CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Viola Davis of Croton-on-Hudson died Nov. 17 at Bethel Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She was 90.
A resident of Croton since 1955, Davis taught fifth grade at Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School for more than 20 years and was involved in many community activities. She is the mother of the Croton Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, Seth Davis, and the grandmother of village trustee Kevin Davis.
She was born July 16, 1922, in the Bronx, N.Y., to Max and Freda Lobel Buniak. She graduated from Walton High School and Hunter College, where she majored in biology. Davis worked as a laboratory technician at the Psychiatric Institute and then at Cornell Medical College at New York Hospital.
In 1946, she married Lester Davis, a social worker, who died a few days before their 30th anniversary in 1976. Davis and her husband both worked as counselors at Camp Rainbow in Croton before and during World War II. They loved spending summers in Croton and chose Croton as their home in 1955.
In the early 1960s, Davis earned a master’s degree in education from Lehman College. She started teaching at Shrub Oak School before teaching at Carrie E. Tompkins School in Croton from 1968-89.
She brought a new social studies curriculum to Croton, called “Man: A Course of Study,” in which students learned about society and culture by studying Inuit Eskimos. Davis also never assigned homework, telling parents students had enough to do during her class and would come back the next day eager to learn.
While teaching, Davis also received a certificate of advanced study from the Columbia University Teachers College. After her retirement, she taught as an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College.
After the death of her husband, she traveled extensively with ElderHostel. Her final trip abroad was with her son on a music study tour of England. Only the onset of the dementia that would ultimately claim her life stopped her from traveling.
Davis served as an officer in the PTA and vice president of the Croton Teachers Association, was active in the founding years of the Croton Shakespeare Festival and was a member of the boards of the Croton Arboretum and Bennett Conservatory of Music.
She is survived by a son, Seth (Elisa) Davis, of Croton; a daughter, Nina (Christopher) Davis-Millis Millis, of Cambridge, Mass.; a sister, Hadassa Wisch, of Rockland, Maine; and three grandsons.
There will be a memorial service in the spring. Memorial contributions may be made to The Croton Arboretum and Sanctuary Inc., P.O. Box 631, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520, or Bennett Conservatory of Music, 18 Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.