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Newmarket icon, hall of famer, clock tower saviour turns 100

'The best part about getting old is there’s nobody around to correct you, refute your ideas, or check out your stories,' says Margaret Davis, who never left Newmarket after arriving in 1946

Not even a stuck elevator can hold back Newmarket's Margaret Davis. 

On the way to her 100th birthday party June 25 at the Old Town Hall, the elevator got stuck with Davis and a couple of others in it for 25 minutes.

But even when the fire department was called to help get her out, Davis's spirits stayed high and she eventually walked out and flashed a smile to her family members waiting at the top. 

After she was settled in the room where the party was taking place, when asked about the situation, she said, “I’m feeling fine” and proceeded to talk about how the chair she was sitting on was uncomfortable, a more pressing concern. 

About 100 friends and family came to celebrate Davis' birthday, which was actually the day before on June 24. The centenarian has lived in Newmarket since 1946 and left a big legacy in sports. 

Davis was born in Ottawa and had lived in Toronto, where she eventually met her husband, Keith. When they got married, she only had to make a small change to her name. 

"When my mom was single her name was Margaret Davies, and she married Keith Davis, so she just had to drop the 'e' — now isn’t that strange,” said her daughter, Heather Burling. 

When the family moved to Newmarket, Keith got involved in tennis and teaching kids how to play. 

“When we moved here 77 years ago, right after the war, my husband loved tennis,” Davis said. 

Keith was so involved that the courts by the Newmarket Community Centre were named the Keith Davis Tennis Centre and he was inducted into the Newmarket Hall of Fame. 

While Margaret was also involved in the tennis, often shuttling kids to different events and tournaments, she had another sport in mind. 

“I loved figure skating, my favourite sport,” she said. 

Along with friend Sally Brice, Davis was involved in founding the Newmarket Skating Club in 1960. The club still continues on today and earned Davis her own spot in the hall of fame. She was inducted with Brice in 2015. 

Davis also had a hand in starting the Newmarket bridge club. She had been playing in Aurora but was bothered by the smoking and decided to get a group going in Newmarket that was smoke-free. They have been playing ever since. 

“A lot of nice friendships were made in that bridge club,” she said. 

She and her husband also ran Keith Davis Sporting Goods, a store that sold everything from sporting supplies to pet birds. Then when a customer came in looking for a trophy, a new business was born: Keith Davis Engraving. It is run today by Davis' grandson, David Burling, and remains a testament to Davis' role in town. 

“I just love Newmarket. A lot of people over the years would move away and we’d say ‘Oh, you’ll be back’ and, sure enough, later on they move back again,” she said. 

One of Davis's biggest contributions to the community was her role in saving the clock tower building on downtown Main Street. When a developer proposed to tear it down and put up condominiums, she organized a meeting for residents and began advocating for the heritage building to be saved. At a town council meeting about the building, more than 300 people attended and the decision was made to save it. 

“After seven years, we saved the clock tower,” Heather Burling said. “Mom was one of the ones who got that going.”

Now the building is being converted to a boutique hotel and Mayor John Taylor stopped by the party on Saturday to make an important announcement related to the project. 

"I reached out to the clock tower and they told me I could announce today that the fitness centre, in honour of her sports hall of fame and clock tower work, the fitness centre in the hotel will be named after Margaret Davis," he said. 

Taylor, who kept his distance recently to recover from COVID-19, also presented Davis with a card and plaque on behalf of the town. It was one of many she received to celebrate the occasion, including one from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and another from Queen Elizabeth. 

The party also included speeches from loved ones and one from Davis herself, who stood up and spoke for more than 20 minutes. She said she had been warned not to talk for more than five minutes but said, “I thought, ‘What? Anyone get bored when I’m speaking?’” 

She shared stories of getting a dog when she was 11, meeting Keith while skating in Toronto, their life while he was in the air force, raising kids, running their business, and her life work. 

“The best part about getting old is there’s nobody around to correct you, refute your ideas, or check out your stories,” she said. 

When asked what her secret is to making it to 100 years old, she said, “You have to live an exemplary life. Lots of sports, that’s about it." 

Davis is completely mobile and was still swimming at the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex earlier this year. She still lives at home in the house she shares on Park Avenue with daughter Heather and son-in-law Keith Burling. 

Prior to that, the Burlings were living in another house at Park and Davis Drive and her husband had a home on Lorne Avenue. When their family doctor died, they decided to go in together and buy his house on Park near Main. 

“I’ve never had an argument with her and we’ve lived together all these years. My Dad was the same way. They’re just so easy-going,” Burling said of her mom. 

They ran the sporting goods store and Keith Burling's accounting business from the garage. The trophy engraving business has since relocated to Donlin Avenue, just south of Eagle Street. 

Margaret Davis has two daughters, Wendy who is 80 and Heather who is turning 79 this year. She has four grandchildren: David Burling, Melinda Vali, Kline Sack, and Polly Sacks, who like her Grandma only had to change one letter in her name when she got married. 

There are a number of great-grandchildren, including eight-year-old Ellie who came all the way from California to sing happy birthday at the party. 

Davis is lovingly known as Chiefy to her family. 


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Elizabeth Keith

About the Author: Elizabeth Keith

Elizabeth Keith is a general assignment reporter. She graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2017. Elizabeth is passionate about telling local stories and creating community.
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