Stanley Davidson, the founder of Davidson Lumber, a chain of lumber yards and home building supply stores throughout South Florida, died Monday. He was 88.
A vital and dynamic octogenarian, Davidson as recently as last Christmas was snow skiing with his grandchildren.
But six weeks ago, he broke a hip and his health deteriorated rapidly, family members said.
“He was the most optimistic person I have ever met,” said son Scott Davidson, one of five children.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, on Aug. 8, 1924, his father and grandfather owned and ran a lumber yard.
When the Germans invaded Poland during World War II, Stanley Davidson was separated from his parents and older brother.
He joined the Polish division of the British Royal Air Force and flew as a navigator on one of the legendary two-seat wooden Mosquito bombers.
After the war, he lived for three years in Venezuela and later moved to Miami.
He spent years trying to find out whether his parents and brother had survived the war, and if so, where they were. Finally he located them in Montreal.
Back in Miami, he followed in the family tradition and launched Davidson Lumber.
In the years before Home Depot was founded, it was Davidson Lumber that supported the real estate development of the ’60s and ’70s. At its peak, it employed 10,000 people and had 18 stores all across South Florida.
He also developed commercial property, including the high rise office building Gables International Plaza.
Daughter Holly Davidson said that even though he was a major businessman, her father was always humble.
He gave a lot of money to charities, but always anonymously, not taking credit for it, said his son Scott, adding that one of his father’s favorite quotations was from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest.”
Davidson loved classical music and fine literature. In particular, he liked to read Shakespeare, whom he quoted a lot.
But the quote that Davidson liked to recite most was from a wartime Winston Churchill speech: “Never, never, never give up.”
In addition to his son Scott and daughter Holly, Davidson is survived by sons Howard and Jeffrey; and daughter Tracey Davidson.
Services will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Beth David Synagogue, 2625 SW Third Ave., Miami.