Monica Davis (nee Watson)
Monica Davis established the St. Catharines chapter of Pflag in 1994. This was an important step for her, and for the local LGBTQ community. However, Monica had already come a long way on her journey towards acceptance and support of her gay son, and of other of other individuals and families struggling with issues of sexual orientation.
She was born in England in January 1932, where she studied to become a registered nurse. She emigrated to Canada in 1955, to a job at the St. Catharines General Hospital. That same year she met her future husband, Stan, while playing tennis. Stan was an engineer at General Motors.
They were married in 1957 and had 3 children; twins Ann and Ian in 1958, and son Keith in 1960.
They had an uneventful Canadian, family and working life. Monica was involved in her church and always loved gardening.
Then in 1983 tragedy struck. Daughter, Ann developed an incurable form of cancer. Some months before she died, her younger brother, Keith, had confided to Ann that he was gay. She urged him to tell their parents, and he did.
With little information available Monica did her best to understand. When her husband died 2 years later she was almost overwhelmed. She saw a counselor, who told her about a support group for parents of gay children in Buffalo, NY. She began attending that group in about 1987. She found parents who shared and understood her situation. She heard their stories and told hers. They cried together, laughed and hugged.
Early in the 1990s Monica began providing one on one support for parents – by telephone, and in her home, at her kitchen table. In October 1994, with the support of her church, St. John’s Anglican, in Port Dalhousie, she opened a formal PFLAG Chapter, calling it PFLAG St. Catharines. The group met monthly in the church basement.
In the years that followed Monica essentially became the face, and voice, of families supporting their gay and lesbian children. She gave interviews to the St. Catharines Standard, spoke to numerous groups, schools, churches, even the United Autoworkers Union. In 1994 she was interviewed in the Standard, supporting same sex benefits. She marched annually in the Gay Pride Parade, carrying a banner saying “Proud mother of a gay son.” She remained as Chapter Leader of Pflag St. Catharines until 2000. In 2004 she was awarded the St. Catharines Human Rights Award.
Pflag was not the only organization in which Monica took an active part. She was a member of the Winter Club, Eastern Star, Lady Shriners, and the Horticultural Society. She was always very involved in her church, St. John’s Anglican of Port Dalhousie. The small yard of the home in Port Dalhousie, to which she retired, was a rose garden, including some prize winning varieties.
Monica hosted an annual Pflag Picnic each August at her home and that of her son, who had a neighbouring cottage on the lake. This was a great opportunity to relax and socialize together.
Soon after 2000 transgender individuals were coming out, and the organization Transgender Niagara was formed. For Monica, as well as many other PFLAG members, there was a learning curve to understand this issue of gender identity. But, once again, Monica was open to new ideas. Parents of trans children were welcomed to join the group and we learned from each other.
Monica was a warmhearted, intelligent, down to earth person, with courage to meet the challenges life put in her way. She made an enormous contribution to the advancement of LGBTQ rights in St. Catharines and Niagara.
In 2017 she suffered a stroke and passed away 2 years later, March 26, 2019.
Those who knew her, miss her kind and loving guidance, and cheeky British humour.
Contributed by Catherine Mackenzie