Everyone who knew David is aware that he could be very elusive at times. On my trips back to Ames he would sometimes show up when we arranged to get together, sometimes not. But this never surprised or offended me – it was just David's way. However, he was totally reliable in corresponding with me. Over four decades he wrote to me faithfully and also furthered my education by sending me wonderful magazine articles, book reviews, poems, short stories, art, and his favorite music. He had a way with words that I envied. Not being anywhere near as gifted as David, I could only send him my appreciation in return. He was kind, gentle, generous, intelligent.
In these past few months he found it increasingly difficult to write to me, so Mike Brien, bless him, took over for him and also sent me regular news about him. So though I was well aware that David was seriously ill, I just couldn't imagine that the day would come when he would stop writing. I'll miss his letters very much. I'll miss David very much.
I envy the people who knew David well, over years of talk and laughter. I met him only once, in 1987 (!), and have wanted to see him again ever since. A group of us were crowded into a booth at some Iowa City diner, and David had us all in stitches with his anecdotes and wit. I had just moved to Iowa, and I assumed I would see David regularly. I didn't realize that he lived in Ames and was something of a recluse. Karl and I have received packages of art, music and literature from him, now and then, but I never saw him again. I'm so sorry that he has gone.
--Biz Kahler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dave was a good friend of mine in high school. We shared lunch periods cruising in his Pontiac, eating "made-right" hamburgers and secretly smoking off-brand cigarettes. He made me laugh.
"David, dear David, with your magnificent brain and heart of pure gold, I will miss your clever missives, music and movie recommendations, your
enthusiastic and energetic conversational skills."
I've always thought of David White as the consummate host, generous and welcoming and able to give unique attention to and bring out the best in each guest. This is funny in one sense, as I very seldom ever entered the home in which he lived – we met at the Memorial Union for coffee and conversation, ventured out to a variety of bars, found our way to dinner at the Chef's Inn. He was the host, wherever he was physically.
This last spring, however, Rick Voss and I met with David at his home – a long overdue reunion. David was largely housebound, with various medical accoutrements and an array of computers and equipment that were his true lifeline to the outside world.
We laughed and reminisced, erasing in a few minutes the forty years from the time we first hung out together, with Chris Ryan, as a foursome without jealousy or hierarchy and a bond that came effortlessly and supported each of us in our ultimately private journeys exploring and seeking to make sense of the lives we had. I left the visit with several CDs/DVDs of things David thought I would like to see (“Renoir” and “Amour” as movies) or listen to (Susan Tedeschi and Bonnie Raitt as singers) and a biography of David Foster Wallace (David said he had been given two). Great gifts all.
As best I could, I reciprocated, telling him a little about “The Cats of Mirikitani” and “Beauty is Embarrassing” and saying he could get them on Netflix (I later received burned DVDs of both, so I am sure others benefited from my recommendations to David, as well).
Mike Brien kept us up to date on David's last days, which both occasioned my visit to the hospital and communications back-and-forth by email with fellow comrades of David in the mid-seventies, Rick and Chris. I took David an overdue CD of Maria Muldaur's renditions of Dylan's love songs and was lucky enough to have time to talk for both myself and as a surrogate for Rick and Chris. Some talk of books and music and movies (and what David thought I would like), interspersed with continued expressions from David of the quality of care he received and his need to find ways to properly thank all the staff who cared for him (I could tell they already felt well-thanked). And gentle humor throughout on our enduring friendship and respect.
As Rick and Chris and I emailed back and forth, Rick and Nancy characterized David simply as one with “a huge heart.” Chris indicated that he had never known anyone who not only did not like David, but did not care for him.
David, certainly generous to a fault when it came to picking up the tab for anything, literally or figuratively, enriched so many people's lives. I was lucky to be one of those. On any purely objective ledger sheet, I know the gifts from David to me far exceeded those that I could give to him – but I also never felt that I was taking advantage of his heart and generosity. In fact, if there is such a thing as “pay it forward,” that is what I did with the gifts David provided which enriched my life. I think he knew.
Suffice it to say that David will be missed. But he also will be remembered, and always with an affectionate smile.
Charlie Bruner, January 8, 2014