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Raymond Davidson, a Remembrance

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: , , , , , ,

Paul Kocak writes:

His New Yorker covers of the 1970s are quintessential reflections of urban complexity distilled to a serene and sober simplicity. A Zen focus of particularity, here and now. His spot drawings for The New Yorker, signed “R. Davidson,” celebrated Manhattan archways, doorways, a flowerpot on a windowsill, a wrought-iron fence. Raymond Davidson died just after midnight on July 7 at Tara Home, a hospice at Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel, California. He was creative almost until his very last days, self-publishing poetry and reflections sprinkled with his pen-and-ink line drawings.

We met in the 1980s; he worked at Doubleday, I at Random House. Creativity was, in his view, a spiritual wellspring. He urged me to write haiku poetry as a spiritual exercise. I did.

In those years, fans of the New York Mets often saw a man with a long gray beard and glasses, wearing a seersucker jacket and bow tie, sitting in owner Nelson Doubleday’s box, right next to the Mets’ dugout. He was painting watercolors of the Mets players. These were exquisite depictions of light and shadow and color; balletic celebrations of form and grace and movement. They are gems.

They are New York.

They are Raymond Davidson, Brooklyn-born of Norwegian immigrants more than eighty years ago.

When the woman at the hospice told me of Raymond’s peaceful death, she said he looked like someone in an El Greco painting. Yes, majestic and heavenly.

She said he was “easy to love,” a fitting signature to his life and work. Raymond Davidson easily loved the ordinary right before our eyes.

I easily loved him like a father and a brother.

Paul Kocak
Syracuse, New York


A beautifully written memorial to what feels like a beautiful man.

It suddenly occured to me to google Raymond today, who I have wonderd about for years since I lost contact with him in the ’90s. How strange to be compelled to do that three days after his death. He was a good friend to me in his crumdugeon way. We met when I returned to UC Santa Cruz to finish my B.A. after a long absence. As a chronic procrastinaor and dyslexic I had difficulty sitting down to write the needed papers. On many ocaisions Raymond sat at my early Macintosh and wrote as I dictated Academic drivel. He kept me going. I don’t think I would have graduated without him.

I miss you Raymond

James DwanJuly 10, 2008

I met Raymond about 5 years ago. His was an inspiration to me as a much younger artist. He taught me ‘creativity’ not fame and money is the true heart of an artist. He self published many fascinating books which he gave away free to his friends.

I was Raymond’s neighbor for three years.

Raymond created ceaselessly.
Drawings, stories, poems…

Mostly I remember him sitting in his room, listening to classical music, and drawing.

I will miss Raymond’s charm, and wit. A slow, lugubrious wit; drawn out, and unfolding like a Faulkner tale.

But, I am very glad he introduced himself. My world is richer having known Raymond Davidson.

- -
Father Luke

Raymond was “one in a million”. While he pretended to be a curmudgeon, he was soft and sweet on the inside and very engaged with the outside world. His wit and humor were second to none and no matter how hard he tried to shock and provoke, it was impossible not to love and him. He will be deeply missed by all!

Joan GordonAugust 15, 2008

I met Raymond 18 years ago in Santa Cruz, Ca. and he insisted on mentoring me and encourage me to continue to create. I wrote many songs and poems, always sharing them with Raymond.
He never critized, only offered suggestions on how to improve. He and I were close friends to the end of his days. I visited Raymond at the Land of medicine a day or two before his passing. He was resting peacefully in the most loving enviornment. I was glad to know that he was spending his last hours there.

I have many wonder memories of Raymond and many of his books to remind me of the man with the long grey beard. Raymond, you gave me more than you could ever know.

I met Raymond(Never RAY) in Santa Cruz about 18 years ago. He insisted on mentoring me. He encouraged my creativity. He told me I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. He told often of wanting to stop but no matter how hard he tried the words and images continued to pour out of him right up to the end. I visited Raymond at the Land of Medicine in the Santa Cruz mountains a day or two before his passing. He was resting peacefully so I left him a drawing and a few farewell words. He was an incredible friend who gave me more than he could ever know. I miss him.

I am so saddended to learn about the passing on of my dear friend and sponsor Raymond. Raymond exemplified and taught me the true meaning and value of living a simple, modest, unattached life and I will always love him for that.

Thank you Raymond for showing me how to be noble and wise without being prideful and egotistical. I only pray that I am able to live and hopefully pass down a fraction of what you gave me to another.

My memories of you and our times together will live in my heart forever.

With Love,
Your Friend-

Bill Hinton

Bill HintonJuly 25, 2009

Raymond Davidson was my great uncle. I only spent time with him when I was very young and lived in Brooklyn. I now wish I had the opportunity to spend more time with him as I learn so much more about his life. I used to look in the New Yorker just to find his drawings.

Raymond’s life touches me daily. His look at peoples around him, his immortalization in pen and copy, and his true smile will ever be alive. Santa Cruz and all whom got the chance to have time this artist are blessed and forever filled with joy only Raymand has to offer… Love and Happiness Joy to he Joy to she Joy to all… William Sharar Muir

william sharar muirOctober 24, 2009

I stop here now and then, as if at a tomb, or at a serene and flower-laden memorial garden. Reading the comments here fills me with a mournful gratitude, but an overbrimming thankfulness just the same.

He saved my life. I was newly sober, and he sponsored me. I have never met anyone else like him. He was the most unflappable person who has ever been in my life. And he loved me, more than I think I will ever know. He made me a better person. Thanx, Raymond, for everything.

Raymond Davidson was a my great Uncle. I would love to get a copy of his books, but don’t know who to contact. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Dear Mary Jane,
You write that Raymond Davidson was a great Uncle of yours and you would like a copy of his books. I have a set of his books and a painting of his and since I have to down size my apartment would like to give them to you. Can you contact me? My email address is above and if you contact me in the next week or so I can arrange to send them to you.
Raymond was one of the most unforgetable characters I will ever meet and I loved him as one of my best friends. 6/1/11

Susan UlsethJune 01, 2011

It never occurred to me to Google Raymond, until Ann (my wife) ran across him a few days ago. I can’t add anything in the way of praise for him – others have already done so. But I am very interested in his date of death, July 7. That is my anniversary in AA.

I met Raymond at New York’s Carlyle Group June 6, 1967. Soon thereafter he became my sponsor, a relationship that was to last 40 years. We were very close friends both in New York and when he moved to California. It was always our practice to call each other on our anniversaries, I to him April 12, he to me July 7.

In 2008 I talked with him on April 12, his 41st anniversary. On July 7 I awaited his call. When it did not come I contacted intergroup in Santa Cruz but they did not know how to get in touch with him. My last letter to him was returned a month or so later.

I like to think that Raymond knew my anniversary was coming up and wanted to stay alive for it. I have had one similar experience with this sort of thing. In 40 years he had not missed this date. I feel good, today, knowing that indeed he did not miss it in 2008.

Lowell Laporte 10/2/11

Lowell LaporteOctober 02, 2011

Hey MaryJane

I see that you are related to Raymond. I am searching for his brother and sisters. I am from Norway and we have the same grandgrandgrandfather. Please respond if you have the possibility.

terje nygaardOctober 13, 2011

Raymond taught me the values that have kept me sober for 35 years. He was my first and only sponsor. Consequently today I enjoy a life that I only used to dream of. I no longer have a fear or disdain for daily life. I have an absolute sense of gratitude and enjoyment for everything. Raymond taught me the value of being anonymous and living a simple life. Ironically, he himself was an angel who couldn’t remain under the radar screen, as evidenced by the kind comments on this page from all over the world.
I find myself handing down and passing along much of the wisdom that Raymond taught me to other people in my life. I am always pleasantly surprised when they respond in the same way to me as I did to him. He spoke universal truths and age old wisdoms.
Raymond, you are always in the back I my mind and I am so grateful to have shared so much with you.

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