Flooring industry pays tribute to Dave Gheesling

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Dave Gheesling, co-founder of the FEI Group, who passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 11 at the age of 53, left an indelible mark on the legions of flooring professionals who considered Gheesling a treasured friend.

Following are tributes and personal remembrances.

Andy Hogan, FEI Group

Reflecting on the formation of the group, Andy Hogan, co-founder and COO of FEI Group, said, “Manufacturers were growing in size and consolidating, leaving the flooring contractors to unite and carve their own path. It was that movement—the consolidation of the supply community—that lit the fire urging flooring contractors to begin communicating with one another. We are proud to say, mission accomplished.”

“On a personal note, Dave was and continues to be one of the most respected people in the industry. He set the bar high. Our history goes back nearly 30 years. We’ve been together since the very beginning. He was a brother to me, a best friend. He epitomized what it meant to be the best version of yourself, every day. He encouraged us to live our lives with integrity, honesty, humility and love …  just as he did. To lose him at only 53 years is still something we’re processing, but we’re committed to continuing his legacy of pragmatic positivity.”

Sandy Mishkin, CCA Global

“Dave was very giving of himself, always involved in helping younger kids. He helped set up a charity [Camp Sunshine], and he did more than talk the talk. A lot of people put their name out there and get benefits from it but are not walking the walk. Dave was involved for all the right reasons. And that’s notwithstanding his business accomplishments; he created a co-op group that speaks for itself. The culture that he built at FEI was different than the CCA culture in general. [FEI is] more of a fun culture—younger guys with swagger; less structure and more of ‘we’re in this together.’
“Whether it was business or personal, he was always there for you. His sharp mind, keen eye, passionate drive and kind spirit kept him going and successful. Dave was a dedicated and loving family man who worked hard to give them everything they could want.”

Dan Butterfield, Dal-Tile

“You know Dave was a snappy dresser. His shirts were smart, yet a bit eccentric. As he sported his newest to a gathering, we’d approach each other, and I’d offer him $5 for it. Of course, it would have been three sizes too small but the visual of me in it made the offer funny—not to mention that shirt was worth more than my suit. We’d both laugh loudly and give one another a strong embrace. This was Dave’s relationship with everyone who knew him. When he spoke to a group there was no doubt he was an ultra-passionate, visionary leader within the industry. Yet, one on one he was as grounded and as genuine a friend could be.”

Jay Kopelson, Mannington

“Dave meant so much to so many people. I don’t know if I have ever met someone who had an impact on so many lives, including myself, than Dave Gheesling. I looked up to Dave, admired and respected him and loved listening to him speak. Dave was there for me for more than 25 years. He was never too busy for a friend and made you feel like you were the only person that mattered. I will never forget how Dave helped—and helped is an understatement—with our dear late friend Scott Mishkin [during his illness]. We lost an amazing person, but I know we will never forget what Dave has meant to us.”

Jeff Collamore, KBx

“Dave had a way of making you feel special, like a best friend, but you knew he had hundreds of them. I liked being around him and knew that from knowing him I would become a better leader, a better entrepreneur, a better person. I started working with Dave and the KBx group as an advisory board member. It was in that capacity—and because of that partnership with KBx/FEI—I was able to rapidly grow and expand my first business in Denver and others since. We became amazing friends. We traveled together and literally climbed mountains together. Dave changed my life and an entire industry. It’s hard to think one individual could have such an impact, but he did. He taught me and thousands of others to have an attitude of gratitude and pragmatic positivity, and for that I am grateful.”

Nick Freadreacea, The Flooring Gallery

Nick Freadreacea“You hear about people operating at the 50,000-foot level; that doesn’t even touch Dave Gheesling. He truly operated beyond the atmosphere, which is appropriate since one of his favorite things to do was collect space rocks and meteorites. His industry accomplishments are amazing. Even in that growth he wanted to only work with the best and seemed to pick the best partners. There are many things I could say about Dave, but if I had to pick just two, they would be: 1) The man never changed who he was—from a startup to the top of his field, his ego never grew and he was true to his character; and 2) being a father was by far the most important thing to him. I told him many times he was one of the few people who could keep his feet on the ground while his head was in the stars. I imagine he is there now.”

Brian Warren, Foss Floors

“I knew Dave when he was a student at Georgia Tech through a family connection. As a young kid, he was so persistent. After Georgia Tech he sold industrial equipment. I called him up one day during a time when we were absolutely swamped at Mohawk. I needed a salesperson for our national accounts. I remember him telling me that he was already making more now than what we could offer him. But I told him, ‘Someone with your great intelligence, if you come into the carpet industry, great things will happen.’ He joined, and great things did happen. He had such incredible drive at a young age; incredible empathy for the people around him, for folks in the plant, everybody. You knew there was something special there. Within four weeks of hiring him, Dave was already giving demonstrations to trainees, sounding like a veteran.”

Larry Barr, Artisan Design Group

“I have one story of Dave that showcases his kindness and character. Dave loved to share pictures of his lovely daughter, Maddie, and himself on an adventure. One day he shared pictures of his trip to Pikes Peak. In one photo Dave was wearing a T-shirt that said “Barr Camp” with an image of Pikes Peak. I commented what a great T-shirt it was, particularly because of the name. A week later I received a package from Dave. It was the T- shirt he wore in the picture, laundered and pressed. I thanked him but told him I couldn’t keep such a memory of his with Maddie. He convinced me to keep it, saying it would mean more to him if I kept it. That T-shirt today is exactly as he sent it to me—in my office. That old expression: ‘He would give you the shirt off his back’ was vintage Dave.”

Jerry Hosko, Redi Carpet

“Dave was one of the brightest guys I’ve ever known in our industry. He never compromised his integrity and was extremely generous, especially with his time. He would give all the time necessary to have a conversation. I’ve always been an early riser and I told him once how I would regularly wake up at 4 a.m., walk my dogs and enjoy the beauty of the night sky with all the stars, moon and planets. The very next week, a telescope showed up at my house complete with a book on astronomy. If he knew what you had an interest or passion about, he would help you in his own way to remain engaged in that interest. Such a genuine and remarkable human being. A true friend.”

Max Holland, Mannington

“Over the years, I enjoyed many conversations with Dave about business, life and spirituality. They now remind me that time is our biggest asset. Dave had an amazing ability to be available to a wide variety of people. Whenever people called him, he was quick to answer and always returned a call. Even more amazing is that when he did engage, he was active. He wasn’t just accessible; he was actively accessible as he regularly and purposely went out seeking to understand others by engaging them in conversations and learning about what was going on in their world. I learned from Dave that to be a truly effective leader you must go out and actively interact with people, listen to their concerns, take advantage of their ideas and build positive relationships. I am blessed to have known him and will be forever grateful for his inspiring leadership and authentic friendship.”

Howard Brodsky, CCA Global

“This is an enormous loss for so many. I was very fortunate to have known Dave for over 20 years. We first connected when Dave shared his vision to start the FEI Group. From that first meeting, it was clear Dave was a visionary—full of great optimism, creative strategy, business acumen and an authentic connectedness that attributed to a natural leadership few people possess. He was an incredible motivational speaker who could truly command a room unlike any other person, touching people’s hearts and rallying those around him with his words. Dave was passionate about everything he did and gave 100% of his energy to everything in which he was involved. His legacy will live on in the business he created, and through the lives of his family, friends and the many people his life touched. He will be missed by many, but never forgotten.”

Margie and Sam O’Krent, O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center

“I’m going to begin with words that Dave wrote to me in the early stages of our friendship, circa 1998…and turn his words around to describe him: ‘You truly are a Mensch of the highest order.’ Anyone who knew Dave would agree. Not only did he use the word mensch, but he upped the ante with ‘of the highest order.’ That was Dave. He was a force. He gave 100% to anything he chose to embrace. Professionally, he embodied the definition of leadership. His joy came from your successes. Margie and I were fortunate to have our dear friend Dave Gheesling in our life. We now rely heavily on the old saying: ‘Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.’”

Brian Caress, Redi Carpet

“In addition to personal fitness, there were three things that were truly important to
Dave: family, FEI Group and meteorites. I was blessed to be involved in all three areas of his life. “He founded FEI and fulfilled his vision to create the finest organization of contractors in the industry when so many told him it couldn’t be done. He believed in himself, his vision and his team, and we are all better for it today. He was passionate about teaching others, especially kids, about all things space, and never missed an opportunity to conduct outreach programs, hopefully inspiring a future planetary scientist or two along the way. On a visit to his home with my kids, I learned about Dave’s obsession with space rocks and I made the mistake of asking him, ‘Wait, you can own a meteorite?’ Well, each of my children and I left for home with our first—and most cherished—meteorite. I’ll never again look to the night sky without thinking of Dave.”

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