By Betty Skold
Mystery questions of the week: What is Davey Hovander’s given name? Would you believe...Doris? It does sound a tad proper for a woman noted for wry humor and hard-hitting candor.
Doris Davidson grew up in Climax, Minnesota, a little town in the Red River Valley. When her father, Klaes Magne Davidson immigrated from Sweden, he became the only Swede among a town full of Norwegians. Mrs. Davidson was named Ragne, and Davey had two older siblings, a brother and a sister.
Their father was a garage and implement dealer. Davey confesses that she drove cars back and forth at the tender age of 12. She was an “all-around” kid; she played a lot of baseball with the boys. In high school she got “pretty good grades,” was a cheerleader, sang in the choir and played trumpet in the band. Her reward for church attendance was permission to go to Sunday night dances in a neighboring town.
After high school graduation Davey enrolled at the University of Minnesota. Her roommate showed an immediate distaste for the name “Doris.” “Let’s make it Davey,” she advised, and the nickname was permanently adopted. Her choice of a major (social work) sounded gloomy to Davey’s mother, so she added a Physical Education major to her plans.
As a third-year student she met graduate Phil Hovander on a blind date. The setting was Peggy’s restaurant in South Minneapolis. After dating for a time, Davey conceded that marriage was a great idea but elected to finish school while Phil went off to Hawaii to serve as a communications officer for the Marine Corps. During his two year absence, Davey worked for Pillsbury House, running their camp in Waconia.
After Phil’s return the wedding took place at Gethsemane with Pastor Lasse Stohl conducting the service, followed by a six-month stay at a Marine base in North Carolina. Then, back home to Hopkins. Phil has lived his entire life on North 11th Ave. Their handsome, roomy colonial house is just a block away from the house where he was born.
Of course Davey immediately made herself at home at Gethsemane, Phil’s lifelong church connection. Soon after joining the church she was appointed to the Memorial Foundation Board, a position she held for 18 years.
Gethsemane’s leadership in the middle years of the 20th century was centered in an organization known as Yo-Ma-Co. the name was short for Young Married Couples, even after its members had matured into grandparenthood. The Hovanders were deeply involved in this lively peer group and especially enjoyed working on the legendary St. Lucia Day Smőrgåsbord. One of the last surviving expressions of Gethsemane’s Swedish heritage, by the early ‘50s it had evolved into the Cadillac of church suppers; a wondrous feast of home-cooked Scandinavian delicacies, served in a candlelit setting by costumed waiters and waitresses. Of course Davey worked tirelessly in the church kitchen for Smőrgåsbord, baking krumkake, frying hundreds of rosettes and rolling mountains of meatballs.
It was in the 1920s that Phil’s father Waldo and his brother Herman bought out Johnson’s Meats that later became Hovander’s grocery store. Phil can’t remember a time when he didn’t work in the store. For many years Hovander’s supermarket was “Gethsemane’s store,” a place where most of the employees were members of the church. The store almost automatically supplied the groceries for every parish dinner, wedding and funeral. Even now, many years after he sold the business, Phil’s grocery connection is reflected in the donation of all the turkeys for the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
Davey and Phil’s daughters, Debbie and Brenda, were a part of the Baby Boomer teens who flocked to Gethsemane in the post-war years. There were 98 Confirmands in Debbie’s class. Both daughters retained the Hovander name after marriage. Debbie became a psychologist and Brenda an architect. A few months ago the family was saddened by Debbie’s cancer-related death. She is survived by her husband, David Horstmann and the two daughter they adopted from China. Brenda and her husband, Michael Neets, live just five miles away. An enterprising businesswoman, Brenda buys up properties and rents them out. Their grown children are Jake Blake Hovander, who is studying on scholarship in Romania, and Gail Lindsay Hovander, a French interpreter.
In her spare time Davey enjoys reading and playing bridge. For several years back problems have kept her out of the church kitchen, but the Hovanders can be seen at every 9 o’clock worship, toward the back on the pulpit side. Phil, in his 90th years, is the Gethsemane member with the longest continuous membership.
Doris Davidson, who once changed her name to Davey, later added the “Hovander,” a name she can wear with great pride. In any account of Gethsemane’s history, the name Hovander has come to mean solid commitment and service.