A grieving widower recently built a pool in his backyard so neighborhood children and their families can have fun – and keep him company, too.
Keith Davison, 94, is struggling since losing his beloved wife of 66 years, Evy, to cancer in April 2016. To create a distraction from his sadness, the retired judge built an in-ground pool into his backyard in Morris, Minnesota, and invited all those in his tight-knit neighborhood to play anytime they’d like.
He hoped, when he built that pool, that the sounds of water splashing and children playing would mask the silence that has engulfed his home in the days after Evy’s passing.
“I had a fairytale life, and after my wife died, that ended,” Davison tells PEOPLE. “You get used to having a person there to enjoy, and now this doggone place is just so quiet. The pool has been a diversion from that.”
The 32-foot pool opened up in July and neighborhood children have been lining up the dive in. Davison’s only requirement is that a child’s parent or guardian must be nearby to supervise. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he can chat with the adults at the same time.
“He has just been an amazing neighbor and he just loves children,” Jaime Mundal, 40, who lives four houses down from Davison and has four grade school-age children who regularly visit the pool, tells PEOPLE. “He’s kind of adopted all of the neighborhood kids.”
Davison’s house has turned into their new hang out, she says.
Jessica Huebner, 36, who lives directly in front of Davison with her four children, says Davidson, a retired judge, never sought notoriety for building the pool – he just wanted a place for the neighborhood to have fun. Davison has three adult children of his own, but no grandchildren, and Huebner says he and Evy were always nice to the kids in the community.
“It’s about spreading joy and happiness to our neighborhood and these children because he sees them as the face of the future,” Huebner tells PEOPLE. “He is just a very humble and kind man.”
Huebner says she regularly brings cookies and home-cooked meals to Davison to show her appreciation for what he has done. “He put this in for us and our children, in return we can do more to visit with him,” she says. “That’s what he wants, he wants to connect with the kids.”
Both Mundal and Huebner say that Davison regularly comes out to talk and laugh with them as the children play. “His house is filled with life again,” Huebner says.
Still, Davison is coping with the absence of his wife. He still keeps Evy’s watch on her nightstand because he can’t bring himself to move it. The walls of the house still remind him of her, because she decorated them to her taste, something he very much enjoyed. “She was one classy lady,” he says. “She was the light of my life.”
But Davison thinks Evy would be happy to see the neighborhood having so much fun in their backyard, he just wishes she was there to see it.
“I miss her every day,” Davison says. “She’s not here, and that’s the sad part — it’s been great, but it was just so good when she was here.”