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Art, music, gardening: Davis does it all

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By Becca Owsley

At 83, Chieko Davis keeps busy with a variety of talents and interests.

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Davis’ friend Janet Gebler calls her a renaissance woman.

“Chieko has become extremely accomplished in art, music, gardening and cooking,” Gebler said. “But what is most impressive about Chieko is that in spite of all her accomplishments she is a genuinely shy and humble person.”

Gebler knows Davis from their involvement in the Central Kentucky Art Guild. Gebler knows her hospitality and talents first-hand, meeting in Davis’ home during a weekly art workshop and tasting some of her home-baked goods at each meeting.

Much of Davis’ school days in Japan were during World War II, which Davis said was “not so much fun.”

Davis is the oldest daughter of seven siblings. When she was old enough, she began helping her mother around the house mending socks and sweaters. When Davis was older, her mother decided she was using her too much in the home and wanted her to have some freedom, she said.

Davis was sent to stay with her uncle in the city where he worked in an officers club. She got a job there and met, Hyskell, an American who later became her husband.

She moved to the United States 50 years ago and her first stop wasn’t what she expected. Her husband’s family didn’t have much money or the modern conveniences she expected in America.

He was stationed at Fort Knox in 1952 and their home there was much more like what she expected. They spent three years in Germany in the 1960s before returning to Radcliff, where she has since remained, in 1963.

After a short break from caring for her family in Japan, Davis had five children, so cooking, cleaning and mending began again.

But she loves to bake. Whenever someone stops by her home, she heads to the refrigerator to make them something. They often say it’s not necessary, but when she insists guests do not protest, Davis said.

Because it’s hard to get fresh ingredients for Japanese foods, she doesn’t prepare it as much, but prefers to cook a variety of foods.

Each week, she hosts a group of artists at her home to paint together and always bakes something to go with their coffee. One member of the group told Davis she does not eat breakfast on those days because she knows she’ll get coffee and something good to eat.

Davis began painting at 65, a few years after her husband died. She said she cried for a little bit and decided she needed to get out and do something. She took a painting class at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and later joined CKAG.

After one of her art teachers moved in 2000, she put new lighting and a table in her basement so her friends could come over and paint at her house once a week.

She said one day she might be too old to host the gatherings, but her friends protest.

Her family takes a lot of her art to their homes, but she also has a selection on display until September at the Hardin County Public Library in Elizabethtown.

Davis’ husband loved to travel but she doesn’t travel much. Many of her paintings come from scenic photos her family brings to her from vacations.

Along with baking and painting, Davis enjoys gardening and recently learned to play piano.

Her vegetables always turn out hearty and she said she’s just lucky that way. She wanted a larger garden, but her doctor and son said no. She works in a small, fenced-in garden and has flowers throughout her landscape to care for and to use as inspiration in her paintings.

At 80, she decided to stop dusting her piano and learn to play it. Her husband and children were musical but she never played until then.
Two small strokes barely slowed her down.

Davis even added fitness to her list of things that keep her active and healthy. She works out at a gym five days a week.

“I just keep moving, moving, moving,” she said.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.