By the time she'd met her future husband, June Marie Fiksdal had already transformed her early years working in her family's Rochester, Minn., flower shop into an international reputation for exquisite floral design. But more than a decade after marrying Merrill N. Davis III, she went through another transformation — from an alcoholic unable to find treatment in Rochester to founder of a program that's helped more than 3,000 women.
After being forced to go to Minneapolis to start her own path to sobriety, June Davis founded the Gables treatment center in a Tudor-style mansion on Rochester's renowned Pill Hill in 1983.
"When she returned home, she was put in touch with a lot of women in Rochester who had problems but no place to go," said Merrill Davis. "She could focus on something and make it happen. She was driven, and there was no challenge that was too much for her to conquer."
June Davis died Dec. 24 after contracting COVID-19, her husband said. She was 76. The couple's 50th anniversary is in June.
"She was not only a very determined woman," he said. "She had a wonderful personality and really drew people to her."
Susan Rademacher, who met Davis nearly 40 years ago while in recovery, became not only her best friend, but like a sister.
"She was a wonderful human. Full of life. So kind and generous to everyone," Rademacher said of a friend she saw or spoke to every day. "And her heart just went out to help vulnerable women in recovery."
Born to Mads and Gladys Fiksdal in Alexandria, Minn., on June 18, 1944, June and her family moved to Rochester when she was little. Her parents opened the Fiksdal Hotel and flower shop across the street from St. Marys Hospital, where she worked in the shop. Her skills as a floral designer grew and she was invited to appear at a number of domestic and international exhibitions.
On June 20, 1971, she and Merrill Davis married at Zumbro Lutheran Congregation, where he was church organist and music director. They met after she'd heard about a party he'd thrown and called him, Merrill Davis said. On their first date, he paid 65 cents for her grilled cheese sandwich and Coke.
"She said, 'Oh, Mr. Davis, I forgot to bring any money with me,' " he said. Did she ever pay him back? "I'm sure she did, many times over."
In 1973, they adopted their first son, Kim, a 4-year-old from Korea. By late 1982, June Davis knew she had a problem with alcohol. Problem was, she couldn't convince their physician friends of that.
"She wanted a drink in her hand as much as she could," her husband said. "But the very people she was confiding in probably had alcohol problems themselves."
After returning from Minneapolis, June Davis wanted to start a program for Rochester-area women suffering from addiction. The Davises bought the former Gray Gables Mansion, built in 1912. After months of renovation, the Gables opened its doors in May 1983. It was sold to NUWAY, a clinic based in the Twin Cities, this past spring.
She was active in the Rochester community, where she played both the cello and string bass with the symphony orchestra. June Davis also assisted her husband at the various churches he served and for concerts all over the United States and Europe.
June Davis is survived by her husband, a younger sister, Cynthia Balzer of Weinheim, Germany, and two sons. A celebration of her life will take place after the COVID pandemic has eased.
James Walsh • 612-673-7428