Nebraska City has been like another family member to the Davises. Spend a few minutes with Denise Davis, the eldest daughter of Bill and the late Betty Davis, and it is soon apparent—community activism is in her DNA.
Betty and Bill were originally newcomers to Nebraska City. Denise said a desire to raise their family in a small town was what prompted the newlyweds to leave Omaha. Upon arriving in Nebraska City, it didn’t take long for Betty and Bill to plug into their new community and get involved—he served as the city and county attorney, was a member of the Optimist Club, Rotary and the Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund. She was a substitute teacher and gave generously of her time and talent to their church and countless children’s activities. Denise calls her parents “model citizens without realizing it.”
Though she loved her hometown, Denise was also an avid learner fascinated by faraway places. In high school, she began taking Spanish classes, a skill that would open her up to a world of opportunities starting with living abroad in Spain for 10 years, a service-learning project in Nicaragua, and eventually three years in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer. Her years away from Nebraska City also involved earning an MS in Library and Information Science and a decade spent working at Simmons College in Boston.
As her parents advanced in age, it became apparent that the time was right to return to her beloved hometown. Like her father, Denise was soon invited to serve on the Fund Advisory Committee of the Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund. Today she is a reference librarian at the Morton-James Public Library where she has daily opportunities to use her Spanish skills to assist and communicate with the community’s growing Latino population.
Denise sees her role in the community as that of a bridge builder. She believes diversity is an integral element of strong communities and like her parents, strives to make Nebraska City as welcoming to all newcomers as the community they discovered decades ago.
In early 2020, Betty Davis passed away. At a service honoring her life, Denise told a room full of friends, family, and fellow Nebraska Citians about the commitment of her parents to NCCFF’s mission of welcoming and investing in people. “I can’t imagine growing up anywhere else, and as an adult, I’ve been grateful to have a place like Nebraska City to come home to. [Dad] and Mom created solid roots for us here . . . it’s at the heart of our family tree.” n