Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 10:59 am | Fair 70º


Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Honors Kate Firestone, the Late Debby Davison

15th annual Mother’s Day Luncheon at the Coral Casino serves as a day of remembrance and celebration of mothers past and present

2016 Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Mother’s Day Luncheon honoree Kate Firestone, third from left, with son Adam, left, and daughter-in-law Kate, husband Brooks, and son Andrew, right, and daughter-in-law Ivana.
2016 Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Mother’s Day Luncheon honoree Kate Firestone, third from left, with son Adam, left, and daughter-in-law Kate, husband Brooks, and son Andrew, right, and daughter-in-law Ivana. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Hundreds of guests gathered recently at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club to honor all mothers with words of love and praise as Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care held its 15th annual Mother’s Day Luncheon.

The event was a day of remembrance, rejoicing and celebration as guests, clad in fashionable springtime attire, mingled on the beachfront patio overlooking the ocean and the Channel Islands beyond.

“Since 1908, our mission has been to provide compassionate and trusted care for all,” said Lynda Tanner, president and CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care.

“As we continue into our second century of service, VNHC plays a critical role in the health care of our community by helping people maintain health and independence, recover from illness or surgery, and transition at end of life with dignity and comfort.”

The clouds parted and the skies cleared up just in time for a lively outdoor fashion show, emceed by KEYT News meteorologist Meredith Garofalo. The exhibit included an array of stylish and contemporary fashions courtesy of K. frank.

During lunch in the ballroom, guests shared stories and memories of mothers past and present — tales about their goodness, courage and kind, loving ways.

Debby Davison, a mother of two sons who died last July after a long and valiant battle with cancer, was remembered and honored as a treasure to the community.

For 16 years before her retirement in 2006, Davison was the go-to anchor at KEYT. A devoted philanthropist, she spent years utilizing her talents and supporting various nonprofit organizations.

She volunteered her time as a co-host for Unity Shoppe and Children’s Miracle Network telethons. She also served on the board of the Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, and participated in several climbs as part of CADA’s Summit for Danny fundraisers, which took her to the Arctic and Ecuador.

Last year, in between chemotherapy sessions, she courageously traveled to New Zealand for a 50-mile trek that raised funds for troubled teenagers.

Eric Davison gave a moving tribute to his mother, bravely facing the sold-out crowd with tears in his eyes as he spoke tenderly of her grace, intelligence, drive, loving nature and endless compassion for others. Those attributes, he said, shined through in everything she did.

Eric Davison, right, with stepfather Dr. Dennis Phelps, paid tribute to his late mother, Debby Davison, at the luncheon.
Eric Davison, right, with stepfather Dr. Dennis Phelps, paid tribute to his late mother, Debby Davison, at the luncheon. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

He recounted how he had the privilege to attend a Mother’s Day Luncheon with his mom several years ago. At the time, he said, he never realized the gravity and the wealth of the services provided to the terminally ill. Then she was diagnosed with cancer, and eventually spent one day at Serenity House, a hospice care facility operated by Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care.

“The Serenity House — the entire team — treated us, my mother and my family, with such care, kindness, patience and understanding, with incredible generosity of spirit and really just pure, pure love,” he said. “They were wonderful, every single one of them.

“They created a space for my mom of real peace and dignity at a time when she wanted that most, and I’ll be forever grateful to all of you for that. Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care is an amazing gift to our community, and to me and to my mother.”

He went on to explain how his mother helped him through “dark times” in his life at age 32.

“She went there with me, when most people wouldn’t go that deep, but my mom did, she said let’s do it,” he said. “She helped me find the center in my life. The reason why I’m still here is because of her love, strength and compassion.

“For all of the things in my life, I’m most proud of the relationship that I had with my mom. Mom was my hero. She was pure magic, and I thank the stars everyday that I got to share a life with her.”

As one, the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation when he noted that, “My mom would always tell me to get out there and go have fun, so go live life, get out there and have fun.”

A Noozhawk photo from the 2014 Amethyst Ball featuring, from left, Joyce Dudley, VNHC Remembered Mother Debby Davison, Anne Towbes and Gerd Jordano. Click to view larger
A Noozhawk photo from the 2014 Amethyst Ball featuring, from left, Joyce Dudley, VNHC Remembered Mother Debby Davison, Anne Towbes and Gerd Jordano. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Anne Towbes and Gerd Jordano, longtime friends of Davison, described her as a wise woman with a generous spirit, an excellent cook who loved playing games, and a gracious host who enjoyed entertaining friends at her home.

“I felt truly blessed to be with her as a friend, and I sure miss my fun times with her,” Jordano said.

Towbes shared the story of how they met and the Sunday bike rides they would take together throughout Santa Barbara.

“I was lucky to have known Debby for over 25 years,” she said. “She was the best ‘hire’ my late husband, Bob Smith, made in all his years of broadcasting. Little did he know that besides choosing a beloved anchor for KEYT, he was also choosing one of my best friends.

“Debby and I biked around Santa Barbara every Sunday for many years, sharing thoughts about the tough and happy times in our lives. I remember her sense of fun and her love of life often, but especially on Sundays.”

The event’s Honored Mother was Kate Firestone, who looked on with pride as her two sons, Adam and Andrew, took the stage, taking playful jabs at each other as they shared the fondest memories of their mother while craftily weaving in tales of her life.

Scenes of their experiences were tastefully etched in a timeline of photographs projected on screens around the ballroom.

At the end of World War II, she and several family members embarked on a journey to England, where she finished her studies, graduating from high school at age 14, and entered the second stage of her extraordinary life as a dancer for the Royal Ballet School.

She toured across Europe with the company, making several trips abroad to America, and performing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show.

It was at the Metropolitan Opera House where she met the man who would become the love of her life, Brooks Firestone, a dashing young student who was attending Columbia University at the time — and who introduced himself to her at the back stage door.

Firestone was focused on her career as a soloist dancer and had no intention of getting married, but her American suitor from Southern California was relentless, and eventually won her heart.

“My father, persistent as he is, chased her around the world, so what my father thought was playing hard to get, my mother thought was a restraining order,” Andrew Firestone said over a round of applause and laughter.

The family moved back to California in 1972, and Brooks’ father, Leonard, purchased land in the Santa Ynez Valley, where the family established Santa Barbara County’s first winery.

“My father and my mother are now entering an amazing chapter in their life — they are singing, dancing and traveling all over the world,” Andrew Firestone said.

He emphasized that regardless of where his parents travel, helping the community is never far from their hearts.

More specifically, his mother, whose volunteer work at Direct Relief and St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church, and delivering food to needy residents of the Santa Ynez Valley, serves as a constant reminder of her selflessness and compassion.

Firestone, surrounded by her sons who embraced her on stage, graciously thanked Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care for the invaluable community-wide educational and health-care programs and services.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” she said. “It makes me tremble to think of those areas that don’t have these particular resources. It’s so vital.”

Click here for more information about Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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