Dr. James Davis went into medicine largely because of his father's influence.
"His spirit is why I became a physician," said Davis of his father, Dr. Julian S. Davis. "And just seeing what he meant to people."
A past president of the Jewish Home, Julian S. Davis died on Dec. 29. He was 85.
He was born to immigrant parents in San Francisco in 1916. He attended Lowell High School, where he was valedictorian of his class, and U.C. Berkeley.
Eugene Friend of San Francisco, whose friendship with Davis dates back to high school, recalled that "his parents didn't have much, and he had to work his way through college. One of his favorite stories was how he worked in a shoe store for 25 cents an hour."
James Davis isn't sure what propelled his father to go into medicine, just that "he was the first physician in the family, and it was a calling."
After attending UCSF Medical School, Davis practiced for more than 50 years at Mount Zion Hospital, serving as associate chief of medicine. He also taught at UCSF, where he was an associate clinical professor of medicine.
Later, he started his own medical practice, which survives today.
"He was the nicest, most gentle guy you'd want to be responsible for you," said his son. "A wonderful human being." James Davis said his father was the physician for many prominent Jews, adding, "if you are active in the Jewish community and are over 60, you probably knew my father."
He served on the boards of Mount Zion Hospital and the Jewish Community Federation, and was active at Congregation Emanu-El.
He and his wife of 61 years, Audrey Davis, had two sons.
"He taught me that the synagogue comes first, that you need a strong synagogue to have a strong Jewish community," said James Davis.
But his father's greatest passion was saved for the Jewish Home, where he served as president from 1983 to 1985.
"His first love philanthropically was the Jewish Home," said James Davis. "He felt very strongly that the Jewish Home should provide excellent care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Everyone receives wonderful care there, which is one of the legacies he left."
Jerry Levine, executive director of the Jewish Home, said that in addition to his serving as president of the board, Davis chaired many important committees at the home, including admissions. "He was instrumental in the development of the Koret Center here, which allowed the home to extend its services to accommodate a long waiting list," said Levine.
He emphasized that Davis' dedication to the home did not wane even after he'd served as president. "He also set future directions for the home," said Levine, and "cared deeply about all people, especially older people. He always demanded that they have the very highest quality of care. He was known for demanding a very high quality of care, and would never settle for anything less."
Said Friend, "He gave as well as he could and raised a lot of money for charities." Remembering when Davis solicited him to make a donation to the Hebrew Home for the Aged, Friend joked, "he got me pretty good."
Julian Davis "had a real gift of listening to people," said his son. "He imparted to me that being a physician is like being a rabbi, you get to care for people and be a healer. He took it very seriously." Davis is survived by his wife Audrey; sons James of San Francisco and Keith of San Diego; sister Muriel Karell of Oakland; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Contributions can be made to the Jewish Home, 302 Silver Ave., SF, CA 94112.