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Rincon DQ mourns loss of beloved manager

POSTED: December 29, 2011 6:22 p.m.
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Russell Davis, a manager at the Rincon Dairy Queen, his wife Wendi, left, and two of their daughters died in a fire Wednesday at their Stilson home.

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Employees of Rincon’s Dairy Queen are coming to grips with the sudden loss of a beloved supervisor who was a “father figure” to many of the store’s young employees.

Russell Davis, his wife Wendi and their daughters Susannah and Haley died in an early Wednesday morning fire at their Stilson home.

“He was like a dad to some of these kids,” said Scott Ballard, general manager of the Rincon Dairy Queen. “He really cared about the kids. We had a couple of kids go through some stuff with all the deaths of young people we’ve had in the area. He really kind of embraced them and was like a father figure.”

Davis was 22 years older, and Ballard often sought his advice.

“Russell was my right-hand man,” he said. “He was a deacon in his church and a great man of God. When I took over as general manager in March, he really embraced my vision of making this a Christ-centered business establishment. He was the voice of reason when we would be talking. He was very wise and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is really going to be missed here.”

Davis had been a manager at the Rincon Dairy Queen for about a year, and Ballard has been the store’s GM since March. They also trained together before they were sent to the Rincon DQ.

Ballard described the mood at the store, once employees learned of Davis’ death, as a “big spirit of heaviness.”

“We lost one of our family members,” he said. “That was something he really embraced. We’re a big family. It’s really tough. Russell was one of those guys who would give you the shirt off his back.”

Davis often worked the night shift and many times would do the mopping out front as part of the night closing routine. He also was adamant about making sure the cake freezer was fully stocked at all times.

“I tried to lighten the mood (Wednesday) and talk about some things about Russell that we’re going to miss,” Ballard said. “One of my people walked by the cake freezer and said, ‘Russell would be so mad if he saw the cake freezer right now,’ because there were a couple of cakes that were out of it. So we stocked it, and we said, ‘we’re doing this in honor of Russell, making sure the cake freezer’s stocked.’”

Davis and his wife Wendi were very active in band events and chaperoned many other school gatherings at Southeast Bulloch High School. Their daughter Susannah had been homecoming queen at SEB before going to the University of Georgia and Haley was a student at SEB. The Davises also had four other grown children.

“We are deeply saddened about the passing of Russ Davis and the three members of his family,” said Inman Hodges, co-owner of Hodges Management Company, which owns the Rincon Dairy Queen. “We held him in very high esteem as a manager. It is truly a tragedy.”

Ballard said Davis cared about the people who worked under him and was partial to them.

“He was a very selfless person,” he said. “He cared about his people. He cared about his kids — we’ve got a lot of high school kids who work here and a lot of young adults. He was a good mentor to them.”

A volunteer firefighter noticed flames licking out of the windows while on his way to work, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.

Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson said deputies and members of several Bulloch County volunteer fire departments were dispatched to the home in southern Bulloch around 4:54 a.m.

Upon entering the structure, fire crews discovered four individuals deceased in the residence, according to Sheriff Anderson.

Bulloch County Coroner Jake Futch said the bodies of Wendi Davis, 55, and the two daughters, Susannah, 19, and Haley, 17, were found in one room. The body of Russell Davis, 56, was found in his bedroom.

Four area volunteer fire departments responded, along with firefighters from the Statesboro Fire Department, said Bulloch County Fire Chief Randy Walker.

A memorial fund, which will be used for expenses by the Davis’ four surviving adult children, who did not live at the Stilson home, has been set up at Farmers and Merchants Bank. Donations can be made at any FMB branch under the name “Davis Family Memorial Fund.”

The Statesboro Herald contributed to this report.

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