HOUSTON – One motorcycle after another filed into the Houston American Legion parking lot Sunday, and an even longer line of people waited to enter the building. By the time 4 p.m. rolled around, 600 spaghetti dinners from Angelo’s restaurant were nearly gone.
Hundreds of people attended a fundraiser to show support for Vertresse “Vernie” Davis, 62, of Houston, who was severely injured in a hit-and-run accident in Florida two months ago.
Davis, known throughout the community as an avid motorcyclist, family man and jokester, is now receiving around-the-clock care at Greenery Specialty Care in Canonsburg after a lengthy stay at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Davis could not attend the fundraiser, but his family documented the event for him.
Davis was riding his motorcycle early one morning while vacationing in Orlando, Fla., when a car veered into his lane and clipped his bike. The driver of the vehicle did not stop, and witnesses were unable to see the driver’s license plate. Orlando police decided to close the investigation, which brought relief to the Davis family because they want to focus on his recovery.
Florida doctors said Davis suffered traumatic brain injury to the temporal lobe and likely would remain in a vegetative state. While Davis still has a feeding tube and tracheostomy, he can now talk some and voluntarily move his left leg – the side doctors thought he may not regain control of.
“I wish the doctors could see him now,” said his daughter, Alicia McClain.
“He’s beating all odds, and I’m not going to be surprised when he’s working on bikes again,” said David Dixon, president of a local motorcycle group, who rode his bike from Pittsburgh to attend the fundraiser.
Members of various biker clubs came to show support. One man dedicated his motorcycle to Davis – a 1987 Kawasaki Concours – and allowed attendees to sign it after giving a $3 donation. A sign above the motorcycle called on friends and family to “sign Vernie’s nemesis,” a 13-year-old bike assembled from various motorcycle and car parts that Davis jokingly called the “ugly bike.”
Davis, a grandfather of three, retired from his state Department of Transportation job after 30 years. Those who know him call him “Mr. PennDOT” and are accustomed to hearing his “scooter,” as he called his bike, from a mile away.
Jennifer Davis said her father is “ready to get up” and keeps fighting for his independence. She said his goofy sense of humor is still intact, and he even jokes with nurse’s aides by pretending to pick his nose.
Angela Davis, Davis’ wife of 10 years, said there’s no doubt her husband is the same person.
“It’s him,” she said. “It’s not just a shell of a man, it’s him. This man is a fighter. He will never give up.”
Davis will continue to receive therapy in the skilled nursing facility until it’s time for him to be discharged. His family thanked the community for their “overwhelming” support.
“The love and the support that’s coming back, it’s coming back tenfold to him,” said Angela Davis, “and he would just be so grateful.”