A tall drink of water who wielded a sharp pen and a wicked wit, was my friend Davey O.
For the six years my wife and I lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I worked alongside this guy and knew that every day would be as unpredictable as the next. Davey O had a penchant for ruffling feathers among the bosses that his fellow laborers on the front lines found silently and subversively thrilling. He, Don Quixote-like, loved tilting at windmills and windbags every now and then, and he quickly became my surrogate-anarchist hero.
What permitted Davey O to get away with this stuff, though, was his unmistakable talent and his unshakable dedication to fairness and excellence. Just watching him go about his business, crafting well-thought-out and well-written pieces for the company and its leaders, helped me learn the art of PR along with the science of fact-checking and verification of information.
Davey O also had a contagious joie de vivre, a carefree spirit and a big heart. You couldn’t help but like the guy, even as his experiences could be so outside the realm of anything you’d ever consider doing yourself. He loved people, he loved learning, and he loved an adventure. He once expounded on the beauty of baseball that I wish I had recorded. It was a glorious off-the-cuff tribute that could make grown men weep.
I’ll never forget a Halloween party thrown by one of our coworkers, where Davey O showed up as Grace Jones, and the damn best Grace Jones I’d ever seen. Grace Jones herself didn’t look like Grace Jones as much as Davey O did that night. Absolutely hilarious, and he enjoyed every second of it.
Then there was the time he lost his emergency weekend beeper (this was in the Stone Age before cell phones) that we in the PR group took turns carrying. It showed up three days later in the women’s bathroom at a local hotel. We never did get a satisfactory explanation for that one. But with Davey O, that wasn’t always in the cards anyway.
When our first daughter was born in Allentown, Davey O – who lived only a couple of blocks away – made a point of stopping in to see her any time he happened to be roller-blading by. His visits were always a revelation to me, seeing this tall, highly intelligent, fearless friend melt into an old softie every time he picked up our baby. We have a photo of him holding her, and it makes me smile every time I look at it.
When I got a job back in our hometown of Pittsburgh, Davey O and his wife at the time became our first tenants in the house we had bought in Allentown. We knew the place was in good hands while we worked to sell it, until the day he called to tell me that he and his wife were moving to Prague. “What do you mean, Prague?” I asked. “Prague. You know, Czechoslovakia,” he replied calmly, like he was telling me what he had for lunch that day. “Yes, David, I know where Prague is. Why are you going there?” “I don’t know, I’m tired of doing what I’m doing here. It’ll be fun.”
And they left. And he made a go of it, finding writing and PR work in Prague. Some years later, sans wife, he moved to China for what I can only assume was the same reason. It would be fun. While there, he launched a very successful executive corporate communications firm with a partner who became his next wife. Davey O became the proud papa of twins a couple of years ago, and the videos he sent me of him playing with those little ones are priceless.
He loved hearing about our oldest child, as well. The little baby he cradled in his arms is now a junior in college, training to be a professional vocalist. He told me he was almost as proud of her as we are. The future seemed wide open for all of us.
The news came earlier this week that Davey O had passed away. He had dealt with the ravages of a cancer that was diagnosed last November. He never said a word about it as we traded photos and e-mail boasts about our respective kids. I couldn’t breathe for a moment when I heard he had left us. It simply did not seem possible. There were more adventures, more fun ahead, always.
They say certain people leave an indelible impression as they traverse across and along our paths. For so many reasons, my friend certainly can be counted among such people. I had not been in the same room with him for more than 20 years, but I can conjure his presence immediately. It’s the one raising a little hell with people who deserve it. It’s the one pushing for the highest quality work possible. It’s the one celebrating and laughing and misplacing beepers in embarrassing places. It’s the one and only, the irreplaceable and indescribable, Davey O.
Farewell, my friend. Eternal rest.
Copyright 2012 Transverse Park Productions, LLC