In Memory of Big Dave

On Thursday afternoon, it was announced to the entire company of Lebhar-Friedman, publishers of Home Channel News, that one of our colleagues had died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Dave Stewart was 51 years old. He was a salesman for HCN’s sister publication Chain Store Age. It is impossible to adequately celebrate any life with an appropriate degree of eloquence and reverence. But it can be helpful for the writer. So here it goes. 

He was called “Big Dave.” Think of a really big guy. Now add about 25%. That was Dave. He was 6 feet 7 inches tall. He counts the Denver Broncos among his former employers, but he said he wasn’t quick enough to last as a lineman in the NFL.

Dave was fond of the “rounding error” theory of successful selling. The cost of some of the products he sold, his theory goes, is a rounding error when compared to the benefits of the business gained through participation in a Lebhar-Friedman event. 

Dave was persuasive, enthusiastic, thoughtful. 

When asked which section of the newspaper he reads first, Dave didn’t hesitate: the opinion pages. Big Dave was full of ideas on politics and current events. He was an archetype of Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, where he lived.

Big Dave was legendary at introducing vendors to retailers. “Come over here, I have someone who wants to meet you,” he would say to a buyer, referring to a seller. He could not be resisted.

At the University of Miami, Dave blocked for the great Jim Kelly before Kelly was an NFL superstar with the Buffalo Bills. Dave loved participating in the office sports pools, and playing pick up basketball in Chicago.

Big Dave embraced the analogy of the traveling salesman as soldier, and he scoffed at those overnight suitcases on wheels. “A soldier carries his gear into battle,” he said to me many times. “A soldier doesn’t roll into battle.” 

In cold weather, Dave wore a ridiculous old-school Elmer-Fudd style hat, which created in total one of the most conspicuous pedestrians to ever walk the sidewalk of a big city in winter. 

There was a colleague who missed our Thursday afternoon meeting. I had to break the bad news. But Dave was so full of life, so large, that my colleague thought I was joking.

I wish it were so. 

Dave Stewart will be missed by all who worked with him. And many others.