second grade teacher put aside the Kindle she had brought to read during her donation to talk about why she was here. “I knew Bill,” she said. “He was a wonderful man. I felt like this was something good that I could do.”
“He touched a lot of lives,” Brett said about his father and his police work, recalling the simple things, like giving someone a second chance instead of a ticket. “I know he was well known and well liked. He loved Englewood and he saw the city grow a tremendous amount.”
He remembers his father’s dedication to the job, as in the times he would arrive home just to grab an hour’s rest before going back to work. He said Bill’s favorite saying was, “I just want to keep the big guy happy!” referring to City Manager Eric Smith, and he trained the young Mark Brownfield who is now Englewood’s police chief.
Ironically, when Brett was in high school he asked his dad if he should become a policeman and Bill’s surprise response was, “Absolutely not!” Bill appreciated the goal of public service, but didn’t think Brett would find police paperwork very rewarding. He encouraged him instead to become a firefighter. Brett started with an Explorer program in high school, did the course work in college and landed a job with the Xenia Fire Department where he has served as a firefighter and paramedic for five years.
Brett’s recruiting effort for the blood drive included networking with other towns, and with his colleagues at XFD. Several will be wearing the CBC “iFocused, iGave, I Helped Save a Life” t-shirt they received at the drive, including rookie firefighter and first-time donor Nate Codd.
“I just started there, and he’s one of the guys who have taught me a lot,” Nate said of Brett and his influence. “I wanted to come here and support him and help out.”
Brett, in his purpose-driven way, wants to build a long-running blood drive the way his father built a legacy with his city and its people. One of Brett’s duties, before ending the day with his own blood donation, was signing up donors for the second annual Bill Davenport Memorial Blood Drive next year. “The plan is to only make it bigger,” said Brett. “We’re discussing what to do. Maybe do our own t-shirt next year.”
As Bill Davenport might say, “That will keep the big guy happy.”