Big D Has Left the Building

The death of Dave D’Avanzo, a beloved friend, is felt by many – April 1955 to November 2020

Dave D’Avanzo was known for his collection of Hawaiian shirts.
Photos courtesy of Susan D’Avanzo

Dave D’Avanzo was a big, broad-shouldered man with a wide smile, an outgoing personality, and a grizzly bear paw handshake.

Dave’s characteristics were well-known in the Pacific Northwest electric cooperative and energy world, and even beyond. It was easy to remember Big D— not just because of his physical stature, but because of his caring and loving nature and his willingness to help and serve others.

As is written in his obituary, “He knew no stranger.”

Dave died November 9 at age 65 of health-related causes after a determined five-year battle to live to the next day and enjoy it with grace, humor, and strength.

Dave began his career in the electric cooperative industry in 1980. He served members at Umatilla Electric in Hermiston, Oregon; Claverack Rural Electric in Wysox, Pennsylvania; Midstate Electric in La Pine, Oregon; and, most recently, Lane Electric in Eugene. He retired in 2018.

Following are memories and stories from many of the people Dave met, befriended, worked with, joked with, and laughed with through the years.

Compiled by Craig Reed

Dave D’AvanzoI knew early on, even before we were married, that I would be sharing Dave with all who knew him. To know Dave was to love (and be loved by) him. His kind and caring heart was always big enough for us all. That’s just who he was.

Dave was an amazing husband, father, and friend whose daily routine included, but was not limited to, writing a “to-do” list on paper or the back of his hand, helping out wherever needed, and always taking time to call and check-in. His goal, above all else, was to serve and connect with each and every one of us.

I am forever grateful for my life with Dave. He taught me so much about how to live life to the very fullest and how to love unconditionally—gifts that our family will continue to share with others for years to come.

—Susan D’Avanzo, Dave’s Wife

Dave loved life.

He was a genuine person. What you see is what you get. He was always willing to help and always had time to talk.

Dave was very involved in the community. He worked closely with the 4-H kids, taking time to talk to each one at the annual livestock auction. He was part of and very involved in the local chambers of commerce. He always wore a smile and was ready with a joke.

The Elvis collection in his office was more of an homage made up of gifts people gave him because they knew he was a big fan.

Dave was one of a kind. He will be greatly missed.

—Debi Wilson, Lane Electric General Manager

I was blessed with the opportunity to visit with Dave in early November before we lost him. At the end of our visit, he asked me to help him up off the couch. As I was beginning to try, Susan asked him why he needed to get up and he replied, “So I can walk Todd to the door.” That’s really all you need to know about this incredible man. There will never be another like him.

—Todd Munsey, Douglas Electric Cooperative Member Services Manager

I cherish the memories and conversations that Dave and I had on our many road trips, traveling to meetings and conferences together. Whether it was a two-hour ride to Portland or a longer trip to Hermiston, there was never a silent or dull moment.

This lack of silence could be considered annoying, but never with Dave. His stories, jokes, and selfless camaraderie were second to none. He would listen and truly care about the good, bad, or ugly things that may be on your mind.

One of my favorites was a one-day trip from Eugene to Brookings and back, with a six-hour meeting included. We thought that we had solved all the world’s problems that day, but I guess it was not to be.

—John Murray, Lane Electric Energy Services Representative

Dave D’Avanzo was truly one of a kind. His heart was so huge that he loved every person he met. He had a way to make every person feel they were important and that they mattered.

Dave was so much more than a boss and a co-worker. He was my friend, my counselor, and my mentor. He had a way of making you want to be a better person and to treat people like Dave treated people.

I would like to think I am a better person because of him. I treasured my friendship with Dave and miss him every day.

—Brenda Everts, Lane Electric Executive Assistant

Dave was a rare good man. He was the best boss I ever had, and I told him so.

He was caring and understanding. He always checked in to make sure things were OK, and if they weren’t, he’d offer to do whatever he could to help.

Dave didn’t just hand out tasks, he offered to work on things together, and when doing so would share his knowledge, experience, and great stories. He knew the value of bringing a jovial spirit to the job; he was a master at it. He made people laugh.

One year he made beautiful spiral whirligigs out of small pieces of cedar that he had cut himself. He gave the whirligigs as Christmas gifts. I don’t know how many he made, but it must have been tedious work. I was lucky enough to receive one. It’s still flying to this day, over 10 years later. Every time I look at it, I think of the big, smiling, generous, and unwavering man that made it.

—Zechariah English, Lane Electric Energy Services Representative

I have never known another person with a presence like Dave. I can picture him sauntering into a room, eyes scanning for someone in need of one of his patented handshakes or hugs. Intimidating to meet and a lifelong friend from every moment forward.

Always giving. Always positive. And never afraid to try something new. He had so many talents and happily shared them with anyone with a need. Beloved and respected in the electric co-op community, Dave knew everyone and could get things done. You couldn’t say no to Dave. I’m so grateful to have worked with him for so many years and honored to be called his friend.

—Mike Teegarden, Pioneer Utility Resources Editor

When people recall Dave D’Avanzo (Big D), they immediately think of him as friendly, outgoing, and positive—a person that never met a stranger.

However, there is another quality he embodied that also stands out to me. On a number of occasions, people’s first visual impression of Big D was summarized in the statement, “I sure would not want to meet him in a dark alley.”

Of course, this was before they actually had the opportunity to meet him. In addition to Dave’s positive nature, he was a person of exceptional loyalty to all of his family, friends, and colleagues, of which there were many.

Without hesitation, you could count on Big D to always have your back, and leaving no man or woman behind. Thus, Dave was exactly the person you wanted with you in that dark alley. I miss him.

—Rick Crinklaw, Retired Lane Electric General Manager

When the name Dave D’Avanzo is mentioned, a person that cares comes to mind. He could make friends with anyone. That is why his time at LEC impacted so many people, especially the 4-H kids. Dave would talk and take pictures of the kids after LEC had purchased their animals. It made them feel like a person, not just a number.

Dave always gave 150% on any task he was given, no matter how large or how small.

He will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, my friend.

—Gary Foster, Retired Lane Electric Lineman

The first thing you noticed about Dave was his smile. The next was his big grip. Dave was a good family man, a good employee, and a good friend.

It didn’t take long to find out that he liked Elvis, as his office was a gallery of Elvis mementos.

Dave was a people person, so he was a perfect fit to be the face of the co-op. He had the ability to help members work through problems by his outgoing and caring personality.

He will be missed by all of us who knew him.

—Ed Bangle, Former Lane Electric Board Member

Dave was a master of many things.

I worked with Dave on the Lane Electric Scholarship Committee, but I also saw him involved in many activities around the Oakridge/Westfir area. I can’t tell you how many times he would listen to presentations by our community organizations. When the presentations were over, he would lean over to me and say, “I could probably find some funding for that.”

He always came through. He was a citizen of all the communities in the cooperative. He was always happy to see everyone. I will certainly miss his presence, his humor, and his compassion.

But now maybe he is up in heaven having a sing-off with Elvis. “Dave has left the building.”

—Judy Hampton, Oakridge

Co-op guys, we met in 1984, visiting several manufactured housing plants in Hermiston with Dave as guide. His enduring quality of hospitality and willingness to go out of his way to help was evident.

There didn’t seem to be anyone Dave didn’t know. Everywhere we went was old- home week!

Dave was gregarious, yet always a straight shooter. He always had a project, yet always had time for people.

Physically and mentally tough, Dave had the heart of a lion, loved his work, and loved Elvis—but loved his wife and family above all.

My brother, my brother— welcome home.

—Jim Su’euga, Retired Co-Op Lifer

Dave came to midstate electric in 1991 and left in 1999. I am grateful for both his mentorship and friendship.

As a mentor, Dave groomed me—and recommended me— for his position upon leaving. A friendship with Dave was forever. We laughed a lot. Dave loved telling jokes.

A fond memory is listening to Roy D. Mercer tapes while carpooling. Mercer, created by disc jockeys, had a Southern drawl and made prank calls demanding money for an incident, often asking “How Big ‘a Boy Are Ya?” and threatening the recipient with an “ass-whuppin.” Makes me smile to remember Dave’s laughter.

—Teresa Lackey, Midstate Electric Marketing and Communications Manager

If you had met Dave D’Avanzo, you immediately would have recognized his friendly nature, his outgoing personality, his positive attitude and, of course, his larger than life persona—and there was his handshake, something you’d never forget.

Dave was a kind and patriotic friend who lived the cooperative way: Support the communities you serve.

I’d like to share a story about Dave. He and I, and another co-op employee, were in Oregon City … Nope, better not share that one.

Here’s one. We were in Fort Worth, Texas, at a national conference, maybe 30 years ago. The temperature hadn’t been below triple digits for weeks. That led to over-consumption of ice-cold beverages. Dave had a big presentation first thing in the morning, and we all felt the effects from the night before. As a group, we “supported” Dave by sitting in the front row of the audience of hundreds of attendees. He couldn’t look at us for fear of being distracted by our juvenile antics. He pulled it off like the pro he always was.

He was kind enough to let us take a break in his suite while he attended another presentation. We took the opportunity to rearrange all his furniture and helped ourselves to all the costly treats and beverages in his mini-bar. He told us his room was fine when he returned to it. Years later, we laughed about it when he finally admitted his surprise when he entered his suite. I never heard if he personally had to pay for everything we consumed. It would have been an expense report hard to justify to his boss.

I’ll never say that we lost Dave. I know exactly where he is. I miss my friend immensely, but I smile every time I think of him.

—Terry Kelly, Retired Salem Electric General Manager

It was back about 1978 when I first met Dave. It was at a BPA energy conservation seminar. My first thought was, “Man, that guy is built like a Sherman tank.”

Dave may have been big, but he had a heart of gold and would do anything for his friends.

Dave worked for Umatilla Electric Cooperative back then, later working for Midstate Co-op, Claverack, and, finally, Lane Electric. He had the cooperative spirit, always putting the member/owners first. It was a pleasure having Dave as a friend and working with him on different cooperative programs and tasks. One thing that many of his friends will remember is the firm handshake that some of us still have indentations from.

—Joe Mcfadden, Retired Blachly-Lane Electric Employee

Big D is truly a larger than life person.

After meeting in January 1986, we became fast friends, and nobody could ask for a better friend than Dave.

Big D was always willing to give advice, assistance, or a listening ear when needed. We had many long talks over the years and some great times. One favorite was making a music video together in Orlando. It showed his fun, musical side and true friendship to join me.

Another was listening to bands after PNGC meetings in Portland. We got Dave to go onstage with the band OoLaLa and sing an Elvis Presley song, his personal favorite.

Dave was a big hit, and I can hear Big D say to all of us today, “Thank you, thank you very much!”

And with that, Big D has left the building!

—Marc Farmer, Clatskanie People’s Utility District General Manager

Dave D’Avanzo was a longtime communications partner with Pioneer Utility Resources, the publisher of Ruralite magazine. To honor Dave’s work and friendship, we are naming our communicator of the year award after him. We are privileged to keep his legacy alive.