A former Pan Am employee who mingled with celebrities has become a competitive force nationally in track and field
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 21, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 11:35 a.m. HST, Feb 12, 2014
There’s something about flying that has long attracted Joan Davis.
Whether it was working for Pan American as a ground hostess in New York in the 1960s or watching her throws — hammer, discus, shot put, weight and super weight — soar during track and field meets for more than two decades, Davis and flight have made many memorable trips.
The journeys have ranged from checking in celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Truman Capote and Cary Grant, to checking the distances that would lift her into the age-group rankings of U.S. Track and Field.
“I was always wanting to see the world,” said the 71-year-old Davis, a Honolulu resident since 1968. “But my bucket list at age 20 is definitely different than the one at age 70.”
And it’s definitely different from the one made more than 20 years ago. In 1989 Davis saw her weight balloon and began having health problems.
“I had a wake-up call after my mother died,” she said. “I did Optifast (all-liquid diet) and lost 75 pounds.
“But to maintain that you have to watch your diet and exercise.”
Davis began race-walking and was invited to join Farber’s Flyers, a local women’s running group. For someone whose athletic background was “a little bit of tennis, swimming and horseback riding,” competition was a new and rewarding experience.
She finished the first of her nine marathons in 1990, this as a race-walker. But when she was disqualified for improper form in the annual women’s 10-kilometer race, Davis found another competitive avenue with the Hawaii Masters Track Club.
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She competed at the local meets intermittently in track and field events until an accident in 2000 sidelined her.
“I had lost my dedication and my drive,” Davis said. “I had to get myself back into the right mode for training.”
Winning is always a great motivator. In 2001 the Hawaii Masters Track Club qualified a number of its members for the national Senior Games, including Davis; she has been to another four since then.
Currently she is ranked No. 1 in her age group (70-74) in three disciplines: shot put, weight and super weight. All three marks were recorded during an HMTC meet March 4 at the University of Hawaii, including again reaching the All-American standard in super weight (4.33 meters).
“What I like about (throws) is you can literally measure the improvement,” she said. “When I get up there, I put my whole heart into it and watch the results.
“My goal is to qualify for the Senior Olympics in 2013. I’ve got 18 months to keep improving my marks. I enjoy seeing the other ladies (in my age group) at those meets. It’s like a minireunion and we’re still friendly. But watch out next time.”
A tomboy growing up, Davis is often the only female at local meets. “But it doesn’t feel weird. I’m just one of the boys out there, and they’ve been very supportive, coaching me. I’d sure like to have a few more women come out. I would really recommend it.
“My (late) parents never saw the jock in me. I’d like to think they’re seeing it now.”
Between her job, preparing for national meets, competing in local road races and her many volunteer duties, Davis has stayed busy during her “semiretirement.” But the HMTC secretary, Mid-Pacific Road Runners vice president and state representative for the Road Runners Club of America added a life-changing new job title in late 2006: grandmother.
The son Davis had given up for adoption in the 1960s had been searching for her. In one phone call “I became a mother, mother-in-law and grandmother,” she said. “I have a granddaughter now 9, and I feel like I have a new existence, a new life.”