PIEDMONT -- From a singer and songwriter to avid sportsman and sports fan, Piedmont resident Murray Davis wore many hats. A fun-loving man, described by those who knew him as tireless, selfless and energetic, Davis also had a serious side -- as someone devoted to his community and faith, and as a loving husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.
On Jan. 4, friends and relatives filled Oakland's Temple Beth Abraham to pay their final respects to Davis, who died of an apparent heart attack while vacationing with family in Hawaii on Dec. 29, one day before what would have been his 23rd wedding anniversary with wife Virginia. Davis, a father of three sons, was 57.
"Everyone wanted to be around him," Rabbi Mark Bloom said in his eulogy. "He had an easygoing nature. He was like a big brother and father to his (11) nieces and nephews."
Originally from Omaha, Neb., Davis was the youngest child -- and only boy -- in a family of four children. At age 4, Davis moved with his family to the Southern California community of Woodland Hills.
Davis graduated with a degree in philosophy from Cal in 1976 and immersed himself in Bay Area culture, especially as a big-time San Francisco Giants fan. He also established himself as a serious and dedicated musician. Davis, who in the 1980s organized a rock-and-roll quartet known as the Murmurs, went on to become a longtime member of the Temple Beth Abraham band. Always creative, Davis played lead guitar and sang in the temple's popular Rock 'n' Roll Shabbat services -- Sabbath prayers performed as rock-and-roll music. A recording of a Davis song, "The Everlasting Light," was played at the funeral.
Davis decided to become a musician while watching the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" as a child.
Davis also served his synagogue as a member of its board.
Elsewhere, Davis became a respected figure in his adopted hometown, Piedmont, where he had served as president of the Piedmont High School Boosters and Piedmont Baseball Foundation. He also served for many years as a youth baseball coach.
Upon hearing of Davis's death, members of the current Piedmont High baseball team put together an impromptu memorial at Witter Field, spray-painting the initials, "M.D.," on the outfield grass. Soon, a collection of flowers, baseballs, baseball caps and photos accompanied those initials.
Davis's oldest son, Corey, now in college, is a former Piedmont High baseball player. His middle son, Milo, a current Highlanders senior, will be a valued returner when baseball season begins in spring.
"Murray always spoke with a smile on his face," said Highlanders coach Eric Olson, whose team will wear a yet-specified tribute to Davis on either its jerseys or batting helmets this year. "Murray and Eric Sullivan (father of senior Ryan Sullivan, the Highlanders' starting catcher the past two seasons) were my sounding boards for the upcoming season."
Olson added that Davis was particularly excited about a new public address system at Witter Field. The Highlanders coach occasionally saw Davis away from the baseball field, too -- he once happened to cross paths with Davis and his wife at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Most of the chance meetings, though, happened around town.
In his younger years, Davis traveled the country and worked in a restaurant, in construction, as a coffeehouse barista and on a shrimp boat in Florida. Later, he settled into the financial services business, where he worked for 15 years. A stay-at-home dad since 2002, Davis perhaps was the ultimate definition of a Renaissance man. Beloved and respected, those who knew Davis recalled him as a strong leader, a visionary and a fair-minded individual.
"He inspired people with his wisdom, kindness and sense of humor," Eric Sullivan said.
"It's a tough loss for the whole community," Olson added.