Donald Walter Davis Jr. died peacefully in the early morning of Sept. 11, at his summer home in Chilmark, surrounded by his loving family. He was 89. Mr. Davis, retired president and chief executive officer of The Stanley Works, was a former resident of New Britain, Conn. In his retirement years, he resided in Hobe Sound, Fla., and Chilmark.

He was born in Springfield in 1921, to Donald Walter and Laura Mansfield Davis. At age 15, he and his family moved to State College, Pa., where his father was a professor of advertising in the School of Journalism at Penn State University. Mr. Davis went on to graduate with a degree in journalism from Penn State. After graduation, he joined the Navy and became a first lieutenant during World War II. Upon his return, he entered Harvard Business School on the GI bill, graduating with a master’s degree in business administration in 1948.

He joined The Stanley Works in 1948 as general manager of labor relations. His career at Stanley would span 40 years as he progressed to executive vice president and director in 1962, and to president and chief executive officer in 1966. At age 44, as the youngest president in Stanley’s history, he initiated putting The Stanley Works on the New York Stock Exchange, which resulted in the opportunity for extraordinary domestic and international growth. Mr. Davis transformed the company into an aggressive leader in the globally competitive tool and hardware industry. During his tenure, Stanley made more than 25 acquisitions and penetrated new markets. He helped pioneer the do-it-yourself industry and even penned the company slogan: “Stanley helps you do things right.” His leadership style was characterized by his natural charisma, ability to connect with his audience in a clear and straightforward manner, as well as his vision, steadfast integrity and lifelong community involvement.

He went on to serve as chairman of the board from 1977 to 1989. Along with serving as chairman for the National Association of Manufacturers, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, and the National Institute for Dispute Resolution, he served on multiple other boards including Allied Signal, Pitney Bowes, Peter Paul Co., Dexter Corp., University of Hartford, Connecticut Mutual Insurance Board, New Britain General Hospital, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and the See Forever Foundation.

Upon retirement from Stanley at the mandatory age of 70, Mr. Davis headed up a group of retired executives who traveled the globe working with entrepreneurs in underdeveloped countries, including Poland. He went on to teach leadership, ethics and public policy for over 20 years at MIT’s dual master’s degree program, Leaders for Manufacturing, based on his personal mantras of what it takes to be an ethical and effective leader.

He was an avid athlete: a passionate tennis and squash player, fisherman, sailor, skier and swimmer. He wrote three children’s books and a book of poetry. At home, he was a family man, gardener and down-to-earth philosopher.

To his extended family, he was the personification of his favorite sayings, the three Zs which are zip, zest and pizzazz, and the three As, which are attitude, awareness and authenticity. Whether he was captaining a family fishing expedition on his boat Cravin’ It, demonstrating the finer points of wielding a clam rake at Clam Cove, cooking up enough blueberry pancakes to feed an army or sharing the wisdom of his years with his grandchildren, Poppi was the heart and soul of his loving family. A mentor, a friend, and an inspiration to many, his loss will be deeply felt by all who knewhim. 

Donald W. Davis is survived by his wife, Virginia Cooper Davis and their beloved dog, Jacques; his sister Maralyn Mazza; his children Randall Davis, Deborah Kvam, Donald Walter Davis 3rd, Palmer Davis, Jennifer Davis and Ruthie Davis, their spouses; and 15 grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23, at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. The service will be followed by interment at Abel’s Hill Cemetery and a reception at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.

Additionally, a memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16 at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, 147 West Main Street, New Britain, Conn. A reception will follow at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Donald Davis should be sent to the Virginia C. Davis Friendship Service Center, P.O. Box 1896, New Britain, CT 06050.