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Josephine D. "Josie" Davis, dialysis patient for 36 years, dies

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Josephine D. "Josie" Davis, a dialysis patient for 36 years who continued to work for the Social Security Administration during her treatment, died Aug. 19 of kidney disease at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

She was 63 and lived in Pikesville.

The daughter of a truck driver and a homemaker, Josephine Dorothy Owens was born one of 13 children in Baltimore and raised on China Street.

After graduating from Edmondson High School in 1966, she attended Strayer's Business College and the Community College of Baltimore City on an academic scholarship.

She briefly worked as a typist at the National Security Agency before transferring to the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn, where she was an administrative assistant for 39 years until retiring in 2006.

She was first diagnosed with kidney disease in 1973 and rejected the notion of a kidney transplant. She chose dialysis instead.

Since 1974, she had been a patient at Chestnut Square Dialysis Center, which was located in the Rotunda on 40th Street and is now on Chestnut Avenue in Hampden.

"My mother never wanted a kidney transplant because she saw so many of her friends die from them," said a daughter, Monique L. Davis of Pikesville.

Mrs. Davis' husband, Willie Davis Jr., whom she had married in 1966, was not supportive of her decision, her daughter said, and the couple later divorced.

"She was a remarkable lady. During that time, she raised two daughters as a single parent and put both through private schools while working full time at Social Security," said Janine Arvisais, who is a social worker at the dialysis center and a longtime friend.

Until her death, Mrs. Davis would come for the four-hour dialysis procedure three times a week.

"She'd come directly from Social Security on the bus to the Rotunda, and after the dialysis was complete, she was too weak to come right home," said her daughter.

"So she'd sit up all night long on a bench until sunlight, then she'd catch the bus home, take a bath and go back to work at Social Security. She never once complained about anything in her life," she said.

"As a young girl, it was very upsetting to me, but once she was able to buy me a car when I was 21, I took her to the treatments, and she didn't have to take the bus any longer," she said.

Mrs. Davis never took a day off from work because of her condition or treated herself to a vacation.

"She sent me and my sister to Seton High School. I graduated from Villa Julie and my sister from the University of Maryland, College Park," said Ms. Davis. "She shared everything with me and my sister. She had a kind heart."

Brenda M. Suber, a licensed practical nurse, has worked at Chestnut Square Dialysis Center for 291/2 years and cared for Mrs. Davis. She said she became an inspiration and a source of courage to the other dialysis patients.

"She was one of the first patients I cannulated and put on dialysis, even though she had been a patient before I came to Chestnut. I told her she was blessed and highly favored, and that's a miracle in itself," said Ms. Suber.

Mrs. Davis was the longest-surviving patient at Chestnut Square Dialysis Center.

"She saw lots of patients come and go. When new patients arrived, she'd tell them, 'Everything is going to be OK. Just look at me. I'm still here,'" said Ms. Suber. "She'd tell them if they took care of themselves, everything would be all right. They all looked up to her."

Ms. Suber described Mrs. Davis as a "kind and loving person" who "always had a smile and never uttered one word of complaint."

"Josie was a special person and taught us how to live in a positive way. She loved to talk and was always upbeat," said Ms. Suber. "We thought Josie was going to be here forever because in the past when she got sick, she always bounced back."

Mrs. Davis, who never expected to live a long life, was thrilled when her grandson, Lamont Jones, was born.

"She thought she would never see Lamont celebrate his first birthday, so she celebrated it every month for his first year," said Ms. Davis. "She got to see him graduate from high school and attend Morgan [State] University. He'll graduate next year."

Mrs. Davis enjoyed watching her two favorite films, "Gone With the Wind" and "The Sound of Music," her daughter said. She was also an avid reader.

Mrs. Davis was a longtime communicant of St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in Pikesville.

"My mother always told us to pray and have morals," said Ms. Davis. "Now, my mother is finally on vacation. Anyone who knew my mother would say she was a beautiful person. We often don't get to know an angel, but I had one my entire life."

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Friday at her church.

In addition to her daughter and grandson, Mrs. Davis is survived by another daughter, Tonya N. Sewell of Pikesville; five brothers, Edward Owens, Louis Owens, James Owens, Jerome Owens and Elsworth Owens, all of Baltimore; and three sisters, Jean Owens of Baltimore, Carolyn Harrison of Randallstown and Gloria Ratcliff of Pikesville.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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