The Rev. Canon Richard W. Davies, 1927-2020: An AppreciationThe Rev. Richard Davies, one of the most senior priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, died peacefully on May 7th. Canon Davies – as he was affectionately known at St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, where he served for several decades – was 93 years old and in his 65th year as a priest.
That creativity sprang out of Richard’s newfound interest in history. The more he read about Old St. Luke’s connection to the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the Whiskey Rebellion, the more consumed he became. He authored books and plays about the period. He started offering tours and lectures. He secured a Commonwealth Historic Site recognition. He undertook renovations of the building and its centuries-old graveyard. And, he brought the church back as a place of worship by hosting weddings, baptisms and other religious services on a regular basis. St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, uses Old St. Luke’s as a satellite location in spring and autumn.
“He loved history, but he really loved the church and everything about this building,” said Norma Cappello, an Old St. Luke’s board member and its wedding coordinator. She remembers that he trusted and always expressed appreciation to those who worked to make the setting perfect for the bride and groom and their families. “He just wanted them to be happy,” she added.
Richard’s transformation of Old St. Luke’s earned him a place on the cover of Mt. Lebanon Magazine in May 2006, when it singled him out as a resident for whom “This Town Would Be Different Without.”
His love of history and culture extended beyond the roots of western Pennsylvania. He tapped deeply into his own Welsh ancestry, and for nearly 20 years served as secretary of the St. David’s Welsh Society of Pittsburgh. During his tenure, the group funded and oversaw the installation of a Welsh nationality classroom in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. The room was dedicated in 2008. Consistent with Richard’s faith and interests, the classroom is modeled after a church built in the late 1800s in Cardiff.
“He loved everything Welsh,” said the Rev. Sandy Ritchie in recalling how Richard would attend Welsh hymn-singing events. That recollection brought up what she calls her fondest memory of him. “He sat at the bedside of a dying woman whose family was not able to be present, and he sang hymns to her, just ever so softy.”
After serving more than 50 years as a priest, Richard Davies began contemplating retirement. “This time for real,” Richard would say on more than one occasion. Each attempt was short lived. In the late 2000s, he became part of “Team Clergy” in Mt. Lebanon when the parish entered an interim period between rectors.
“He and the late Rev. John Thomas called themselves ‘Frick and Frack’ and they were quite a team,” said the Rev. Nano Chalfant-Walker. “Richard was wise and very funny. He was a tremendous help to me when I later served there as interim.”
Richard Davies finally did retire from active ministry in 2010, but maintained his interest and involvement in all that he made possible over the years. Then-provisional Bishop Ken Price honored him on the occasion: “Richard stands as an example of how ordained ministry is lived out over a lifetime.”
In addition to his wife, Doris, he is survived by their daughter, Glynis, and her husband, Robert Carlson; son David, and his wife, Nancy; two grandchildren, and a great granddaughter.
Richard’s love for Doris goes back to when they were youngsters at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkinsburg. He was an altar server, and as luck would have it, he needed to wait behind a stained glass partition before services began.
“There was a small hole in the glass where you could see clearly into the congregation,” he said, telling a story he loved to tell. “I would position myself so that I could peer through and see the most beautiful girl in the world. That was Doris.”
That hole remains today, as does Richard’s saintly legacy. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to:
Old St. Luke's Church, 330 Old Washington Pike, Carnegie, PA 15106 or
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15228