MINNESOTA — For retired judge Keith Davison, an old adage is proving true: If you build it, they will come.
For the last few weeks, kids from all over his Morris, Minnesota, neighborhood have flocked to his new backyard pool. They get to have fun — and so does the 94-year-old World War II veteran, who is adjusting to life as a widower.
“You can’t be down in the dumps when you’re out there watching these kids doing cannonballs off the springboard,” Davison told CNN.
Davison lost his wife, Evelyn, in April 2016. “Evy,” as everyone knew her, passed away four days before their 66th wedding anniversary.
“She of course was the focal point of my whole life,” Davison said. “When she died, the house was just so darn quiet.”
The grieving process was tough. So when Davison decided to do something about his loneliness, his three adult children gave him their blessing.
“I said, ‘I’m spending your inheritance.’ And they said, ‘Go ahead.'”
Davison added, “Next thing I know I was in a matter of building a pool in the backyard and my neighborhood kids were all excited about it.”
The pool was “swimmable” by late-July, but it took a couple more weeks to get the landscaping in shape for company. Since then it has been a hit with neighbor Jaime Mundal’s children.
“Every day they wake up and right away they say, ‘Can we go to neighbor Keith’s pool?'” Mundal said. “We don’t have an outdoor pool in our town. So this, I mean, this is really cool.”
It depends on the day, but anywhere from two to 10 kids may be in the pool. Neighbors let Davison know ahead of time when they’ll pop by.
“We live in a nice neighborhood. People are really gracious. And the kids love it,” Davison said. “They don’t come without [me] knowing they’re coming as a rule.”
Another rule: mandatory adult supervision for kids 12 and under. Water safety is something Davison knows well. As a teenager, he worked as a camp counselor, swimming teacher and lifeguard at the famed Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, before being drafted into the war.
Davison doesn’t have any grandchildren, but the pool helps him feel like a kid again.
“Kids of all ages enjoy it, and so do I,” he said. “When the kids are here I have more fun watching ’em.”
The pool is heated, but fall is quickly approaching in Minnesota. The neighborhood children go back to school in early September, around the same time it will start getting too cold to keep the pool open, according to Davison.
In the meantime, he is looking forward to the neighborhood’s upcoming annual summer picnic. While the adults are grilling in the street, the kids will be at the real party in Davison’s backyard — just as he intended.