Editor's note: This story has been updated with visitation and service times.
A man who devoted 42 years to public service without a paycheck was the right man for the job, friends and family who counted on his dependability and straight-forward manner said of retired Reserve Capt. Duellis Davis after his passing Saturday.
“You always knew where you stood with Duellis,” Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said. “It’s a sad day.”
Davis, a Korean War Army sergeant who made his career at Eastman Chemical Co., was among Eastman employees who went to the police academy in order to volunteer for the Sheriff’s Reserve Unit some 40 years ago.
“He worked for four sheriffs,” Cerliano said, naming sheriffs Tom Welch, Michael Fetter and Bobby Weaver, who welcomed Davis’ can-do approach before Cerliano took office in 2001. “He was captain of the sheriff’s reserves unit when I got elected. He came to me and offered to resign as captain so I could appoint someone of my choice. I told him he was my choice.”
The captain leads that all-volunteer unit.
“Duellis never received pay from the county,” the sheriff said. “He was very valuable to me, because all you had to do was call Duellis, and he would take care of it. He would tell me, ‘I’ll take care of it,’ and I never had to worry about it. He took care of it.”
Davis died early Saturday in a Longview hospital of a sudden illness at age 86.
A visitation has been set from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Rader Funeral Home in Longview, and funeral services will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at First Christian Church in Longview. Burial in Tatum Cemetery will immediately follow the services.
“He told you what he felt, but his was a kind of surface, to-the-point approach,” the Rev. Richard Emerson, senior pastor at First Christian, said of the man who led the Cornerstone Sunday School group for all 13 years Emerson has been there and before that. “Duellis is the type of person who, I guess scripturally, he is the shepherd of that class. He would call everyone in that class, and if they hadn’t been in that class for a while, he would give them what-for.”
As a reserve deputy, the Lobo Stadium season ticket holder rode as security on the band bus to countless out-of-town Lobo football games. The 1952 Longview alum also was a fixture at the Great Texas Balloon Race every July.
“Not only did he volunteer for the sheriff’s office, he volunteered at his church,” Cerliano said of the man he’s known “practically all my life. ... He volunteered and delivered Meals on Wheels. He just had a servant’s heart. He traveled with the band for many years — many, many, many years. And for a good number of years, he worked ... and provided security for Longview Teen Court.”
Davis’ grandson, Jon Cromer, likened his relationship with his grandfather as more of a father-son bond.
“He always did what he said he was going to do,” Cromer said. “It didn’t matter who you were, he didn’t care where you came from. It was all the same to him, he just liked people. ... He was just a servant; he had a servant’s heart.”
Cromer said his grandfather was born in Hemet, California, and arrived in Longview during his junior high school years.
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said he got to know Davis before taking office when Stoudt was an official with the Great Texas Balloon Race.
“He and I had some fun times at the balloon race in 100-degree, 104-degree weather,” the judge recalled.
Stoudt agreed with the portrait of Davis as a can-do, no-nonsense ally.
“That’s exactly a good way to explain him,” he said. “You gave him a task, and he would take care of that. He was just a good man, was good to be around.”
Davis is survived by his wife of 66 years, Sue; a son, Dean Davis, and daughter Dee Ayn Cromer, both of Longview; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“I can just imagine him, next to St. Peter, helping them out,” Emerson said. “He’d know the story on everybody.”