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Donald Shefford Davidson

August 14, 1924 - January 19, 2021

Always known for his generous spirit and willingness to offer his creative help to others, Davidson mentored many young artists. Gathering around the dinner table was a source of great joy for him. He was a superb woodworker who enjoyed designing and building dining room tables as gifts for friends. The family suggests that you make a donation in his honor to the charity of your choice.

 

A celebration of his life will be held when family and friends are permitted to gather safely. Funeral Complex Brome Missisquoi has handled the arrangements. Please leave a remembrance at www.complexefuneraire.ca


 Donald S. Davidson, a product designer whose creative output was linked with many cultural touchstones of the 1960’s and 70’s, died of kidney failure on January 19th in Cowansville, Quebec. He was 96 years old. Descended from a prominent Montreal industrialist family long known for innovation, invention and creativity, Davidson charted a modernist path based on his training at Chicago’s School of Design founded by Bauhaus professor Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

His designs ranged from household classics like the Farberware electric carving knife to the patented anchoring system for the undulating stretch cloth interior of The Electric Circus nightclub in Greenwich Village, an icon of psychedelic pop culture. Tiffany’s flagship store used elegant white cedar deck chairs Davidson designed for fabric designer Jack Lenor Larsen to showcase its new line of summer jewelry. Davidson started his career in New York City in the late 1950’s as a designer for Edward Larabee Barnes, a leading mid-century architect. His former professor at the School of Design, Charles Forberg, was a colleague at Barnes and the two decided to go into business together in 1960. Charles Forberg Associates, headquartered in an historic loft in New York’s SoHo District, became their business address for more than two decades. It was a friendship and a creative collaboration that endured their entire lives. Pan American Airlines became a key client for the design duo as the airliner prepared the launch of its game changing 747 fleet. Forberg had updated the PanAm logo and together the two undertook the design of the passenger cabin interiors and set the entire esthetic of PanAm’s iconic new plane. They also designed new ticket offices at PanAm’s headquarters building in Manhattan and the PanAm travel bag/briefcase, which was the subject of many glossy magazine ads: The travel bag held aloft by the airline’s comely stewardesses. They designed the landmark “Calder’s Circus” exhibit for The Whitney Museum of American Art, exhibits for the Museum of Modern Art, as well as a display system for the International Center for Photography. Their installation of American Art for The Smithsonian Art Project at Tredicesima Triennale di Milano won Grand Prize for Exhibit Technique. They also designed the art installation at IX Bienal de Sao Paulo in 1967. The Smithsonian’s new Air and Space Museum main hall, with Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis suspended from the ceiling, was their display concept. When U.S Royal Tire built a pavilion at the 1964 Worlds Fair in the shape of a giant Ferris wheel, Davidson designed a mechanical toy version of the building. It has become a favorite eBay collectable.

His late 60’s design for an illuminated clock for Pepsi featured a fresh spin on the cola manufacturer’s dated looking logo which presaged the “new” logo which the soft drink giant later unveiled. Donald Shefford Davidson was born in Montreal on August 14, 1924 to Charles Goodwill Davidson and Amy ( née Sells) Davidson and spent his early years in Waterloo, Quebec, at a family property known as Ayrmont Farms. His great-grandfather, Thomas Davidson, was a Scottish immigrant tin smith from Edinburgh who settled in Montreal in 1842 and built a large manufacturing company making lithographed tin boxes for tea and tobacco and hundreds of household products. Davidson attended schools in Waterloo, were he was a champion skier and track man, and entered the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II where he served as a radio operator on the destroyer escort HMCS Springhill in the North Atlantic. After the war, he attended McGill University studying engineering for a time but left to start a career at Henry Morgan and Son Department Store in Montreal in the advertising department. There he met Dorothy Jeanne Farrington, a recent graduate of Douglass College in New Jersey, who worked in the Personnel Department.

They enjoyed fishing trips to his family’s hunting preserve, Olive Pond, in South Bolton, Quebec, and were married in August of 1952 at the Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Paul in Montreal. His design for a starkly modernist wedding cake of massed geometric forms shocked some society matrons at Montreal’s toney Themis Club, the site of their wedding reception. They moved to Chicago where he enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology School of Design, graduating in 1956. After retiring, Davidson returned to Waterloo, Quebec, and focused on designing abstract steel sculptures which are in many private collections. His sculptures line the main shopping street of fashionable Sutton, Quebec.

His creativity never flagged. He was always sketching, photographing, painting and making notes on new ideas and had recently completed the installation of a large steel version of his sculpture, Free Spirit, which is a tribute to Forberg’s daughter, Sarina, who died in 1975. Davidson and his wife Dorothy (née Farrington) lived for the past nine years in the village of Sutton, Quebec. Earlier, the Davidsons lived at the beloved family property of his childhood in Waterloo. Davidson was active in civic affairs and was a perennial leader in the annual Remembrance Day event. He served many terms as a Warden and Vestryman at St. Luke’s Anglican parish in Waterloo and launched an artist’s cooperative in Knowlton, Quebec called Farfelu. He is survived by Dorothy, his wife of 69 years, a sister, Joan Marshall, of North Vancouver, B.C., and his sons Christopher, a retired network television executive of Palm Springs, California, and Keith, an artist, of Moretown, Vermont, and three grandchildren: Marla, Seth and Omri. In addition, he leaves many beloved nieces and nephews throughout Canada. He was pre-deceased by his brother, James F. Davidson, of Bedford, Quebec.

Always known for his generous spirit and willingness to offer his creative help to others, Davidson mentored many young artists. Gathering around the dinner table was a source of great joy for him. He was a superb woodworker who enjoyed designing and building dining room tables as gifts for friends.

The family suggests that you make a donation in his honor to the charity of your choice.

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Témoignage(s)
Finn Wentworth and Family
2021-03-13

Don was a splendid man. The Wentworth Family,, all 12 of us ! , were so fortunate to live next door to Don and his very Special Family.. Certainly Don had many talents, and it would be a nearly impossible task to summarize in a brief note...but maybe the opening line would be a true Renaissance man, with a great sense of humor ! Witnessing his quiet but hugely beneficial role to our Mt Tabor Community over the decades was just one perspective. His videos capturing the excitement of the 150 + year tradition of Children?s Day is inevitable Oy highlighted by his classic home videos that now have been shared by generations. His constant and creative support to community projects be they at the historic Tabernacle or the exciting children s parade activities as his World Class Dragon manned by dozens of excited children will be forever remembered by those he brought together. As a World Class artist, internationally noted inventor, WW 2 veteran and dedicated family and Community leader...we are grateful for his presence in our lives. Rest In Peace, Finn Wentworth and Family

Finn Wentworth and Family
2021-03-13

Don was a splendid man. The Wentworth Family,, all 12 of us ! , were so fortunate to live next door to Don and his very Special Family.. Certainly Don had many talents, and it would be a nearly impossible task to summarize in a brief note...but maybe the opening line would be a true Renaissance man, with a great sense of humor ! Witnessing his quiet but hugely beneficial role to our Mt Tabor Community over the decades was just one perspective. His videos capturing the excitement of the 150 + year tradition of Children?s Day is inevitable Oy highlighted by his classic home videos that now have been shared by generations. His constant and creative support to community projects be they at the historic Tabernacle or the exciting children s parade activities as his World Class Dragon manned by dozens of excited children will be forever remembered by those he brought together. As a World Class artist, internationally noted inventor, WW 2 veteran and dedicated family and Community leader...we are grateful for his presence in our lives. Rest In Peace, Finn Wentworth and Family

Parsippany Hills High School Class of 1972
2021-03-13

The Parsippany Hills High School Class of 1972would like to extend its condolences to our friend and classmate Chris Davidson on the loss of his father. Chris, you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

David Anderson
2021-02-25

Thank you for letting me be part of your life Don. You amazed me with your patience, attention to detail and creativity. I think of you every time I walk past the sign you designed for the Anglican Church in Waterloo. Rest in peace.

Christine Boulanger
2021-02-25

My sincere condolences to the family. Always enjoyed our brief talk while taking his grocery order.. Strong spirit.