Family and friends will help Hardin K. Davis celebrate his 100th birthday on Dec. 26. He attributes his longevity to luck, a supportive family and good genes.
He’s lived at The Palms for 13 years. And that’s where friends and family will gather for not just one, but two celebrations of his birthday. He admits that having a December birthday isn’t as glamorous as other months in the year. Christmas and New Year’s Eve often win out as far as celebrations go. But he won’t be overlooked this year.
His sons, Hardin Jr. and Jeff, are flying in to meet their sister Amy who lives in Mount Pleasant.
Living to 100 is quite a milestone, but Davis looks back to his childhood and says he’s lucky he lived past that.
He suffered through a rare childhood illness, a bone disease, that put him in the hospital for more than a year and almost took his life.
After recovering, he lived life with active vigor, playing tennis, running or walking every day for 20 years.
With a pair of $1.98 tennis shoes and a $10 racket, he picked up a lifelong hobby. Davis was an avid tennis player and his tennis court and beautiful home in Syosset, New York, were the site of many friendly, but competitive matches as well as festive parties.
And, at 17 years old, he took a cross-country trip with a friend.
In 1932, he and his friend of the same age, Ned Scott, both of Bellerose, New York, drove a Model A Ford from New York to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. While on the West Coast, they traveled from Mexico to Washington State, returning home via the northern route, a total of about 11,000 miles, at no more than 35 miles per hour. They had 18 flat tires along the way and averaged 15 miles to the gallon. On their best day of driving, they managed 91 miles in total.
Born in 1914 in Brooklyn, New York, Davis lived for 87 years on Long Island before moving to Mount Pleasant where his daughter Amy Davis and her family live. He was educated in the Long Island public schools, and then graduated from Colgate University in 1937 and the University of Pennsylvania Dental School in 1941.
For 36 years, he practiced dentistry and served as president of the Nassau County Dental Society. In 1999, he received the society’s highest honor for distinguished service. He served on the Board of Education of the Floral Park Schools (as his father had) and was for many years a member of the board of managers of the Nassau County Medical Center. He also served on the board of directors of a bank for 41 years, five as chair, after which he served as vice chair.
He was an eyewitness to a variety of important events including the first air-mail flight to travel from New York to Washington from Belmont Racetrack in a U.S. Army plane in 1919. Fifty years later, Newsday published a photo of he and his mother, hand in hand, watching the takeoff. On May 20, 1927, he was one of the many spectators, with his mother again, who watched Charles Lindbergh take off from Roosevelt Field on his famous flight, and perhaps Dr. Davis is one of the last living survivors who attended that event.
He is an avid sports fan. Davis witnessed many of the iconic figures of the century including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the Yankees, and Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons of the Philadelphia Athletics, to name a few. He was on hand to see Bill Tilden win his seventh championship at Forest Hills and he continued to go to what is now the U.S. Open every year for many, many years. Today, he follows the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, as well as his favorite team, the Colgate Raiders. During basketball season, he temporarily moves his allegiance to the Duke Blue Devils where two of his three children and his son-in-law graduated.
Davis considers his three children his greatest achievement. And as far as his plans for the future, “I’ll do the best I can in the next years of my life. I’ve made myself quite liked. So I’ll try and keep that up,” he says.
Davis might be a little slower and his eyesight and hearing aren’t what they used to be. So, instead of being the mainstay at The Palms happy hour and exercise classes, he enjoys sitting in the sun and good conversation in the garden. And at night he enjoys listening to audio books.
Happy birthday, Mr. Davis.