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Merrill N. (“Jeff”) Davis, III, dead at 80

December 12, 2021
Merrill N. (“Jeff”) Davis, III
Merrill N. (“Jeff”) Davis, III

Merrill Nathaniel (“Jeff”) Davis, III, 80, died October 16, 2021, in Rochester, Minnesota. Born February 13, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois, he lived most of his childhood and teen years in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He was an active organist while still in grade school, and at age 15 was dean of the La Crosse area chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Davis earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and also studied organ privately with Arthur B. Jennings, Jr. He completed his Master of Music degree at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, as a student of Robert T. Anderson. Additional studies and coaching were with Willard Irving Nevins, Gerald A. Bales, Arthur Poister, and Heinrich Fleischer.

Davis served as musician for various congregations, including First Congregational Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin; St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul Church, Zumbro Lutheran Church, First Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Congregational (United Church of Christ) Church, all in Rochester, Minnesota. He was a frequent guest organist at Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago, Illinois. Davis concertized widely and was known for his skills as an improviser. In 1974, he was one of four finalists at the International Organ Improvisation Competition at the St. Bavo Church, Haarlem, the Netherlands. Davis was an active member of the Southeast Minnesota Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Davis was also involved in the pipe organ industry as a sales representative and freelance consultant. The firms for which Davis worked included the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, Rodgers Instruments, and Rieger-Kloss of Krnov, Czech Republic. He also consulted on behalf of other companies, in particular Hendrickson Organ Company, St. Peter, Minnesota. He also was involved as a personal financial advisor, working for IDS.

Merrill Nathaniel Davis, III, is survived by two sons and two sisters-in-law. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, a sister, and by his first wife, Jane Schleiter Davis, and his second wife, June Fiksdal Davis. A memorial concert is planned for February 12 at the Congregational Church, Rochester, Minnesota.


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