A View from Glen Hill: In memory of Frank Davidson

Narrow yet long, the table rises elegantly on beautiful tapering legs. It serves as the altar for the 8 o’clock service at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, placed in the front of the sanctuary but down at the level of the congregation for that very intimate and peaceful liturgy. Its simplicity of form mirrors the service for which it was designed.

Yet it serves other purposes as well. Substantial in appearance, it is light and easy to move such that only one person can do so if necessary as it moves up to its usual place on the altar area for the much larger 10 o’clock service. There it takes on a supporting role in holding liturgical vessels when they are not in use on the altar. Its design works perfectly for that use also.

Form and function fitting together in an object of beauty: that is the hallmark of the work of Frank, Chris and Don Davidson. Their craftsmanship in cabinetry and furniture design and construction is highly regarded, and their skills are well known as their work graces many of our homes here in Wilton as well as more widely.

Frank passed away in his sleep earlier this month at only 40 years of age. He had been complaining of headaches for several days and sought medical attention for them. A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 22, at St. Matthew’s.

Frank and his brother Chris were raised by their grandparents, Don and Barbara Davidson, as their own sons and trained in their work by Don. It has long been a special joy for Don, Chris and Frank to work in a pursuit that combines artistry with functionality in creations of beauty that grace the spaces they fill even as they perform important roles in day-to-day life.

The sadness that Frank’s passing leaves is enormous and palpable. Barbara and Don had already lost two daughters, one at a very early age. Such grievous losses to bear, and yet there are no more radiantly alive people than Don and Barbara with deep warmth and thoughtfulness for others and light that literally beams from their faces.

Don’s skill in woodworking is but one facet of his artistic talents. Joined in singing around the piano in their home with Don at the keyboard or singing with him in the church choir, one gets a real appreciation of his musical talents only to come to realize that his actual instrument of choice in his younger years was the violin on which he was a virtuoso with a degree in performance. Yet much of his working life was spent far from the world of music as a magazine publishing executive.

For Barbara, making things of beauty has also been, and still very much is, a central part of her life, whether designing interior space in homes or making flower arrangements for services that delight the eye and brighten gloriously the worship space. Her home reflects that consummate sense of beauty as well as functionality that has been so much a focus of Don, Chris and Frank’s craftsmanship.

Especially thoughtful and ingenious touches in Davidson craftsmanship enhance functionality without compromising beauty. For example, the pulpit at St. Matthew’s and the large music cabinet in the lobby of Wilton Presbyterian Church reflect the Davidsons’ brilliance in design as well as in execution. The pulpit blends with the organ cabinetry perfectly even as it has built into it unobtrusive features that make it easy to move and that accommodate both shorter and taller speakers with a folding out wooden step that those using it can easily swing into place yet, when returned to its stored position, is not in the way of taller speakers. Likewise, the Wilton Presbyterian cabinet holds many choir folders filled with music but, when closed up, can easily be moved on its concealed casters and fits perfectly and elegantly wherever placed.

At the open house at Wilton’s Montessori School last week, teachers and students described how physician Maria Montessori’s methods, devised a century ago, link mind and hands working together to the building of both intellect and “heart,” meaning the core virtues of grace, courtesy and thoughtfulness, and “the building of life as if it were a work of art.” I thought immediately of the Davidsons and how hands and mind working together have been their guiding principle and how much their hearts have enriched the lives of those privileged to be in their company.

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.