Surrounded by her family, Mary Jean Muse Davis, 81, of Murray, Kentucky, passed away on Sunday, June 23, 2019, at 8 p.m. after an extended illness. Mrs. Davis was born on February 5, 1938, in Florence, Alabama, to Paul and Lucille Gresham Muse. She was the first of five daughters.
Mrs. Davis spent most of her life involved in the educating of children and adults with special needs. The endeavor she was most proud of was the starting of a private Special Education school in a rural community near Athens, Alabama.
In 1968, she and her good friend, fellow teacher, and mentor, Birdie Thornton, decided to open an “Opportunity Center” in rural Limestone County to serve the educational, social, athletic, and nutritional needs of a severely under served Special Needs population that had been recently identified across three small communities. This tuition-free school opened with five students two years later after extensive, imaginative, and intensive fundraising and lobbying efforts, concocted and worked exclusively by these two women. Its name was simply Hay’s Mill School. When the school’s programs were absorbed into a larger county school district five years later, thirty students, ranging in age from six to nineteen, filled the three certified grade levels and multiple after school activities as well as having won 24 gold, 13 silver, and 12 bronze medals at the Alabama State Special Olympics over the last three years. Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Thornton, and two volunteer aides worked with these students academically from 7:30 to 4:30 five days a week, eleven months per year and athletically every Saturday morning for four hours, seven months per year.
Such dedication was also apparent in Mrs. Davis’ multiple church activities and in her devotion to the interests and needs of her husband, daughter, and granddaughter. From teaching Bible classes and organizing Vacation Bible school programs alongside her husband at the various congregations where he preached to leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop and serving as Elementary School Room Mother for both her daughter and granddaughter, Mrs. Davis worked tirelessly until, and after, her health began to decline.
Mrs. Davis was preceded in death by her parents; mother-in-law, Martha Jane Jones; father-in-law, Richard E. Davis; sister-in-law, Sandra Richey; and one niece, Jane Richey.
She is survived by her husband of sixty-three years, Ed Davis from Murray, Kentucky; daughter, Kim Davis McFarlen from Murray; and granddaughter, Mary Muse (Emi) Marlin and husband, Luke from Memphis. She also has four sisters and brothers-in-law: Betty Muse Ruth and husband, Larry Oliver of Athens, Alabama, Barbara Morgan and husband, Chuck, Florence, Alabama, Paula Spears and husband, Howard of Hohenwald, and Judy Thompson and husband, Tim of Florence, Alabama. Mrs. Davis had five nephews and one niece whom she loved dearly: Thomas Ruth (Johanna) from Denver, Colorado, Kyle Ellis (Laurie Beth) from Oxford, Mississippi, Christopher Morgan (Jennifer), Dr. Zachary Thompson, and Tyler Thompson, all from Florence, Alabama; niece, Mary Ellen Towns (Brandon) from Asheville, North Carolina; great-nephews, Nicolas Ruth, Carson and Denton Ellis, and Gresham, Henry, and Charlie Morgan; all of whom brought her great joy during her illness when their parents generously shared pictures and cards with her.
Funeral service for Mrs. Davis was held at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at the Glendale Road Church of Christ in Murray, Kentucky. A private burial service was conducted.
Imes Funeral Home & Crematory in Murray, Kentucky was in charge of the arrangements.