Donna Davis, Thaibok Siamese

BY LEE HARPER
Published August 2014

Photos copyrighted by the individual photographers
Article copyright © PandEcats.com. All Rights Reserved.
Copying or redistribution of this article is strictly prohibited
without the express written permission of PandEcats.com

On July 19, 2014, CFA judge and Siamese breeder Donna Davis passed away at the age of 76.

CFA has lost a legend.

The Siamese breed has lost one of its true grand dames.

Thaibok

Donna spent over five decades breeding, exhibiting and judging her beloved breed—the Siamese.

Donna and Ed Davis registered the Thaibok cattery name with CFA in the mid-1960s after discussing their cattery dreams on their wedding night.

The name Thaibok was created by using the first syllable of the current name of the country where the Siamese originated, Thailand, and combining it with the last syllable of Thailand's capital city, Bangkok. Together, the syllables formed the word "Thaibok".

In the years that followed, Thaibok would become synonymous with stunning, record-setting Siamese cats.


Donna at the Salt City Cat Club show in Cortland, NY, September 2013
Photo by L. Johnson

GC Thaibok's Ruby Foo, DM was Thaibok's foundation male. Amongst his many other qualities, Ruby Foo had brilliant blue eyes that he passed on consistently to his kittens. In 1967-68, he became the second Siamese (and the first male) to earn the title of Breed Winner in CFA. He added the DM title to his name in 1986. 


GC Thaibok's Ruby Foo, DM
Photo Courtesy of the National Siamese Cat Club

More Thaibok Siamese went on to add their names to the record book. In 1969, the seal point female GC, NW Thaibok Whiskey au Go-Go topped the kitten list in CFA when she became the first and only Siamese to ever be Kitten of the Year in CFA.


Donna judging in 1973
Photo Courtesy of The CFA Foundation Inc.

Then, in 1976, Thaibok cattery set a CFA record that will probably never be matched. The seal point Siamese boy, GC, NW Thaibok Teriyaki, DM, was CFA's Cat of the Year and another male, GC, NW Thaibok Tyrone, was CFA's 3rd Best Cat in Championship. Never before or since has any Siamese cattery achieved such a feat in a single show season. "Teri" was the culmination of a decade of Donna's planning and breeding. He was shown in 42 shows with 99 Best Cat wins, garnering a total of 17,654 points. Teri retired to a career of happy stud cat duties . . . and being Donna's pet.


GC, NW Thaibok Teriyaki, DM
CFA's Best Cat 1976
Photo Courtesy of the National Siamese Cat Club


GC, NW Thaibok Tyrone
CFA's 3rd Best Cat 1976
Photo Courtesy of the National Siamese Cat Club

In the 1977-78 show season, Donna showed another of her Siamese to a national win when her chocolate point female GC, BW, NW Thaibok Tantra was 9th Best Cat in Championship.


GC, BW, NW Thaibok Tantra
9th Best Cat
Photo Courtesy of the National Siamese Cat Club

Donna bred great cats—winning cats, but even more important, she generously shared her Thaibok bloodlines with other breeders.  She mentored many new Siamese exhibitors and breeders. She wanted every newcomer to get off to a good start and often offered stud service at no charge to help the newbie produce good kittens. Today, it is rare to find a Siamese pedigree that does not have the Thaibok name amongst its ancestors.

Donna was also adamant about preserving the wonderful disposition of the Siamese breed. She is quoted as saying, "In all my years of judging I've never had to ask a handler to help with a Siamese in my ring."

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Donna also believed in preserving the history of the Siamese cat. Because of her interest in pedigrees she contacted older and retired breeders to collect pedigrees of cats from decades earlier. She referred to these old pedigrees as "The Dead Sea Scrolls". She shared the fruits of her research with other Siamese linechasers so that the fruits of her research can now be found in many Siamese pedigree databases.

The National Siamese Cat Club

Donna was a long-time member of the National Siamese Cat Club (NSCC) and served as its President in the 1970s. She wrote numerous articles on the Siamese that were published in the quarterly NSCC newsletter.

CFA Judge

Donna's discerning eye for a quality cat naturally led her to become a CFA judge. For more than 40 years she was much in demand. She was not the type of judge to become involved in politics. She liked a cat or she didn't. It didn't matter who owned it or how much winning it had already done. Donna was independent and had the courage of her convictions. In May 1979, when CFA finally accepted the Somali for championship status, Donna was the first CFA judge to choose a Somali as her Best Cat.


Donna with fellow judge Donna Jean Thompson in 1982
Photo Courtesy of The CFA Foundation Inc.


Donna Davis judging in 2001
Photo courtesy Mary Kolencik, MaryK's Siamese

Donna Davis judging GP ALEXY'S LAPIS LAZULI in 2004
Photo courtesy Dianne Alexy, Alexy Siamese


In 2001, CFA's Siamese Breed Council awarded Donna their Lifetime Achievement Award. Donna's love for the Siamese, great mentoring ability, wonderful eye in the judging ring, and vast accomplishments and contributions to the Cat Fancy are why we're proud to present the Siamese Breed Council's Lifetime Achievement Award to this great lady.


A cat sculpture in the window of
The Cat Lady Antiques shop

The Cat Lady Antiques

Donna was always busy. Besides breeding and exhibiting her Siamese and a demanding judging schedule, she was a loving wife and mother. She maintained a beautiful home and extensive gardens for her family.

In addition, for many years she owned and operated an antique shop appropriately named "The Cat Lady Antiques" in Port Washington, NY.

Farewell

Donna's mentoring, sharing honesty and sense of humor endeared her to generations of cat fanciers in CFA. The impact of her Thaibok breeding program can be seen in the pedigrees of today's Siamese winners.

Donna is survived by her grown children, Greg, Kate, and Teddy and two grandchildren.

Remembered

Below are a few excerpts from remembrances from friends and colleagues who felt privileged to know Donna Davis . . .

She was truly a wonderful lady that I will never forget.  She was one of my mentors and I owned two of her very beautiful cats when I was first getting started.  She was actually how I got in touch with Jean Singer and how I ended up with Singa Ballad.  She was very helpful to me with knowledge she shared  way back in the early days. I always looked forward to seeing her when she judged on the West Coast.  We always shared our happiness  to see each other.  She was someone I respected highly, she was fun, and so knowledgeable of all breeds and I always respected her decision on the Siamese especially since, of course, that is my breed.  lol   Yes, she is definitely an ICON and always will be in the cat fancy.   I will miss never seeing her again in the judging ring. She was a great judge and always presented her finals in style.

Dee and Connie
San-Toi Siamese

CFA has lost a legend, and the Siamese breeders have lost one of our greatest. Donna Davis was an iconic Siamese breeder having bred and shown *THE* king of the Siamese, Thaibok Teriyaki who was COTY in 1976 — and more than a few others whose names are scattered throughout Siamese history. Not only did Donna have great cats, but she shared those lines so that her work lives on in many pedigrees.

Mary Kolencik
MaryK Siamese

Donna and I started out as antagonists around 1978, when I was introducing the Tonkinese to CFA.  Donna was adamantly opposed to the breed, based on the use of Siamese as one of the foundation cats. At one point, we had a confrontation at an Annual meeting: two very strong, opinionated New York women who were sure as hell not going to back down! In 1984, when the Tonks were advanced to Championship status, I brought out the Platinum Tonkinese GC, RW Shotoku Glimour, at the time just a kitten.  I took Glee to the Half Moon show hoping for a couple of finals. Donna Davis was judging the last ring of the day. I was packing up to leave after class in Donna’s ring but before her final when her clerk came running over. She said “You can’t leave.” I thought she meant I couldn’t leave the show hall yet because of published show hours so I sat down to wait with Glee still in her carrier. Donna’s final was called and I heard Glee’s number! I checked the cards, and sure enough, there was a card on a cage with her number on it. I brought Glee to the ring in total disbelief. I figured well, maybe 10th Best Kitten. Donna began awarding her finals . . . 9th, 8th, 7th. . . Suddenly she was at 2nd Best Kitten . . . and it wasn’t Glee. Donna took Glee out and said “I didn’t believe it could be done. I didn’t believe you could breed a cat with aqua eyes, but here she is, "The Tonkinese is Best Kitten!” Tears ran down my face as I claimed her. Donna and I hugged—hard. That’s the woman and the judge that Donna was—a woman of strength, character, integrity and heart.

Joan Bernstein
Shotoku Tonkinese

I am devastated at the loss of one of my dearest, supportive, caring friend of 25 years, and one of my greatest mentors. She was indeed a very funny lady, and I enjoyed every minute we ever spent together.  She came to all of my parties, picked my raspberries to make jam for her family and Bruce  for many, many years.  I will miss you beautiful lady. You were one singular sensation, meaning you were one of a kind!

Terrie Smith
Purrmatix Balinese, Javanese & Orientals

I met Donna in the 1980"s when I had my wonderful Siamese from Jeanne Singer. I was desperate for a friend to keep my Singa girl company, as she was pining for her brother whom we had lost. Donna offered us a beautiful seal point girl, Thaibok Tina, who was to become my Singa girl's best pal. Donna and I became friends, and at the time, I don't think I realized how very blessed I was to get to know the two great ladies who will remain icons of the Siamese breed—Donna Davis and Jeanne Singer. Donna was a great CFA All Breed judge, but she always told me it was hard for her to judge my cats, because she knew me so well. Consequently, I think she was probably harder on me than other exhibitors. In all of the years of showing Siamese, she finally awarded one of my cats a Best Cat—my National Winning girl from two years ago.  It is a rosette that I will always treasure. 

Liz Jennings
Seasweep Siamese

Donna was my mainstay though my CFA life.  If it had not been for Donna and Ed’s encouragement, cats, breedings, education and the best mentoring anyone could have received; there never would have been a Sanlino. Moreover, I would have missed befriending the most wonderful person and sincerest friend I ever had.  If it were not for Donna, I would probably never have stayed in the cat fancy.  Without Donna’s  encouragement and guidance my breeding career would have had no foundation.  In every sense of the word, she was my mentor.  Always offering a steady light and guiding hand, she allowed me to start off at the top of the Siamese world.  Forever missed, always in my heart, I deeply miss Donna.

Bob Molino
CFA Judge
Sanlino Siamese

I am shocked and incredibly saddened. Donna, along with Jean Singer, was one of my mentors when I was starting with Siamese.

Pam DelaBar
CFA Judge
Regional Director CFA Region 9 (Europe)

Donna Davis was such a wonderful lady. I remember when I first started showing & I showed up with my 1st Siamese at a show. She started a conversation with me to help inspire my starting up a breeding program in the Siamese breed. Little did I know back then that I was speaking to one of the legendary contributors of the Siamese breed. Thorough out the years, she was always there to answer any questions I had along the way.    

Donna Fariello
Lexidon Siamese 

I first met Donna in the 80's. I went to the Long Island show with my new Maine Coon kitten. I was completely out of my league as a new exhibitor and potential breeder. I heard so many things at that show that should have discouraged me but, then I went to Donna Davis' ring. Donna awarded Alex Best of Breed and 3rd Best Allbreed kitten in her final. The things she said about him made me cry. I adored him and apparently, so did Donna. I was in awe of this woman when I sat in her ring for that first judging. She was exceptionally beautiful to me. She put me in mind of "Old Hollywood" and she exuded class. She was such a "lady". I was hooked after that final and I circled her name on every flyer left on top of my cage that weekend. What came after that was my first friendship with a judge which was unheard of to me. I thought it was inappropriate in some way. She gave me some of my most memorable moments in the show hall right up until 2012 when she said my girl in premiership was the best Maine Coon female she had ever seen. I am so pleased she was able to see her.  Donna was an exceptional woman and judge. It was an honor to know her and have her as a friend. I will miss circling her name on the flyers put on top of my cage.  Rest in peace, Donna.

Alexis Mitchell
Syracoon Maine Coons  
 

It's a sad day for CFA and for all the exhibitors who had the pleasure of being in Donna's ring. I had the pleasure of showing my first Manx in her ring back in 2001. Donna had been a Manx breeder before she bred Siamese. We had many a conversation regarding the breed. I always valued her critique. Rest in Peace dear Lady!

Jo Graziano
Tellmenotail Manx


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