Artist Carl Oxley, middle, stands in front of his new mural at Davids’ Gold Medal Sports in Hazel Park with owners Lee Davids, right, and Tommy Davids, left. Hidden in the hearts above the rabbits’ heads are the letters “J,” “O” and “Y,” memorializing Joy Davids, Lee’s late wife.

Artist Carl Oxley, middle, stands in front of his new mural at Davids’ Gold Medal Sports in Hazel Park with owners Lee Davids, right, and Tommy Davids, left. Hidden in the hearts above the rabbits’ heads are the letters “J,” “O” and “Y,” memorializing Joy Davids, Lee’s late wife.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Mural at Hazel Park shop pays tribute to ‘wrestling mom’

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 7, 2018

HAZEL PARK — On the northern facade of Davids’ Gold Medal Sports, there’s a new mural depicting three bunnies. Concealed in the heart over each rabbit’s head is a different letter. Together, they spell “JOY.” 

Originally, the mural by Royal Oak artist Carl Oxley was meant to commemorate the 70th wedding anniversary of Lee and Joy Davids, the owners of the long-running retail store specializing in amateur wrestling. But Joy did not live to see it, dying of medical complications at age 86 on July 12, during the two-week period it was being painted. 

And so the mural now memorializes her, a woman beloved not only by her family and friends, but also by countless people across the state and country who saw her as their “wrestling mom.”

Joy used her seamstress skills to make and sell wrestling singlets (uniforms) for children starting in the 1960s, back when they weren’t widely available since there were no youth wrestling clubs. In fact, she and her husband established one of the first youth wrestling clubs in the country.

Over the decades, she volunteered thousands of hours taking kids to tournaments to compete. Joy also organized some of the tournaments — one of the first women to do so, in what had long been a male-dominated sport. She managed the wall charts and took pictures of the wrestlers on the awards stand at events ranging from the local to international levels. 

“She was an amazing person,” said John Davids, one of her sons. “Parents who had kid wrestlers who didn’t know what they were getting into entrusted them to my parents, and my parents took such good care of them. There are so many wrestlers out there who consider my parents their wrestling parents.” 

Joy’s dedication to the sport earned her the distinction of being the first woman inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, by the Michigan chapter. Separately, she was also named Hazel Park’s “Young Woman of the Year” in 1966, recognized for volunteer work that included taking senior citizens to food banks. More recently, in 2014, the city of Madison Heights named her “Historian of the Year” for her work at the city’s Historical Museum.  

She was a woman who showed kindness to many people. Her compassion also extended to animals in need. She was known to rescue strays, including a dozen cats she had found abandoned near the family’s cottage in Canada. She began adopting them and bringing them back home across the border. Lee still has five of them; the others were adopted out. 

Her children say she was always busy helping others — and this was in addition to raising the five of them and helping Lee run the family business. 

“I don’t know how she did so much — there must’ve been 36 hours in her day,” said Tommy Davids, another of her sons. “To be able to do so much, and yet us five kids were never neglected — we were anything but neglected. When you’re around somebody who does things for others, I think it rubs off on you.”  

Davids’ Gold Medal Sports was originally a hunting and fishing store called Gun Bugs Haven, established in 1955. It switched to amateur wrestling in the ’60s, a specialty that allowed it to survive the advent of big-box competitors. 

The store has always been in Hazel Park. Currently located at 23809 John R Road, it was originally located several blocks north on the same street. Now the shop has a new look with the mural adorning the northern facade in Joy’s honor. Tommy and his wife, Veronica, arranged the piece with Oxley, their neighbor down the street in Royal Oak. 

“It’s a beautiful mural. The city thought the plans looked great, so (Oxley) started work on it,” Tommy said. “It was my wife’s idea to have (Oxley) paint the side of the building for my mom and dad’s 70th anniversary. We were hoping my mom would get to see it, but she passed between (Oxley) starting and finishing it. When (Oxley) showed me he had put the letters over the bunnies while I was checking its progress, I kind of broke down.” 

Tommy, who continues to run Gold Medal Sports with his father today, said he learned so much from his mother. 

“One thing I learned from her is to not be afraid to try something. I’ve done all kinds of things. She wasn’t afraid to try stuff herself, and I saw that. She gave me courage, because she was courageous herself. And if something had to be done, she would just do it,” Tommy said. “There are many lessons to be learned from a life lived the way she lived it.”