For more than four decades, a consistent sight in the Mahoning County prosecutor’s office was a short, dignified and resilient woman who did her job consistently well.
Juanita Davis can now step back and enjoy the retirement she so richly deserves.
A crowd of close to 400 people packed Antone’s Banquet Centre on Market Street in Boardman on Oct. 29 to pay homage to a woman who devoted most of her adult life to serving the public, her community and her church.
Judges, clergymen and clergywomen and politicians came forward to sing her praises.
“I don’t think, in the history of Mahoning County, that we will ever have another Juanita. She did her job fairly and accurately,” said veteran Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum added, “She was able to work with all four of us [trial court judges] and make us all happy. It was a great honor to work with you.”
Juanita, a graduate of The Rayen School and Youngstown State University, began her career in the prosecutor’s office in 1969. She worked as a secretary for four prosecutors — Vincent E. Gilmartin, Gary L. Van Brocklin, James A. Philomena and Paul J. Gains.
I first met Juanita in 1979, when the newspaper assigned me to replace veteran courthouse reporter William K. “Gibby” Gibson. I started at the paper in 1976 and apparently showed enough ability to be assigned one of the paper’s chief beats — covering county government and the criminal- and civil-justice system.
I was nervous and a bit apprehensive taking on the responsibility. I had some working knowledge of government coverage, such as reporting on commissioners’ meetings.
Trial coverage, however, was not a strength. I would need some help, and Juanita, along with Marilyn Carroll and Rosie Frank, also secretaries in the prosecutor’s office, would help me do my job.
Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said Juanita was “the go-to person” to lean on for police officers who had to appear in common-pleas court and find their way around to the various courtrooms.
State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, recalled how Juanita promised to get votes for him when he first ran for public office in 1987. The key to her success in the prosecutor’s office, and in life, he said, was, “She treated all people fairly and kindly.”
She also received a gift and accolades from her longtime friend Carol Rimedio-Righetti, who was elected as the county’s second woman county commissioner Tuesday.
Youngstown Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark talked about how Juanita, a single mother, raised three daughters — Denise, Audrey and Angela — while working full time. Her commitment to her public service as well as to her family “is an example we all can follow.”
Juanita is a member and past president of the Junior Civic League of Youngstown. She also is a member of the Youngstown Chapter of Links Inc. Both are service organizations consisting of black women who lend their time and talents for the betterment of their community, particularly promoting programs that benefit young black people.
Krishmu Shipmon, president of the Youngstown Links, and Cynthia Mason, president of the Junior Civic League, both spoke of Juanita’s dedication to both organizations and how she has served as a role model.
Juanita also has served as clerk of New Bethel Baptist Church for many years. Her pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Simon, said she had been a blessing to him and his father, the Rev. Lonnie A. Simon, during those years of service.
When Juanita finally stepped to the podium, she had few words to say. She simply thanked all who helped her along the way and spoke with pride about her daughters, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
I thank you, Juanita, for showing that living a life based on the tried-and-true values of honesty, hard work and love of family, friends and church never goes out of style.