Saturday, January 2, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Helen Davis, Who Wrote State Song And Was Matriarch Of South Bend

She wrote the state song.

She played the piano in church for more than 40 years.

A Realtor, she made friends with people, whether she sold them real estate or not.

Helen Davis, 87, of South Bend, Pacific County, died in an Olympia hospital Thursday.

"We can't imagine the town without her," said Jean Hazeltine Shaudys, who's 63 and remembered knowing Mrs. Davis all her life.

"She was an example to all of us. If you think young, you stay young," Shaudys said. "Every day you'd see her out on her walks along the waterfront. She had a very positive outlook on life."

"She was a terrific lady," added Marion Davis, her daughter-in-law. "She was a matriarch in the community."

The influence of Mrs. Davis virtually permeated the South Bend community, in the southwestern part of the state, but she's perhaps best remembered for writing "Washington, My Home," which was adopted as the official state song in 1959.

That, in turn, led to an odd rebellion that perhaps made "Washington, My Home" even better remembered than it might have been: In 1985, irreverent rock-'n'-rollers in Bellingham started pushing a 1960s rock song, "Louie, Louie," as the state song.

That led to a few years of controversy and fun, including such things as the printing of T-shirts in South Bend with "Washington, My Home" on one side and "Louie, Louie" with a red circle and diagonal slash through it on the other.

Some of the influence Mrs. Davis had on South Bend was described by Don Duncan, a former Seattle Times reporter. South Bend, wrote Duncan, had been the home of such illustrious residents as Pat Paulsen, a semifamous comic, and Tom Robbins, a real famous writer. "But none had anywhere near the impact on the town of Davis, who arrived 51 years ago and has been a one-woman gang ever since."

The path to South Bend began in Zanesville, Ohio, where she was born Nov. 18, 1905.

She later moved to Denver, to the Okanogan area of Washington, to Seattle and to Bellingham, where she attended Bellingham Normal College, now Western Washington University. She met and married Chauncey Davis, who moved to Long Beach in 1927 and later became superintendent of the Pacific County Schools, which led to their move to South Bend in 1935.

She also started the Davis Insurance & Real Estate Agency Inc., and became successful in that business, still going to the office every day until her death. Chauncey Davis died in 1979.

"Washington, My Home," was written in 1950, but Mrs. Davis also had done many other musical works, including an operetta, "Eliza and the Lumberjack," which was widely played in amateur productions and schools around the Northwest.

Mrs. Davis also led a drive to get Pacific County's first X-ray machine to combat tuberculosis in the 1940s and helped start the county's Health Department. She was a member of the NQ Garden Club, the Propylaeum Club, Pen Women of America and the Dramatists' Guild. Two governors proclaimed "Helen Davis Days" in her honor.

Survivors include two sons, James H. Davis of South Bend and Robert L. Davis of San Francisco; two grandsons, Philip D. Davis of South Bend and Brian L. Davis of Bothell, and one great-grandson, Johnathan Chauncey Davis of Bothell.

A funeral service will be conducted Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the South Bend Methodist Church, where Mrs. David played the piano for more than 40 years, with burial to take place at the Menlo Cemetery at Menlo, near South Bend. Arrangements are being handled by Stollers Murphy Mortuary.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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