John Davis-Travis

Longtime Travis Elementary crossing guard John Davis, right, takes a break to have a photo taken with a young student. (Photo from gofundme.com)

Heather Easterly's daughter has walked to and from Travis Elementary for the last six years, developing a twice-per-day routine involving the school's longtime crossing guard.

In the morning and again in the afternoon while school was in session, John Davis would greet Easterly's daughter with a hello, a friendly smile and sometimes a high five. They would engage in conversation, too, with Davis taking an interest in the Heights-area fifth grader and brightening her mood with words of encouragement and "great energy," according to Easterly.

Her daughter was so fond of Davis that she once made him a birthday card to tell him how much she appreciated him.

"He really is the heart of the school," Easterly said.

Generations of Travis students and their families have had a heavy heart since mid-May, and current students such as Easterly's daughter have missed seeing Davis at the intersection of Omar Street and Florence Street. According to a GoFundMe page set up May 20 by Andrea French, the president of the Travis PTA, Davis suffered a medical emergency earlier that week and was fighting to recover.

Davis died Tuesday evening, according to a Wednesday afternoon email written by Travis principal Tom Day that was provided to The Leader

"A 10-year member of the Travis Family, Mr. Davis was not just a safety presence at the intersection of Florence and Omar Streets, he was a special part of our community - a genuine, friendly, and caring soul who connected with so many of our students and families who came to know and love him," Day wrote. "He will be terribly missed."

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 380 people had donated more than $32,500 to the GoFundMe account, which was set up to help Davis and his family cover medical expenses. Nearly two dozen donors also wrote heartfelt messages about Davis and their interactions with him, with some saying they loved him.

"It’s a testament to the love that he gave and continues to shine on people, that he gave during his daily crossing guard duties and beyond," French said Tuesday morning. "He clearly was important to many students and parents and families. We’re seeing that love returned."

The Houston ISD press office did not grant requests to interview Day or a member of Davis' family. The office also did not answer emailed questions about Davis and his employment with the district. When asked in an email Thursday whether HISD could confirm Davis' death, a district spokesperson said, "Due to FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), we can't comment."

A spokesperson for the Houston Fire Department said it was dispatched to a call regarding an unconscious man on the ground near Travis, located at 3311 Beauchamp St. in Woodland Heights, at about 7 a.m. May 18. HFD's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived to find a bystander administering CPR, according to the spokesperson, who said, "HFD crews took over EMS life-saving efforts and transported the patient to a nearby hospital."

Travis later held a "spirit day" in honor of Davis, according to French, who said students made get-well cards. 

One donor to the GoFundMe account said her child is new to Travis but was made to feel like a longtime part of the school family because of Davis' friendliness while working as a crossing guard. Another donor said her daughter, another Travis student, contributed money from her savings.

Another called interactions with Davis "the highlight of our morning."

"We absolutely love Mr. Davis," wrote yet another donor. "He made every crossing a gentle little positive affirmation and no matter what your day was like, he made it better."

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