Tribute to a friend

Home Column Tribute to a friend

By Steve Feldman

To say the news came as a shock would be a greater understatement than to say COVID-19 has been an annoyance. The email I received was short and to the point. It came from the Floor Covering Industry Foundation. “I wanted to share with you that our board member and friend, Dave Gheesling, passed away yesterday. Dave, as a new board member, quickly took to sharing the FCIF mission with his peers—having his donation tripled by matching gifts last year…”

I took this one real hard. I think it was a combination of things: The fact that Dave was a friend. The fact that he left behind an amazing 17-year-old daughter—they were each other’s world. The fact that he was as good a human being as you will ever meet. The fact that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who could say a bad word about Dave. And maybe, just maybe, it makes you come to grips with your own mortality.

It has been about a week, and it’s hard to believe how quickly Dave Gheesling, 53, was taken from us. It doesn’t seem fair, but I am not the one who makes those calls. It’s almost surreal. I have been losing myself in my thoughts. Here’s what I’m remembering about Dave: When COVID-19 hit and New York went on “pause” (a Governor Cuomo pseudonym for “lockdown”), Dave was one of the first people to reach out and check on me. Random text one night in March: “You hanging in there OK? Isolation isn’t good for us extroverts. Let’s keep in touch and do a FaceTime before long…Hang in there, bro.”

He also had called and we spoke about random s&*t. He knew I was alone, and cared. The thing is Dave knew thousands of people. In the general scheme of things, I was not high on the totem pole of importance. He had family. He had FEI Group members. He had FEI co-workers. He had supplier partners. He had friends, including in the meteorite world, which was his passion. And if I know Dave, he probably reached out to every single one of them.

But the thing about Dave was he was not cookie cutter. It’s not like he sent the same texts to everyone. He was thoughtful. When he reached out to me, he also sent a picture of Maddie (his daughter) and me when the three of us were having dinner one night in Atlanta a few years back. It was a fun night, and he knew it would make me smile. Dave always wanted me to call when I was in Atlanta to have dinner if he were free.

Here’s another thing: You know, I try to attend every event I possibly can in the industry. It’s good for the publication, and it’s good for relationships. But for the most part, there are only a handful that I could miss where anyone would care. FEI Group was one of them.

Whether it be the annual convention, the Surfaces cocktail party or anything else, it would be hard to find another group that makes me feel as wanted. Dave, Jay Smith, Graham Howerton, Andy Hogan, Allison Rea, Tonya Land. All of them.

Something else: Earlier this year, Dustin Aaronson called Dave to gauge his interest in taking out an ad in our Retailer Handbook. Dave’s response: “I don’t know how this ad will help our business, but I want to support you guys, so put me in.” He was that type of guy.

Speaking of Dustin, he reminded me of the afternoon Dave invited us over to his house to view his special meteorite collection. Anyone who knows Dave knows he was a meteorite enthusiast. We spent a couple hours over there talking about everyone’s personal lives. Within a week, Dustin received a package for his three kids containing three “rocks” with a note: “Here’s your piece of the moon.”

You know, for the last three years, Dave and I talked about him and Maddie coming up to New York and staying with me in Manhattan for a few days. We talked about all the things we would do, all the places we would go. It never happened. There was always next month, next year. I should have pushed harder.

I don’t know, the world just seems a lot emptier these days. It really sucks.

Gonna miss you bro.

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