Belgian artist captures detail of adopted hometown, Cliffside
News Stories & Columns
By Danny Hirt Daily
Courier Staff Writer May 15, 1995
CLIFFSIDE – Henry Davis has captured the mood and emotion of the bygone days in this mill town with pencil and paper.
Davis has completed drawing what he calls his “Cliffside Collection,” the first in a series of pencil drawings he’s doing. This grouping includes prints of “Downtown Cliffside,” “Cliffside Railroad Steam Engine,” “Cliffside Cotton Mill,” and “The Memorial Building.”
But his connection to Cliffside is not as common as that of most. Davis, 47, was born in the Belgium town of Tongeren, the son of an American soldier and his wartime bride.
His 30-day visit to the United States coincided with Cliffside’s “Homecoming IV” festivities held this weekend.
But for Davis, the homecoming had added meaning. It gave him yet another opportunity to visit his father and other family members separated by an ocean and many years.
His father, H.V. Davis of Cliffside, was in the U.S. military serving in Europe during World War II.
“Daddy came over during the war to Tongeren,” Davis explained. “He met my mother, and they got married.”
But the elder Davis was recalled to the States, and had to leave his wife and 8-month-old Henry in Belgium.
Henry said his father tried to get the family to America, but moving over here would have created a dilemma with his mother’s family in Tongeren.
Davis said he had no memory of his dad. “I had old pictures, but that was about it.”
Henry said he once opened a trunk in the attic and found letters addressed to his mother from his father. “I knew him, but I didn’t know him. I didn’t know anything about him.”
Davis said he kept in touch with his father with the help of family members during the 1960s. But Henry said it was his youngest son who urged him to write to his American father. Davis said he then was able to contact his dad’s sister, Lillian, in 1984. But the homecoming was still three years away.
Henry’s first trip to the U.S. — and to Cliffside — came in 1987 as the result of a trip his wife, Mary, had won in a magazine contest. “I was 40 years old when I first met my father,” he said.
“It was quite emotional,” Henry said of the reunion. “It was paradise for me after all these years.”
Although Davis continues to live in Belgium with his wife and three children, he is legally a citizen of the United States.
He’s on his sixth trip to the U.S. and the friendliness of people here impresses him most.
And Davis, who “just started doing” pencil drawings one day and has stayed with it ever since, said Cliffside gave him the exact setting he’d been seeking for his pencil drawing because of the old buildings and their great detail. He said he has always had a liking for the older scenery.
“I live in the oldest town in Belgium,” he said, adding that it was founded before the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s a place of living history, Davis said, “and a beautiful town.”
But, then, that’s how he feels about his home-away-from-home, Cliffside, too.
Clipping provided by Phillip White. Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright owned by The Daily Courier.