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Obituaries » Clifford O. Davidson

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October 29, 1932 - June 4, 2024

A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, June 28, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 504 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo. Friends may call on the family one hour prior to the service at the church beginning at 10:00 a.m., and following the service at a reception. Clifford will be interred with Audrey in the Trinity Church Columbarium. Memorial contributions may be made to the Audrey Davidson Early Music Scholarship at Western Michigan University, Early Music Michigan, Trinity Lutheran Church (music fund), or St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers.

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Dr. Clifford Davidson was born in Faribault, Minnesota, on October 29, 1932, the son of Ole F. and Maude (Simons) Davidson. His mother was a descendant of an American family with roots among early settlers in New England and New Amsterdam. Following her early death, his father was assisted in caring for him by his remarkable Norwegian grandmother, Julia, on her farm southeast of Faribault. He attended one-room rural elementary schools and later Brainerd (Minnesota) High School. He received his bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University and pursued graduate studies at the University of Minnesota, with interruptions during which he taught at the secondary level and served in the U.S. Army, the latter as a post newspaper editor at the Granite City (Illinois) Engineer Depot. In his spare time during that period, he wrote a novel, “The Apocalyptic Adventures of Private Winfred Scott Biegle.” In 1954 he married Audrey Ekdahl, a talented musician and singer. He moved to Michigan in 1959 to complete his graduate studies at Wayne State University, from which he received his Ph.D. and where he also was employed as an Instructor in English.

Davidson received an appointment as Assistant Professor of English at Western Michigan University in 1965, and two years later helped to found the international journal “Comparative Drama,” which he served as a co-editor for 32 years. As an active participant in the development of the Medieval Institute at the University, he saw it grow into an internationally recognized unit which would in time sponsor the largest annual medieval conference in the world. In 1976 he founded the Early Drama, Art, and Music research project in the Medieval Institute and served as its director for a quarter of a century. He also assisted his wife, Audrey, as dramatic director of numerous medieval music-dramas presented by the Society for Old Music, of which she was the founder and director. His research, conducted in American and European libraries and archives, led to voluminous publications and an international reputation with his articles and reviews published on four continents. He was the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of more than forty books and monographs, among them such titles as “From Creation to Doom: The York Cycle of Mystery Plays,” “History, Religion, and Violence,” “Illustrations of the Stage and Acting in England to 1580,” “Deliver Us from Evil,” and a complete edition of “The York Corpus Christi Plays,” the latter prepared as a contribution to a project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He participated in and presented papers at a number of international conferences abroad, and in 1985 was named a Distinguished Faculty Scholar. Following his retirement in 2003, he has been Professor of English and Medieval Studies Emeritus at WMU.

His memberships included the Medieval Academy of which he was an emeritus member, the Renaissance Society of America, the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society, the Askeladden Lodge of the Sons of Norway, Vasa Satellite Lodge 661, and others. Recreations included singing in a church choir, for many years at St. Martin of Tours Church, where his wife was music director, and subsequently at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church until the music program there was tragically suppressed, then at Trinity Lutheran Church.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Audrey, who passed away in 2006 after 52 years of marriage. Surviving are his cherished companion of eleven years Jayne Cappelletti, sisters, Rosella Wolvert of Brainerd, Minnesota, and Ruth Lease of Hillman, Minnesota; a step-sister, Pauline Nieken, of Brainerd; and nieces and nephews.