Advertisement

Evelyn Y. Davis: dragging me into the afterlife

Evelyn Y. Davis: dragging me into the afterlife
FILE - In this April 1, 2009, file photo, Evelyn Y. Davis uses a gavel to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. Davis, who owned stock in more than 80 public companies and liked to make a show of her presence at shareholder meetings, died Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. She was 89. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) (Seth Wenig / AP)

When Evelyn Y. Davis, the globally famous stockholder activist, brought me into her highly eccentric life, she was 60 and I was 34. Our paths had crossed in Washington, D.C., since I arrived in the mid-1980s. By the time we married in 2005, Evelyn had had three previous marriages, all brief.

Evelyn had a personality most people could not tolerate. In the Letters to the Editor section of her annual publication, Highlights and Lowlights of Corporate Annual Meetings, a reader once asked her what motivated her. “My sense of self-importance,” was Evelyn’s reply. I found her fascinating, and I wanted to learn more.

Advertisement

One of our first dates at a Washington, D.C., restaurant was on her birthday. I called in advance and had “Happy Birthday, Evelyn” printed at top of our menu.

“It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” she said, noticeably touched.

After our birthday lunch, Evelyn took me for a drive in her Jaguar. She declined to tell me our destination.

Evelyn and I talked about corporate governance as she drove me to her “favorite place,” her future gravesite at Rock Creek Cemetery. She had purchased the large burial plot years before, and her father, Dr. Herman H. DeJong, rests there, as now does Evelyn, who died in November. She would have been 90 on Aug. 16th. Her Jewish mother rests in their native Netherlands.

Evelyn’s burial plot is famous for multiple headstones on which she had engraved a short version of her resume. It is also famous for Evelyn’s philosophy of life: “Power is greater than love.”

We visited Evelyn’s gravesite many more times over many years. Her favorite time to visit was during rainstorms, and we stayed in the car and looked at the gravesite, becoming intimate without danger of passersby.

FILE - In this May 11, 1971 file photo, Evelyn Y. Davis wears hotpants as she speaks at the annual stockholders meeting of the Communications Satellite Corp. in Washington. Davis, who owned stock in more than 80 public companies and liked to make a show of her presence at shareholder meetings, died Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. She was 89. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this May 11, 1971 file photo, Evelyn Y. Davis wears hotpants as she speaks at the annual stockholders meeting of the Communications Satellite Corp. in Washington. Davis, who owned stock in more than 80 public companies and liked to make a show of her presence at shareholder meetings, died Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. She was 89. (AP Photo, File) (AP)

My most unsettling visit to Evelyn’s gravesite was shortly after our civil wedding in September 2005 in Arlington, Va. By this time, I recognized the route as Evelyn drove. After she parked by her future resting place, we exited the Jaguar and stood solemnly as if at a funeral. Evelyn broke the afternoon silences when she told me she wanted me buried beside her. We had not been married an hour and, despite her notoriously brief marriages, she had decided we were to rest together eternally. I told her I needed to get back to my office.

After Evelyn notified me of my final resting place, I felt, well, creeped out. On our way back to our Watergate residence, Evelyn described her luxurious casket at a D.C. funeral home. I tried to think of a book review I was writing to change the subject.

“I want you to have a casket,” Evelyn said, as I sat uncomfortably in the passenger seat. “I’m buying you casket.”

I told Evelyn I had no place for it in my apartment. She told me I would not have to take it home and the funeral home would put my name on it. Nervously, I told her I did not want my name on a casket. She informed me that death was a part of life. Again, I felt creeped out and tried to change the subject to an especially corrupt CEO she disliked. Gratefully, that did the trick. It was a tactic I employed over and over whenever Evelyn Y. Davis prematurely ventured into her afterlife, tugging me along.

“Power is greater than love,” was a coping mechanism for Evelyn. Sadly, she felt she could never love anyone or be loved. She felt her access, such as it was, to official Washington, to Wall Street, to corporate executives were all she needed in life and, as engraved on her multiple headstones, in the afterlife. They represented the power she needed to be Queen of the Corporate Jungle.

Jim Patterson (JEPDiplomat@gmail.com) is a Washington, D.C., based writer.

Advertisement
Advertisement