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NH couple named Pepper Fest Good Neighbors

This year has been a challenging one for the Davis family of North Hudson. Roger was diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing treatment. His family has been overwhelmed by the support of their community and are honored to be the 2013 Pepper Fest Good Neighbors. Meg Heaton photo.

When it comes to being named the North Hudson Pepper Fest Good Neighbors of the year, it is about what you give to the community. This year it is clearly about “giving as good as you get.”

It has been a trying time for the Davis family of North Hudson since Roger was diagnosed last September with adrenocarcinoma, a rare inoperable cancer located in his abdomen. He’s been through some grueling chemotherapy with his wife, Laura and son, Ty, by his side.....and it turns out, hundreds of friends and neighbors in North Hudson and beyond.

Roger and Laura Davis are this year’s Good Neighbors, having earned the distinction after being part of village life for more than two decades. Laura has lived in their house on Wisconsin Street since 1981. They were married 22 years ago and Roger moved in. It is the only home their son Ty has ever known.

The Davis’ love their neighborhood, North Hudson and their greater Hudson community. Roger has served as a village trustee but more recently has become very active in the Destination Imagination program in Hudson. His interest started when Ty got involved. He “dabbled” in the program for a couple of years before taking on the role of coach for several years both with Ty’s teams and others.

Roger is passionate about DI because he says it “fills a gap that is missing in our schools.”

“It is a very empowering experience for kids. They make all the decisions on their own. They learn there are multiple right answers to most questions and they find them with no book, no parent or teacher telling them where to look. And it can be a hilarous experience.” Son Ty said it was a little intimidating at times having his dad as a coach but he was great to bounce ideas off of.

Roger, who is a hydrogeologist with his own company, Environmental Focus Inc. and an adjunct lecturer at UW-River Falls, also volunteers with the Just Add Water program at The Phipps Center and frequently is “Mr. Science in Hudson schools.

Laura who works for an opthamologist in the Twin Cities and has her own jewelry design business, also has a long volunteer history in Ty’s schools over the years and the couple has been very active with the Hudson Relay For Life over the years.

And every third weekend in August you would likely find them volunteering in one place or another during the Pepper Fest.

So being named this year’s Good Neighbors has been overwhelming for the couple. “Anita Stilwell left the sweetest message for us. You just don’t know how many lives you touch in your community until something like this happens,” said Laura. “It’s wonderful,’ said Roger.

When news of Roger’s illness spread, friends and neighbors set up a calendar to provide meals for the family, to help with transportation and anything else the family needed. They woke up on Halloween to find their front yard decorated complete with a larger than life Frankenstein.The list of kindnesses goes on and on. There were notes of encouragement left in their mailbox and little things like moving the garbage can out of the driveway so they could pull in after a trip to the doctor.

They say that is the beauty of living in the same neighborhood for a long time. There are no strangers. For Roger, it is a special feeling after having moved around a great deal while growing up.

The Davis have reached out to their family, friends and neighbors in need but say it is much easier to give than receive. “I wish everyone would have the opportunity to know how kind people are. I feel so lucky to share in this while I am still walking around. It is against our nature to be selfish but I’ve learned to accept it gratefully and it has made all this easier to bear,” said Roger.

Laura said she had a friend who had cancer and went through treatment but she never really understood what it meant to go through it. “The generosity of people has been so amazing. It makes want to live each day with intention, to just do things, and be better.”

“You just learn to appreciate the small things more — do everything a little deeper,” said Roger.

The family has appreciated all of the support they have received from phone calls and entries left on Roger’s Caring Bridge site to fundraisers by their “DI family” and by the HHS orchestra of which Ty is a member.

So they are looking forward to riding in the Pepper Fest Parade on Saturday, Aug. 17, and saying thank you to as many as they can over the festival weekend. And in the spirit of all good neighbors they have extended an invitation to their neighbor across the street, Karlene Quale, to join them in the parade. She and her late husband Larry were last year’s Good Neighbors but Karlene was unable to ride in the parade due to illness.

The parade begins at 11 a.m. on Aug. 17 and runs on Sixth Street North between Michaelson and St. Croix streets.

The North Hudson Pepper Fest is Aug. 16-18. For more information see a separate story in this week’s Star-Observer or go online at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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