As family and friends told it, Stan Davis wasn’t a man to burn bridges. Instead, he built bridges and dedicated his life to helping people.
The Arnold resident is now memorialized with a plaque at Jonas and Anne Catharine Green Park, located in the shadow of the United States Naval Academy Bridge just outside Annapolis. A crowd gathered at the site on November 21 to mark the occasion and honor Stan, who died in March 2018.
“My father spent his lifetime ensuring that bridges we would cross every day were designed and built safely and securely, but in addition to being a bridge engineer, he was a man of many talents,” said Mark Davis. “He was an active outdoorsman, a father, a grandfather, a husband and he was also a sailor, not only in the Naval Academy, but [he] enjoyed plying the waters of Maryland in a sailboat.”
Stan’s service to the country began in 1955 when he was an officer in the Navy. He served aboard naval destroyers as a damage control and engineering officer. Stan then worked for the Federal Highway Administration and became known as an expert in fluid dynamics and a pioneer in the field of bridge scour (erosion of the soil around bridge foundations).
When scour caused the Interstate 90 Schoharie Creek/New York Thruway Bridge to collapse in 1987, killing 10 people, Stan made it his professional mission to prevent bridge scour failures and make bridges safer.
He authored documents and programs that are still used today, explained Andrzej “Andy” Kosicki, Stan’s friend from the Maryland State Highway Administration. He was also generous.
“Stan was a great hydraulics engineer and a true professional, but first and foremost, he was an extraordinary human being,” Kosicki said. “He was always warm, always smiling, always ready to help. Always offering a good word to everyone and never really saying a bad word, even though sometimes he had pretty good reasons to silence his opponents.”
After retiring from the federal service in 1988, Stan served as a consultant in the hydraulic design of bridges for the Maryland State Highway Administration until his retirement in 2017. He was on the 1994 team that replaced a deteriorating drawbridge now known as the United States Naval Academy Bridge.
While Stan is credited with leading teams that ensured the safety of roughly 6,000 bridges statewide and 600,000 throughout the country, he was most proud of the Naval Academy Bridge, which his wife, Loretta, and seven grandsons affectionately called “Pa’s Bridge.”
After stating that thought about “Pa’s Bridge,” Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler shared what the ceremony meant to her as someone who grew up nearby.
“I hope when we leave here today and we drive by this bridge, we remember that it’s more than a bridge to so many,” she said. “It signifies safety, it signifies family, and it signifies dedication and service to the community.”
Mark hopes the sign will remind people of his father’s contributions to bridge design and hydraulics, and also the time Stan spent giving back to the community.
“As I think about his life and his contributions and his legacy, I just think of my father as a man that spent his lifetime building bridges, but not just the ones you see, but also the ones that connect us as a community and a family and as a neighborhood,” Mark said.