Larry Cavender / Photo
Russell Davis, with his wife Jeanee, standing before his enormous holiday lights display. The 77-year-old Davis has been decorating his yard in this manner for 15 years.
By Larry Cavender
It has often been said, "Christmas is for children," but an elderly Jasper man is living proof that the true spirit of Christmas is ageless and is more than just Santa Claus, stocking stuffers, and gaily wrapped packages.
Perhaps, the best response to the question, "What is the true spirit of Christmas?" was answered in the animated holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, when Linus steps into the spotlight, drops his blanket, secure in the reassuring words of the Gospel of St. Luke, and says, "Fear not, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the City of David, a savior which is Christ the Lord, and this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
Many people decorate their homes in honor of the Christ child during the Christmas season, but 77-year-old Russell Davis exemplifies the true spirit of Christmas, glorifying God and conveying "...peace, good will toward men" through the thousands and thousands of lights in his holiday display at his residence on Hood Road in Jasper.
Despite his age, for the past 15 years, Davis has carefully and lovingly placed his decorations in his front yard leaving almost no place unoccupied by the bright lights. The tradition started in Christmas of 2000, when Davis erected a lighted cross in memory of his granddaughter in addition to the usual Christmas decorations. Denisia Pyles was tragically killed in a car accident that year. The cross still maintains a prominent position among the many decorations.
Denisia's cross began another enduring tradition by the Davis family with other memorials being added with the passing years. Eugenia, Russell's wife of 57 years, pointed out several other memorials to other family members. Mrs. Davis, who prefers to be called Jeanee, said, "There are pink lights in honor of my sister-in-law, Corrinne Davis who battled breast cancer, a flamingo and palm tree in memory of my mother, Verda Johns, who lived in Florida, and even a red, white, and blue bush in honor of our grandson, Josh, who is currently serving in the armed forces."
Russell, a retired carpenter, resided with Jeanee for most his life in the southern portion of the state, mainly in and around Pelham, Ga. Ironically, their three children, Rusty Davis, Randy Davis, and Gina Pyles, all took jobs that led them to the Jasper area. Naturally, Russell and Jeanee followed in 1995 in order to remain close to their children and especially their grandchildren. Despite being relatively recent move-ins to Pickens County, the couple loves this area.
"We wouldn't want to live anywhere else. We want to be buried here," said Jeanee.
It was a grandchild, Kendra Davis, who contacted The Pickens County Progress about Russell's enormous holiday display. "Papa works so hard on the decorations every year that I thought he needed to be recognized for his efforts." The Davis's children love the decorations so much, they pay their parents' electric bills each holiday season, their way of helping out with the display.
Their neighbors also appreciate the festive lights, especially the neighborhood children. "Some mornings, I turn the lights on so the children riding the school bus can see the lights as they pass by," smiled Russell as he pointed to his decorations. In the true and ageless spirit of Christmas, Russell Davis's holiday lights is his way of saying, "Glory to God in the highest" and spreading his own "good will toward men."