Mary Ann Courtenay Davidson, 99, Oak Ridge

Mary Ann Courtenay Davidson, 99, of Oak Ridge, TN, died peacefully at home on March 22, 2024, surrounded by family. A graveside service will be held on Wednesday, March 27, at 1:00 p.m. at Oak Ridge Memorial Park, followed by a memorial service at 2:00 p.m. at First United Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge.
 
The daughter of William Howard Courtenay II and Mary Tisdale Anderson Courtenay, Mary Anderson, “Mary Ann,” Courtenay was born January 12, 1925, in Louisville, Kentucky, and was raised in Louisville, where her extended family had lived for many generations.  She came to Oak Ridge in 1948, where she met her husband of almost 53 years, Jackson Boatwright Davidson, who was originally from West Point, GA. They were married May 13, 1950, in Louisville, KY. Jackson, “Jack,” died in 2003; he retired as a senior development engineer in the Instrumentation and Controls Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  
 
Mary Ann attended Atherton High School for Girls in Louisville KY and graduated from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA, in 1946, where she majored in mathematics and chemistry.  In 1948 she received a Master’s degree in Biochemistry from Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and shortly thereafter began work in Oak Ridge for a research project, Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft (NEPA).  The program’s goal was to determine the potential feasibility of using nuclear power in airplanes, and Mary Ann’s work involved testing the influence of different radiation levels that potentially could be tolerated in nuclear-powered flight. Her group also ran a Van de Graaff generator and did experiments on metallic sodium.  She left her job in 1951 to raise her family. After her children were grown, Mary Ann returned to work and was employed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the Environmental Mutagen Information Center (EMIC), cataloging mutagens and teratogens to help establish an international database of mutagenic compounds and substances. EMIC provided a registry of chemicals tested for mutagenicity and collected and organized international literature on mutagenesis.
 
As a child, Mary Ann enjoyed family vacations in Penland, North Carolina, where she learned to weave and as a teenager won prizes in weaving at the Kentucky State Fair. In summer 1948 she bicycled around Western Europe with a group from the American Youth Hostel Association. This trip made a lasting impression on Mary Ann as she saw not only amazing cultural and historical monuments, but also hardships of postwar Europe; her cycling group was served grass soup for a meal at one hostel—all the locals had to offer.  A chocolate lover, Mary Ann carefully carried on her bicycle a box of chocolates for a friend’s aunt in Belgium, and when Mary Ann delivered the box, the aunt burst into tears: she had not seen chocolate since before the war. On this trip Mary Ann attended the opening ceremonies of the 1948 Olympics in London, sleeping with her group on a gymnasium floor at the University of London.
 
In Oak Ridge Mary Ann was active in the First Presbyterian Church; she and Jack were longtime members who attended from the time when the church originally met in the gymnasium of Pine Valley School.  Mary Ann was an elder in the church and also taught Sunday school. An avid newspaper reader, with a strong interest in current events, she was also a life member of the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge, active with close friends in the League from the early 1960s.  She also served as a Girl Scout Troop leader and a Cub Scout Den Mother.  
 
Mary Ann and Jack were early and active longtime members of the Oak Ridge chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and Mary Ann also served on the Board of Directors for the local community mental health organization, Ridgeview.  She held a deep commitment to promoting mental health access, equity, support services, and research.
 
Mary Ann and Jack loved living in Oak Ridge.  They especially enjoyed attending classical music concerts through the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association (ORCMA) and, in retirement, attending classes in all kinds of subjects through the Oak Ridge Institute of Continuing Learning (ORICL).  Earlier they participated in a local Great Books Discussion Program through the Great Books Foundation.  An interview of Mary Ann discussing her early life in Oak Ridge is available online through the Center for Oak Ridge Oral History (COROH).
 
Mary Ann lived for more than seventy years on Orange Lane, in one of the original Oak Ridge houses that she and Jack purchased from the U. S. government—at the edge of the woods, near the National Scenic Wilderness Trail that runs behind Outer Drive.  Her neighbors on the lane were very dear to her, and she especially loved watching wildlife in the woods and feeding the birds.
 
Friends loved Mary Ann’s wit, intelligence, inner strength, courage, endurance, and the twinkle in her beautiful blue eyes.  She had great knowledge and curiosity, loved to learn, and, in her unassuming manner, always focused on others’ wellbeing.
 
Mary Ann was preceded in death by her husband Jack; her daughter Anne Courtenay Davidson; her son William Courtenay Davidson; her brother, William Howard Courtenay III; her niece Diane Davidson Cook and husband Fred Cook; and her brothers-in-law G. Nathaniel Davidson and wife Mary; Robert Calvin Davidson; William Hutchinson Davidson; Hugh MacCullough Davidson and wife Loretta; and Lee Stripling Davidson.  
 
Mary Ann is survived by her daughter, Adele Stripling Davidson of Gambier, Ohio, an English professor at Kenyon College; her brother Thomas A. Courtenay, M.D., of Shelbyville, KY; her niece Anne Stripling Davidson, M.D., of Columbus, Ohio, with her children Samuel Windler and Jane Windler, and stepdaughters Sarah Windler and Jenny Windler and their families; and her niece Julie Davidson McCaffrey and husband Glenn McCaffrey, with their children Mary Kate McCaffrey and Andrew McCaffrey and their families.
 
The family wishes to express gratitude to Mary Ann’s physicians—Dr. Joseph Wang, M.D., and cardiologists Dr. Stephen Teague, M.D., and Dr. L. Todd Justice, M.D., and to Mary Ann’s beloved long-time caregivers from Trinity Homecare: Magon, Trina, Sherrie, and Sharon, and office manager Samantha.  Even in later years, as Mary Ann’s health declined, she often put herself to sleep at night by reciting poetry silently or aloud: one favorite, in the East Tennessee springtime, was a William Wordsworth poem with the closing lines, “And then my heart with pleasure fills / And dances with the daffodils.”
 
The family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Memorial Fund of the First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge, P. O. Box 6106, Oak Ridge, TN, 37830, or to Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties (ADFAC), 1051 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, TN 37830, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
 
Funeral arrangements are with Mott-McKamey Funeral Home.

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