Jonathan Davis, longtime MBTA executive, dies at 71

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Jonathan Davis is remembered for his people-oriented manner as an executive at one of the nation's oldest and most challenged mass-transit agencies.

Mr. Davis, who was chief financial officer and acting general manager during his 21 years at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Feb. 14 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, according to Dello Russo Funeral Service. He was 71.

"Whether it was in the office, at community meetings, or interacting with customers on his daily commute aboard the Route 326 [bus], Jonathan’s warm and disarming approach brought out the best in his team, and earned the trust and respect of all he interacted with," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in an email to employees.

Jonathan Davis spent 21 years with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

"As a person who led by example, Jonathan cared deeply about the core mission of the MBTA and treasured a close connection with our riders and workforce."

After leaving the MBTA, which operates Greater Boston mass transit, Mr. Davis spent his final two years as city treasurer of Malden, just outside Boston.

"Jon was a man of great dignity and integrity, even during challenging times," said Mario Marsano, a Boston-based managing director at bond firm Ramirez & Co. "He was the consummate gentleman."

Raised in Beverly, on Boston's North Shore, Mr. Davis was the son of the late Lewis W. and Frances (Adkins) Davis. He graduated from Defiance College in Ohio and earned his master’s degree from Babson College.

Mr. Davis then embarked on a leadership career spanning over 50 years in the private and public sectors. For more than 23 years, he worked with the dairy product giant H.P. Hood Co., in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood. He rose to vice president and controller. He left Hood for the MBTA.

Joe Pesaturo, the MBTA's director of communications, recalled Mr. Davis appearing on the front lines when the MBTA sought public comment on its 2012 fare hike. Mr. Davis, said Pesaturo, attended 31 public meetings at which he was targeted nightly. "He didn’t do it because he had to," he said on Twitter. "He did it because he cared about what riders had to say, critical or not. He’ll be missed."

The MBTA, the nation's oldest public transportation system, has long been ensnared in battles over funding as it sought to balance state-of-good-repair troubleshooting with modern enhancements such as expansion and technology upgrades.

"I think there is always a tension between those two," Davis said on a Bond Buyer podcast in 2016. "I think we always need to take a look at providing public transit in areas that we don't currently serve, and we have a responsibility to be good stewards and invest in the system."

After retiring from the MBTA, Mr. Davis stayed close to home and took the Malden job despite offers from several transit agencies nationwide.

He enjoyed reading, a passion he picked up from his parents and passed on to his two children. He was a big fan of the New England Patriots football team and enjoyed hiking, gardening, cooking, visiting historical sites and vacationing on Maine and Cape Cod beaches.

Mr. Davis leaves his wife, Bernadette M. (McGlynn) Davis; two children, Jonathan R. Davis Jr. and Kaitlyn E. Davis, both of Medford; a sister, Barbara McCarthy of Wakefield, Massachusetts; and a brother, Kenneth Davis of Maine.

His funeral will be from the Dello Russo Funeral Home, 306 Main St., Medford, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday followed by a mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 441 Fellsway West, Medford, at 11:30 a.m. Burial will be at Oak Grove Cemetery, Medford. Relatives and friends may visit the funeral home from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Mr. Davis' name to the Granara-Skerry Trust, PO Box 1047, Medford, Massachusetts, 02155, www.pancure.org or to the CJ Moody Trust, MEIC, c/o Alex Chatfield, 1269 Main St. Concord, Massachusetts, 01742.

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