Ken Davis Craft Talk – A Successful Realtor & Helping with the Cat Island Orphanage
Pictured above are Vocational Talk Coordinator Jeff Tromberg and Member Ken Davis. This narrative was graciously written by Ken with team editing with questions from Jeff.
First, I want to let all the members of The Rotary Club of Boca Raton know how wonderful it’s been to be a Member since 1981— for 19 years! It’s a service minded family that takes care of each other, and it’s never been better!
I took longer to grow up than most and had to learn to “Give what you can’t keep and to have what you’ll never loose!”
Share about where you grew up. Include at least one unusual activity.
I was born in Miami. My Dad was a Pilot for Eastern Airline and was based out of Miami. However, my mom, my brother and I moved to Boca in 1961. I went to JC Mitchel & Boca High (class of ’68), Palm Beach Jr. College and a little at FAU. During high school and college, I worked as an electrician (George Zettlemoyer was my Mentor!).
I worked one summer for upper State New York for US Dept. of Agriculture, then back to Boca with Bell South, then became what I think was the youngest First Generation Realtor in town at the age of 24. I’ve been buying rental apartments since I was 23 – the thought of a ‘Perpetual Income’ appealed to me (sometimes called “Mail Box” income). However, it’s not quite that easy.
I have lived a ‘Blessed Life’ – the early work I did in Boca as a kid prepared me for my real estate career later. I had wired many homes in Boca and learned construction before ever getting out of high school. I had way too much time to myself when I was in junior high.
My dad was gone, and my mom was working. She had her hands full with me. While I never got into real trouble, I have to admit that I was a disrespectful, unappreciative wise guy. Mom, in her infinite wisdom – suggested in 1963 that I spend the summer visiting my cousins on Cat Island in the south end of the Bahamas.
My Uncle Roy flew his two seat ‘Tube & Fabric’ ’40’s vintage single engine airplane from Cat over to Florida to get his annual inspection for his aircraft. I flew back with him. It took us all day to get there. We had to stop in Nassau to get fuel. The plane few all of about 70 mph, and we had a 15 to 20 knot head wind. We were doing about 50 mph ground speed! I can now do the same flight non-stop in 2.25 hours and make the trip back without re-fueling!
When Roy and I landed on the deserted airstrip, I soon discovered there was no electricity, no phones, no running water, no toilets – only out-houses. As for food, we had grits in morning, land crab for lunch and a couple slices of toast / bread in the evening. I lost 15 lbs. and was already called ‘bean pole’ before I went over!
I learned what most of the rest of the world had to deal with & how blessed I was back in Boca. I went back home a new person! Mom never had any more trouble with me, and we became best friends. When I opened my own Real Estate Office in 1979, she came to work for me, and it was wonderful to help the person who was always there for me.
What did you do while there? How long? You evidently got ‘straightened out’ – how did that happen?
My Aunt and Uncle had no problem with me. I immediately conformed to their environment. I witnessed my cousins performing tasks day-to-day. No one was any better off on the island than anyone else. I knew my responsibilities were for the Summer, although I did hope that it wasn’t forever! It was a demanding experience, but it helped me grow up really fast.
What happened when you came back?
I was starting High School when I came back, got involved in the Church Youth Group, wanted God’s way for my life, stayed out of trouble and started working for George Zettlemoyer – a true Mentor. He had 18 to 20 guys like me at his funeral ‘Testifying’ as to George being everything that a Mentor could be for a teenage kid! George Zettlemoyer has, I’m sure, a ‘Crown in Glory.’
When and how did you start Flying?
The year I started in Real Estate, a buddy and I purchased a 2-seat Cessna to learn to fly – for $5,000! We kept it at Boca Airport. I’m now on my 5th airplane. My plane is a ‘Magic Carpet’ that can take me anywhere! I’ve flown as far west as Texas, north to Canada and Niagara Falls and Upper State NY. Every summer, I fly to Oshkosh WI for the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-in. I’ve also flown to Ohio, NH, Bangor and Bar Harbor Maine, Nova Scotia, Tennessee & was the only piston Airplane at the Dallas Airport. I flew to Washington DC for Clinton’s Inauguration. And, of course, I’ve flown down to the Keys and all around the Bahamas. I was on the ‘Political Affairs’ Realtor Committee and flew our committee to Tallahassee many times.
What was memorable about your career?
Aside from listing properties for sale, selling listings and working with buyers & investors and managing properties, I went up the ranks of the Boca Raton Board of Realtors and was a Director at the Florida Association of Realtors. Again, it was a God thing in that the summer of my last term on these Boards, Hurricane Floyd hit Bahamas in 1999 which holds the record for recording the Lowest Pressure hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas!
I received a call from a cousin living in North Palm Beach saying, “Did you know your cousin moved to Cat Island with her husband three weeks before hurricane to start an Orphanage on the old site of their Father’s Church?” No one was able to contact the Island as all the phones were off (before cell phones there at that time).
We didn’t know if anyone was alive at the facility! We made a Costco run. My Cousin and I flew there for first time in 36 years back to Cat Island! We circled the facility. People came out and waived, and we fortunately landed on a dry runway. But the roads were 14″ under water in some areas! I saw my cousin that I hadn’t seen in 30+ years and met her family for the first time – a missionary family dedicated to building and starting an Orphanage!
This work was so pure and uncomplicated, and I realized I could help! My flying could be more purposeful than I ever imagined! I retired from Service with the Association of Realtors and started pouring myself into the Cat Island Orphanage project – now coming up on 20 years!
Our Club has been instrumental in obtaining Rotary International Matching Grants which includes a 300 fruit tree project, desalination water project and many other projects. The most recent effort was the Impact Window project where we purchased and installed over 105 windows and 13 doors! We’ve had more than 10 of our fellow Rotarians on site at the Orphanage helping with various activities which brings the Club real close to the orphanage project.
More recently (in March), our Club donated two laptops which have been wonderfully appreciated during the coronavirus restrictions. Our Club is currently making it possible for two of our Orphanage kids to go to the College of the Bahamas in Nassau, and we’re following up and encouraging these students.