(HESPERIA, Mich.) Rufus Wiley Davenport, Sr. was born on Oct. 26, 1936, in Wadley to Wilburn C. Davenport and Pattie Nell Poole Davenport. He was delivered by a midwife. He was the second of nine children with siblings of King (Saleem), Wilburn C. “Pete”; Mildred Bernice, Roby, Beulah Carolyn, Rosie, Judy and Velma Ann.
He grew up in Wadley and attended Randolph County Training School. Attending school on a regular basis was difficult as he and his brothers worked the fields to support the family. The lessons he learned of living off the land, independence, self-reliance, and determination were values he carried throughout his entire life. He believed in planting and harvesting, and this was not only demonstrated by his love of gardening but life in general, including raising his eight children.
Rufus attended Galilee Primitive Baptist church where his father was a deacon. He was baptized at a young age at Beaver Dam creek. He loved to sing gospel music and was a part of a quartet in his youth. They were often invited to perform at different churches. His mother played the piano and his sister, Mildred sang in the choir.
Rufus met Annie Lois Busbee at church as young children, and they married as teenagers on July 19, 1954. They were partners in life. Like many African-Americans he migrated away from the oppressive life of being sharecroppers and moved north for more opportunities for themselves and their children. During their marriage they were blessed with eight children. In 1957 they made Hesperia, Michigan, their lifelong home. Building on the lessons they learned in Alabama they built and ran a farm that included cattle, chickens and acres of vegetables. They instilled a strong sense of family with all their children. Rufus loved gardening with Annie almost as much as he loved spending time with family. He never missed an important event, game or family celebration.
During the years, he was employed at the Fremont Co-op, Newaygo County Road Commission and Gerber/Nestle where he retired as a team leader. He had a strong work ethic and could be seen working in the garden or on home projects all day. He was community minded and a member of the Jaycees and participated in fundraising for the United Way. He could strike up a conversation with anyone and he never forgot you,
Rufus loved sports. He founded Hesperia’s first little league baseball program and coached little league for many years. In addition, he was a popular rocket football and youth basketball coach in the community. He was the first coach for his sons and others in the community fondly remember the influence he had on their lives. His daughters remember him as a softball coach and Rhonda remembers beating him in a short race. He loved teaching young children life lessons through sports like respect of others, hard work, and teamwork. He was a true sports fan. He loved his Detroit Tigers, Lions and college football, especially University of Michigan despite the ribbing he got from his family’s MSU graduates. We truly were a house divided!
Rufus will be remembered for his broad smile, amazing memory and love of family. He loved to plan family reunions and celebrate the rich history of the Davenports. He marveled at how much God blessed his family. He called his children a garden and had tremendous pride in watching them excel in academics, sports, music and careers. He taught them to be leaders and knew they would have success through hard work and their natural talents. He never forgot his roots and often remarked on how far he and his family have come since “the cotton fields of Alabama.” Growing up in the segregated south taught him not to let others define your destiny, and he lived life on his terms. The success of his children could only be attained by the sacrifice and examples he and Annie set as parents. He was loved by his grandchildren who looked forward to visits and his homemade banana ice cream. He taught them how to fish and enjoyed watching them play in the yard.
He loved gospel music and enjoyed listening to spirituals. We believe it reminded him of his journey through life. During his last days he loved hearing “Precious Lord Take My Hand” and “When The Saints Go Marching In.” The Lord took his hand, and he departed this earthly life and was welcomed into eternal life on September 21, 2023, surrounded by family.
Family that predeceased him include daughter Angela, parents Wilburn and Pattie Nell, brothers, King Saleem, Pete and sisters Mildred, Carolyn, and Velma Ann.
He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Annie; children Wilma Davenport Abney (Michael); Morris Davenport (Kathleen); Pattie Gregory; Rhonda Davenport Johnson (E. Christopher); Beverly Davenport, Rufus Davenport, Jr (Maria) and Jason Davenport (Maria). Siblings Roby Davenport, Rosie Redrick and Judy Nixon. Grandchildren include Tarik J. Scott, Danielle Gregory-Freeman, Erin Johnson Bevel, Chip Johnson, Jorin D. Scott, David R. Gregory, Kali M. Bailey, Justin Abney, Marcus F. Gregory, J. Cameron Davenport Bogle, Caroline Davenport Melnick, Meredith Davenport, Aaron Abney, Rufus Davenport III (Tre), Anna Davenport, Matthew Davenport and Eliza Davenport. He is also survived by nine great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, and friends.
The family would like to give a special thank you to the extraordinary personnel of Hospice of Michigan, their care and compassion for Rufus and his family provided great comfort and was deeply appreciated.
Visitation for Mr. Davenport will be Friday, Sept. 29, from 4-7 p.m. at Crandell Funeral Home – Fremont Chapel 7193 W 48th Street, Fremont MI 49412.
Family hour will be Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10-10:45 a.m. at the Fremont United Methodist Church 351 Butterfield, Fremont MI 49412.
Funeral services will be Saturday, Sept. 30, at 11 a.m. at the Fremont United Methodist Church, with interment at DeepDale Memorial Gardens in Lansing, Michigan. Memorial contributions can be made to Hesperia Public Schools Athletics Fund – Attn: Superintendent Office 96 S. Division Hesperia MI 49421 (checks payable to Hesperia Public Schools OR Fremont Area Community Foundation for the Hesperia Community Schools Fund 4424 W. 48th Street Fremont MI 49412 (checks payable to Fremont Area Community Foundation)
Livestreaming of the funeral services will be available and please check www.crandellfh.com for Mr. Davenport’s obituary for information on livestream links. Friends may send a condolence or share a memory with the Davenport family online at www.crandellfh.com.
Arrangements by Crandell Funeral Home – Fremont Chapel. 231-924-0800.