Lindell Alf Davidson
July 18, 1924 – November 1, 2019
Lindell Alf Davidson, a native Tennessean and longtime resident of Norfolk, Va., passed away peacefully early Nov. 1 at age 95.
Comfort, connections and curiosity were cornerstones of Lindell’s life.
Comfort, in that his distinguished career as a professional mechanical engineer was centered around energy efficiency and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Connections, in that snarls of wires defined his décor, technology never bested him, and a boundless appetite for travel shaped his worldview.
Curiosity, in that he forever sought solutions, whether practical or political, mathematical or metaphysical.
In his 30s, his basement was a makeshift darkroom, where he honed a self-taught photographic hobby. In his 40s, he helped develop a brand of road surfacing that resisted weathering. In midlife, he stretched his creativity in community theater. Post-retirement, in his 70s and 80s, he helped research and push legislation for a new state tax provision, an energy bill and, as longtime president of his civic league, spearheaded neighborhood safety improvements and lobbied for Norfolk’s first light-rail system. In his 90s, he pioneered a theory on the origins of the universe, blogging about it and gaining attention from Bill Nye, president of The Planetary Society, of which Lindell was a charter member.
A graduate of Peabody High School in Trenton, Tenn., and a 1949 graduate of Duke University in Durham, N.C., Lindell moved his family to Puerto Rico in the 1970s, where he was regional manager for the Caribbean division of Johnson Controls, a company to which he dedicated nearly 30 years of service. Ever on the cutting-edge of his profession and a distinguished fellow of ASHRAE — the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers — he also worked for Vansant & Gusler and late in his career became acting chief HVAC engineer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, in both Washington, D.C., and Tidewater, Va.
His passion for astronomy guided him on several star-crossed cruises – one in which he shared the captain’s table with a honeymooning David Levy, co-discoverer of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet.
Throughout his life, Lindell relentlessly documented his family’s activities via film, tape and pixel. He was an early adopter of the home video camera, a behemoth he lugged around with an arsenal of lights, remote mics and support staff. Rarely the subject himself, he was a patient and unassuming observer, editorializing only love for those he filmed. He was a pioneer in documenting live theater productions, chiefly for Tidewater Dinner Theatre.
Growing up on a farm in tiny Trenton, Tenn., Lindell knew his way around pig slop and cornfields, while advancing his education beyond his years and others’ expectations. In high school, he was selected by the superintendent to help teach math and science and maintain order in the classroom.
Lindell was gifted in music (violin and clarinet) and choral singing. It was during choir practice at the gothic Eastern Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., in fact, when he met the love of his life, Maria Gorbea. He was a backbone baritone and soloist for such choirs as Singing City in Philadelphia, the Phoenixville (Pa.) First Presbyterian Church ensemble and, most recently, the Methodist Men's Chorus in Hampton Roads, managing to memorize music and perform even after losing his sight.
Lindell served with the Army’s 134th Infantry Regiment during World War II and served stateside during the Korean War. Like many members of his generation, he didn’t often talk about his combat experiences. But he calculated that at one time he was “in the mathematical center of the campaign in Europe” as part of Gen. Patton’s Third Army — his company, platoon, division and regiment battled squarely in the center of the others, “and I was in the second squad,” he said. In 2009, he time-traveled via an Honor Flight bus ride with fellow veterans to the National WWII Memorial in the nation’s capital.
Fiercely independent well into his 90s, Lindell digested books on Audible.com, tinkered with his electronics and adapted a low-carbon-footprint home to the family’s evolving needs. He relished his nightly ice cream and vanilla sandwich cookies, and watching (applauding!) his beloved Duke Blue Devils in a home theater dripping in royal blue. He celebrated jazz music and flashy but dependable cars, like the ’90s-era Buick Roadmaster Estate station wagon that outlived him. Lindell was a resourceful and dedicated family man who will be sorely missed by all of us who loved him. Hoping to spare his family any trouble, Lindell meticulously planned and paid for dual funeral services and a full line of family tombstones installed at Davidson Chapel in Trenton, Tenn., nicknamed “Davidson Stonehenge.” Among words that sum him up: disciplined, steadfast, strong in faith and reason, commanding yet sacrificial.
He is survived by Petra Maria Davidson, his wife of 67 years (807 months, he’d say); a brother, Jimmy Davidson, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; daughters Patti Anne Davidson-Gorbea of Norfolk, Va., and Teresa “Terry” Ellen Byrne of Reston, Va.; sons Leslee Ross Davidson of Boston and Andrew “Andy” Wayne Davidson of Oregon City, Ore.; four grandchildren, Micaela Byrne, Rosey Doane, Cassandra Byrne and Charlie Davidson; two great-grandchildren, Parker and Claire Doane; daughter-in-law Beth Manthey Davidson and son-in-law C. Michael Byrne. He was preceded in death by granddaughter Kati Yehle Davidson, his parents, Cornella Morrison Davidson and Alpha Cleveland Davidson, and an infant sister.
A viewing will be held Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at 1 p.m. at Riverside Baptist Church, located at 5768 Sellger Dr., in Norfolk, VA 23502. A funeral ceremony will start at 2 p.m. Burial will take place on Nov. 13, 2019, at Davidson Chapel Cemetery in Trenton, TN 38382.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his name to The Planetary Society.
- The Graveside Service Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Lindell Alf Davidson
November 7, 2019
I'm so sorry for your loss. Mr. Davidson has joined a great Methodist Men's choir in heaven, and I just know my dad was at the gate in the group to welcome him!
November 7, 2019
I have always enjoyed being in the presence of Mr. Lindell.
He would ask a question that would force you to think, you could not give him some off the cuff answer . He was sharp as well as witty., I also enjoyed hearing him sing ,his voice was so strong and demanding whenever I heard it , I would think of Beverly Shay who sang for Reverent Doctor Billie Graham . He will truly be missed.
May the Lord wrap His arms around you as you enter His kingdom,
And I know God will bring comfort and peace to the family and I pray you draw strength from each other during this difficult time.
God be with each of you.
Love, your Sister in Christ, Beverly J. Cooper
Mary Beth Carr
November 7, 2019
My sincere condolences to Mrs Davidson and the whole Davidson family. It was an honor to care for Mr Davidson at Sentara Leigh. He was a true patriot and a marvel. I enjoyed listening to his stories.