By Lisa Petri ADCRG, President of IDTANA
Fedelmia Davis was my friend. My mentor. My hero.
I never had the honor, nor privilege to be part of the Davis School of Irish Dancing; but, Fedelmia was one of my greatest teachers.
She taught me about selfless volunteerism, generous optimism, and finding the joy in literally every situation. She let me see that even leaders can be vulnerable and have self-doubt. And above all, she led by example and taught me that when things needed to get done you just buckled down and got it done!
I was a young teenage dancer in the 1980’s when Fedelmia Davis first came into focus for me. I was competing at the Washington DC Feis, in 100-degree heat one July, when the judges approached the stage and the crowd parted ways for them. In the group was a confident man with a huge smile dressed in white from head to toe (yes, he wore a suit in that heat!) and a beautiful lady with flaming red hair, dressed and made up to the nines, elegantly smoking a mini-cigar! Well, that’s what I thought it was at 13 years of age! She was screaming laughing as they flowed up to the judges’ tables. They judged all of that summer and I was mesmerized. They were beautiful, confident, & happy. My parents explained that they were 2 of the founding members of the IDTANA, the organization we were part of, and always joked “Here comes royalty!” whenever they walked through the feis field.
It wasn’t until the early 1990’s, after I had passed my TCRG and joined the Eastern Region of the IDTANA, that I got to finally know Fedelmia. She was our Regional Director and would remain in that position as our leader for 25 years.
She had earned and commanded deep love and respect in our Region. She was a generous leader with a quick laugh and wit.
She loved a party!
In 2010, when the MAR hosted the NAIDC in Orlando she was game for every themed award ceremony. She even wore a bright yellow t-shirt over her beautiful outfit one evening. The t-shirt had a huge smiley face on it in honor of her nickname for the MAR “The Happy Region”.
For the 25 years she led us, she always referred to us as “The Happy Region”. She loved all of her members and was always happy to come and offer support to your dance, your party, your celebration. And when she was there, she would dance the night away. She would pose with dancers from every school at competitions for memorable photographs, now cherished.
She celebrated with you, for you, and for your dancers.
From 1997-1999, my sister Karen and I were the Chairpeople of the MAR Oireachtas. New to that type of position, Fedelmia was our lifeline. We called her literally every day (before email and cell phones). Her home phone number is burned into our brains. She would spend hours on the phone answering questions, giving advice, laughing and telling stories about running Oireachtasi in the past, her Derry accent singing to you. And when she left you a voicemail, she always ended with her signature sign-off, “Bye for now…..Fedelmia”.
We had the privilege in the MAR to have all three IDTANA Founding Members in our Region, Peter, Fedelmia, and Anna. We watched them interact professionally and as friends. Sometimes our meetings were VERY lively but they had that special bond of time and having worked to create something special and unique together.
At the last MAR Oireachtas Fedelmia attended in November, 2019, she and Anna spoke to the members and guests at the teacher’s reception. Fedelmia never loved public speaking and always had her notes that she would go over with Jimmy, Karen and I before she would address the Oireachtas crowds or other events. This time Anna spoke as they stood there together, lifelong friends. They spoke through Anna about how proud they were of the Region and the IDTANA and the scores of teachers who had grown up and become members. They were so proud of what they had started and we were all so grateful for their sacrifices, perseverance, and friendship.
Fedelmia always told Karen and I that we were like daughters to her and we cherish that special bond we had with her. COVID robbed us of the ability to see her in her final months and days. Maybe it’s better that way. She will always be the larger-than-life Fedelmia to us who inspired us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. In the last few years, every time we were together, she made us promise that we would never forget her.
We never will.
By Conleth Mullan
Fedelmia was born in Derry City, Northern Ireland on November 28, 1935, she was the youngest of four children. She is preceded in death by her parents Annie and Willie Mullan, sister Nan O’Doherty, brothers Seamus and Raymond Mullan and her beloved husband Bill Davis. She is survived by her two daughters, Anne Cole and her husband Jim; and Fedelmia Gallagher and her husband Ken. Her four grandchildren Heather, Sean and wife Jessica, Kenny and wife Tab, and Theresa and husband Eddie, as well as her four great grandchildren, Emma, Brian, Annabelle and Madison. She also has many nieces and nephews in Ireland and England.
We would be remiss if we did not also acknowledge all of the individuals who enriched her life, her chosen family, lifelong colleagues, dancers, students, supporters, neighbors and close friends, who added to her happiness and joy.
Fedelmia’s life work was focused on her passion for Irish Dance. As a child she started dancing at the age of five with Brendan DeGlin. She quickly thrived, winning numerous championships including three All Ireland Championships and Three Ulster Championships. After retiring from competing Fedelmia went on to receive her teaching (T.C.R.G.) and adjudicating (A.D.C.R.G) certificates through the Irish Dancing Commission.
Shortly after moving to the United States, Fedelmia and five other certified teachers met in New York and founded the Irish Dancing Teachers Association of North America. She opened her own dance school in New Jersey, The Davis Academy, which she operated for over 55 years. She trained countless dancers, successfully cultivating numerous champion dancers, many of whom are now certified teachers and adjudicators as well.
Her contributions to the Irish Dance community are immeasurable. She has received many distinguished honors in her lifetime. Some of her proudest include leading the Mid-Atlantic Region as Regional Director for more than 25 years, receiving the Gradam Rince Award of Distinction from An Coimisiun, being named to the North American Hall of Fame as well as being celebrated at the Felie Dea Mheasa in Ireland. She considered the community of Irish Dance an extension of her family.
Irish Dance brought her so much joy, so many laughs, more happiness and memories that can be written into a single acknowledgement. She loved you. She loved sharing her passion and talent.