SENSE OF HUMOR: I'm putting this first because it is what I liked most about Dave. It is what I remember the most and it is what I miss the most. Dave had a sense of humor that seemed boundless, and he could tap in to it at will. When he was getting frustrated by something, he'd get irritated, then he'd get angry, and just when you knew he was going to lose it, he'd tap into that wonderful sense of the ridiculous that he had and before you know it, you were having a good laugh. He was a tireless ham when you had a camera around. He never tired of finding new ways to mug for a camera. Look for examples of this in the photo gallery soon!
When Dave was killed, I promised myself that I would remember him every day for the rest of my life. One day, twenty or thirty years later, I realized that I had gotten to a point in my life where I no longer did that. I was bummed out about it for some period of time. It really bothered me. Then one day I was doing something, I have no recollection of what it was, but I was getting frustrated by some inanimate object that was not cooperating with me. As the situation deteriorated into anger, I had one of those "Eureka" moments; some aspect of silliness about the situation struck me and I chuckled to myself and felt better. It also hit me in that same flash that it was such a Dave thing, and I realized in that moment that although I may not think his name everyday, I carry a small bit of him inside me always. I am a better and happier person for having known him, and for those little bits of him that "rubbed off" on me and made me a bit less cynical that I would otherwise be.
DAVE'S DAD, OVERVIEW: Dave's dad was a pretty macho guy. You could tell that although he never said anything specifically, he worried about Dave, his son the artist, being something of a sissy. To a large extent, Dave was his world, so any collection of stories about Dave will involve some talk of his Dad too.
Dave's dad had been a highly decorated soldier. He had had lied about his age to get into the Army Air Corp during World War II. He wound up as a belly gunner in a B-17. He was shot down twice. The first time he was taken prisoner, later he escaped and made it back to England. The second time he was shot down he escaped capture and made his way to neutral Switzerland, where he spent the rest of the war. He used to try to goad Dave into joining the Army, because he said it would "make a man out of him". Dave held out and got drafted about the time he got married.
Dave's dad was working in the same place I was at the time Dave was killed. He went on extended sick leave shortly after Dave's death. He died a long slow death of lung cancer and it's complications. I will always believe that he literally ate himself alive over the fact that the course of action he saw as Dave's salvation became, instead, the road to his demise.
It was a sad thing to see. The last time I saw his dad he was sporting huge scars from his surgeries where his chest had been opened and apparently part or all of a lung removed. There were more pill bottles on the table in front of him than you'd find in a small pharmacy. He never brought up the subject of Dave and I didn’t have the heart to mention him. It was a cordial visit and there was a warmth or sweetness about him that I'd never seen him show before, but it was also very heartbreaking.
DAVE'S FAMILY: I felt like Dave's family was my family. I spent so much time with them over the years. I must have wished that they WERE my family. I'll just mention his family members now and start to add more later. His mother was Velda Whipple Wightman. He had two sisters, Kathy and Kim, and a younger brother, Kevin. His grandparents, David senior and Grace (everyone called her "Nanny") also were prominent figures in his life. Kim and Kevin were much younger than Dave, while Kathy was just a year younger. I hope that I can find her and get her to contribute to these pages. She can add so many facts and stories that I can't, and maybe a picture or two as well. Maybe she can help me find Kim and Kevin and add their input as well.
WORDS FROM A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: I received this in an e-mail from Ron Bergmann, who was Dave's drafting teacher at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, California. It is included here with his permission: "You are correct in your assessment of the talent he had. When I had him in Drafting he drew some fantastic freehand sketches of buildings near Bella Vista High. He was the only student that I had in thirty four years of teaching that I remember putting in such detail to his work. It certainly was a tragedy and a loss for all of us that we lost a man with such special talent. He always was a likeable individual who always brought a lot of joy to my classroom."
THE STORY OF "THE ZIG ZAG MAN": I don't remember exactly what I said when I first wrote to Bob Johnson. He had posted some comments about Dave on one of the internet "Walls". I think that I wrote to see if he could add a story about Dave to this site. Instead, he added something tangible and valuable to my life. I have scanned the letter that Bob sent me along with the Zig Zag man. You see stories of people and lawn gnomes and the journeys that they take. I think the Zig Zag man has them beat. His odyssey will have come full circle when I am able to hand him to Kevin Wightman, Dave's brother. Here is Bob's letter; page 1 and page 2.
THE END: I received this from Steve Koester, who served with Dave in Viet Nam:
"I was with the medic and we were first to arrive when Dave got hit. The facts you know are basically right but there were no other deaths. It was a terrible accident. I have spoken with Dave's brother Kevin and told him the story also. Dave was a very gifted individual, he made several drawings in the short time he was with us in the jungle. It is very difficult for me to talk about even after these 40 years. Dave's passing although untimely was very quick and merciful, we did all that could be done but his injury was too severe to possibly survive. Hope this helps you get some closure."
Steve Koester (key-stir), A Co. 2/18 Inf., 1st Inf. Div. Apr.17,1967- Apr.17, 1968
THE WALL: David is memorialized on panel 24E row 75 of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. You can view this panel at: http://www.viewthewall.com/
Visit the Guest Book
Return to the Front Page
Visit The Photo Gallery
Contact the VimanaTaxi Driver
Read my "Valley Voices" article from the Fresno Bee, March 15, 2008