There’s not much I can say about Dave Sheldon that hasn’t been said in the past couple of days. But I feel compelled to write a few words about my friend.
Dave died early Tuesday morning in a bizarre accident off the North Umpqua Highway east of Roseburg, where he had commuted for work. He had pulled off the road to sleep in the back of his van, as he sometimes did when he was too tired to make the return drive to Bend.
As he slept, high winds uprooted a large fir tree. The tree fell directly upon Dave’s sleeping quarters. It seemed as though the Grim Reaper held a personal grudge.
But I can’t imagine anyone having a grudge against Dave Sheldon. He was a human treasure, a man who always seemed to have a kind word to accompany his droll smile. Dave’s white goatee belied the youthfulness of his 57 years. He was at once playful and passionate, creative and charismatic. When he asked “How are you?” it wasn’t just words. He really wanted to know.
His sonorous voice led him to theater — he was perfectly cast as Don Quixote in 2006 when the Cascades Theatrical Company produced “Man of La Mancha” — and to numerous master of ceremonies appearances at events that he loved.
When I first competed in the annual Pole Pedal Paddle race in May 2005, Dave was the finish-line announcer. That was no surprise: Dave and his wife Jenny, his college sweetheart, had founded the skiing-bicycling-paddling-running event in 1977, shortly after they had settled in Bend.
Dave and I sat together for two years on the board of directors of the Central Oregon Environmental Center. More recently, I enjoyed the parties at his home on the Deschutes River, just a block away from my own house.
Music was always a big part of the festivities. Dave loved to sing and play classic rock and blues music, and he inevitably had numerous veteran rockers sharing the moments. In summer, the jam sessions were on his riverside deck, where he tolerated my own marginal skills on keyboards and percussion. If you’ve watched the video that leads this blog, you’ll see a snippet of one such session.
At yuletide, the band moved indoors for annual “Ugly Sweater” parties around the Christmas tree. Jenny and his three 20-something children — Katie, Nathan and Lisa, when they weren’t off at school or globetrotting — were always a part of the celebration, and Dave often spoke proudly about each of their lives.
Just two weeks ago, Dave and Jenny spent an evening at a small dinner party at our home. Dave had a couple of glasses of wine, compelling him to recall some youthful surfing exploits. Jenny quietly described the movement of tai chi, the Chinese exercise regimen that she instructs. I remember thinking that this couple, after more than 35 years together, were remarkably well paired.
If you knew Dave Sheldon — whether you know him well or just a little bit — you are invited to one more “Ugly Sweater” party on Sunday afternoon. It starts at 4 p.m. at Aspen Hall, in Shevlin Park on Bend’s east side. Wear your gaudiest Christmas sweater, bring an instrument and come prepared to sing.
And don’t think of this as a memorial. Consider it a celebration.