When Keith Davison’s wife Evy died last year of cancer after 66 years of marriage, his house felt lonely. It was a big house, and with his children grown and moved out, it felt “very, very quiet,” Davison said.
So the retired trial judge had an idea. His neighborhood in Morris, Minn., had a lot of kids but no swimming pool. Davison, an avid swimmer, and his wife had bought the house in 1991, and they had considered putting one in the back yard but had never gotten around to it. “When we were in our 60s we thought of it, but we didn’t think we’d live this long,” he said.
Now, at 94, he thought, why not?
Running the idea by some neighborhood kids clinched it. “They were so excited about it, because they knew I’d let them in, and I decided, ‘That’s enough incentive right there.’ ”
So in the spring, construction began on a 32-by-16-foot heated pool, complete with diving board, and in July it was done.
Now, on sunny days, Davison’s yard is rarely quiet. About 5 to 10 local kids are there, swimming and diving. “There’s a lot of noise and splashing about, and that’s good,” he said.
In fact, people he hasn’t talked to in years call “and congratulate me on having a pool.” He has met neighbors he hardly knew before and grown closer with the ones he did know.
Neighbor Jessica Huebner said when she first heard of the plan, she didn’t think he was serious. “I was just thinking, it’s fun to talk, but at the age of 94 would you really do it?”
When Davison said it was going to be for all the neighborhood kids, including her four children, “That’s when it really sank in. I was like, wow. You just don’t have that in today’s society, that amount of kindness.”
Huebner said she has already seen ripple effects among adults, as well as children, as they gather there.
“As a neighborhood we’re getting out of our day-to-day routines to make the time to visit with each other and get to know each other,” she said. “(Davison) says it’s just a pool, but it’s not just a pool; it’s so much more than that.”
The pool was not cheap to install, but Davison’s home insurance company said his premium would not go up. And he is strict about safety.
“I have a set of rules, of course, being a lawyer,” he said (he is also a pilot and plays tuba in three local bands). There are no lifeguards, so children 12 or under must come with a parent or grandparent, and anyone under 18 must have an adult present.
“Even an adult in there shouldn’t be there by themselves,” he said.
Davison is exempt from that rule, however, thanks in part to his age.
“I go in by myself,” he admitted with a chuckle. “If I had a heart attack and died in the pool, what a way to go. It certainly beats cancer.”
Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report