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Monroe "Mike" Davis

Attorney's Legacy
Recalled by Many

By Jeanne Sager
WOODRIDGE — January 10, 2006 – “You always knew where you stood with Mike Davis.”
That’s the common thread in talks with Monroe “Mike” Davis’ friends – usually said with a quiet chuckle.
The Marine Corps officer who turned his mind to the law and his eyes to the political arena when he came home to Sullivan County died Wednesday after a short illness.
He was five days shy of his 92nd birthday.
But in 91 years, Davis did it all.
Born January 9, 1914 in New York City, Davis moved with his family to Woodridge as a youngster.
The few stories he imparted from his youth all centered around baseball – he loved the game so much he’d hitchhike to Liberty to play.
And the game was his ticket out of Sullivan County – an athletic scholarship sent him through Middlebury College.
Later, Davis attended Fordham University Law School, earning the degree he later put to use as a partner in the Cooke and Davis law firm in Monticello.
That was his second practice – he opened a small firm in Woodbourne just before the United States entered World War II, prompting Davis to enlist in the Marine Corps, leaving his high school sweetheart Esther Patashnick (to whom he was married 65 years) and their newborn daughter Susanne safe at home to serve his country.
Joe Woods remembers the Purple Heart awardee charging through the battlefield at Iwo Jima on D-Day.
A 20-year-old from Boston, Woods knew the lieutenant colonel from Sullivan County only by his name and reputation.
But when Davis ordered the troops to move closer to the enemy, then disappeared over the sand, Woods followed.
As it turned out, they were able to avoid the mortar fire raining down on the beach – Davis saved his life, Woods surmised.
He never knew he’d be seeing him again.
But some 20 years later, Woods was living in Liberty and making a riparian survey of the Delaware River.
Sitting in the county clerk’s office in Monticello reviewing deeds, Woods thought the man seated across the way looked familiar.
So he asked the clerk the man’s name, and learned yes, he was once a Marine.
“I asked him where he was on February 19, 1945,” Woods recalled. “He replied that it was the worst day of his life.”
Twenty years and thousands of miles away from that battle, the men struck up a friendship.
But even as Woods tried to convince Davis to join him at meetings of the Iwo Jima survivors or reunions of the 4th Division, Davis resisted.
“Mike was always interested in the present and the future,” Woods said.
His partner in law, Ed Cooke, said even in his 90s Davis was eager for news.
Finally retired from his practice and his passion for politics, Davis wanted to keep current, Cooke said.
“He really liked politics like he did the law,” Cooke explained.
As for the law, Cooke said Davis was “tireless.”
“He really loved the practice of law,” he explained. “I used to come in at 8 in the morning, and he’d already been here for hours.
“He was particularly effective in negotiating large commercial and real property matters.”
And the man who helped purchase the former Woodridge bank was well versed in banking law – a source Cooke tapped again and again.
Davis approached everything with the breadth of his knowledge in his arsenal.
As the chair of the Town of Fallsburg Democratic Party, Davis took the county’s Democratic party to court, and won.
“He was the one who brought a suit against the county committee and got us to go to weighted voting,” said Fred Stabbert Jr., who was chairing the county committee at the time.
An annoyance, sure, but Stabbert had a firm respect for Monroe Davis.
“He was a hard-nosed, tough man, but he was a good man,” Stabbert recalled fondly. “He was very firm in his convictions, but he was always up front.”
He came across the way he did in battle as a Marine, Stabbert said, direct.
He was a man you trusted in your corner – even though he was the consummate politician.
In fact, Davis held a variety of offices over the years.
He served as town attorney and councilman for the Town of Fallsburg, village attorney for the Village of Woodridge, member of the Fallsburg school board, as well as town and county leader and state committee member for the Democratic Party.
Davis was a member of the Ethics Committee of the State Bar, and when Lawrence Cooke made his successful bid for the chief judgeship of the New York State Court of Appeals, it was with Davis serving as his campaign manager.
Davis took on a number of extra jobs over the years.
The son of a candy store owner, Davis grew up knowing he’d have to make his own way in life.
He and a friend made extra money trapping when they were in high school, and son Stanley remembers his father was thrown out of the Woodridge High School twice when they’d caught skunks in their traps!
But as the years went by, Davis worked as a journeyman/plumber. He baled hay on weekends, and the avid athlete played semi-pro baseball to earn his living.
Stanley Davis said he’d heard his father say the same thing hundreds of times – “I’m just a poor country lawyer trying to eke out a living for my family.”
And when someone needed him, Stanley said his father responded – whether it was through monetary donations or just his time.
“He took on anybody,” Stanley Davis said.
He did pro bono legal work for non-profit organizations, and he did it all quietly.
“The biggest thing for him,” Stanley said, “was anyone who he felt was being taken for granted . . . his roots were very modest, and he never forgot that.”
He never forgot his time in the war, risking his life while others lost theirs to protect the freedom of a nation.
“He was not about to let that be eroded,” Stanley said.
“He was a great father,” he continued.
And every lesson the devoted father of three, grandfather of four imparted came back to one thing.
“Do what’s fair,” Stanley said. “Do what’s right.”
“With him, it was always easy to know what to do,” added Davis’ daughter, Amy Troyani. “You did what was right; it really is a very easy code to live by.
“He had a wonderful life,” Troyani said. “And he lived it the way he wanted.”

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