In Memory

David Rothschild

David Rothschild

Eulogy given at Dave Rothschild's memorial service in Putney, Vermont, October 2003


My name is Lanny Jones and I am an old friend of David’s.


It is wonderful to be here with so many people who loved him.


When David asked me a few weeks ago if I would talk here today, I said that I would, of course --  but would do it only if I didn’t have to tell the truth.


In fact, I said I would have to tell some whoppers.


David being David, he reacted with enthusiasm at this idea.  He said, “Well, what will the whoppers be?”


His question surprised me, mainly because I had not yet thought of any whoppers. I said nothing, looking at my shoes and trying to think of something.


 He persisted. “Are you thinking?” he said.


I said that I was – but I still couldn’t think of any whoppers.


David then made a gesture we have all seen, a broad sweep of his arm, snapping his fingers in mock-disappointment,


That was so David: humor, self-deprecating, kind of collaborating with you, including you in the joke on himself.


Things go wrong; so what.


He did this in golf . . . Sometimes he would miss a short putt … maybe more than just sometimes … this would lead to a Hamlet-like moment … a mini-drama of tragedy and comedy … imagine ... ball lips cup …in and out! …  David shouts, “Oh! No!”, whirls around and throws himself on the green into a heap. This behavior would stop play all over the course.


You got so you looked forward to David’s missing putts.


He had a winning way with strangers.


Wonderful to his friends – and loved Linda and his boys so quietly and so deeply --  but he was also absolutely charming with people in chance encounters whom he did not know at all  – waiters and waitresses (preferably waitresses with Irish lilts in their voice), grumpy ticket-takers.


He had an amazing ability to inject humor into a situation, to make a wry, gentle joke at even the grouchiest people, which kind of opened them up. They would look twice at him, and then smile … He was so funny and so unthreatening that they would just blossom . . . You couldn’t be preoccupied with your own problems, because he was so present.


As our friend Tom Tureen said to me the other day, what an amazing teacher he must have been.


But I was talking about Dave in high school, when he was a student, not yet a teacher.


In our high school yearbook, we had little writeups  for graduating seniors. These were ghastly – the kind of writing that gives sophomoric a bad name . . . His noted he was vice-president of student body, co-captain of the track team . . . “best-liked member of the senior class” … “respected” (an important value for 17-year-olds)  … hen appeared this phrase: he had a “gift of gentleness and quiet drive”  It was a phrase unlike that in any other senior’s biography.


Even then we knew. Some things don’t change.


David went to Europe in the summer of 1961 with three of us –- Lyle Kalish, Nick Scharff, and me. We went on a student ship and went bicycling. We were unchaperoned --  something we would never allow our kids to do now -- but we had our parents better fooled.  I am convinced that Lyle, Nick and I might have quarreled with one another the whole time, but Dave was with us, so arguing was so unnecessary.  We had more fun things to do.

Dave was always fun. I am convinced that one reason a whole group of us have remained unusually close, after high school, is that David gave us all a kind of common ground. He was the one person who accepted us, despite our manifest flaws. Which gave us something in common with his beloved Cardinals.


I recently read some of the letters my parents unaccountably saved from that summer trip 42 years ago. My most frequent closing line was, “I see Dave coming with some wine and girls, so I have to go now.”


Truth be told, it was more likely Dave was coming with chocolate éclairs.


David’s house on Tealbook Drive in St. Louis was so close to the athletic fields at Country Day, that if you took a wide turn around the track you could run straight into his living room. Or, better yet, continue down the stairs to what we in St. Louis called the rathskeller. Our friend Tom Convey went there one spring day before a baseball game in our senior year, had a beer, and then implausibly pitched a four-hitter against the best team in the state.


Athletics was sort of a religion with Dave. For such a gentle fellow, he could be a pretty intense participant. He was also darn good at just about everything.


My personal life list of sports I have played with him includes:


Tackle Football

Touch football





Platform tennis




And, most recently, fly-fishing


This was all before he left me behind and broadened his interests to include violins, painting – which he took up in Paris, of course -- and, most implausibly for a suburban kid --  serious chain-sawing and tractoring.


Dave had this idea of starting some sort of Tractor Fantasy Camp . . . It would be a game park jammed with heavy construction vehicles where you’d go and pay to use bulldozers and backhoes and excavate huge holes, pull up stumps, that sort of thing. He talked about doing this so convincingly that I had to ask Linda yesterday whether he really did this, or he just dreamed about it, or I did.


Dave literally made the earth move around the house.  I think that, given his way, and the proper variances, he would like to have put in a strip mall on Black Locust Road.


All this from a guy who used to drive a Nash Rambler.


A lot of Dave’s best stories involved fouling up in front of experts at one thing or another – usually publicly.


One time we took a joint golf lesson in Florida with the public-course pro.


Pro would begin by saying, “Just hit a few and I’ll watch you” … We were sharing an older set of clubs that belonged to one of us. So we hit a few for the pro . . . and in doing so, mid-swing, one of the clubs – I recall it as a middle iron -- kind of broke apart, the metal head dislodged itself from the handle .. and the clubhead – not the ball -- went sailing off into the sky. I can still see it -- a kind of crazed silver boomerang whirling against a blue sky. It fell directly into the lake in front of the practice tee with a huge splash.


The pro was silent for a minute. Then he said, “I think you got all of it.”


To this day I do not remember which of us had swung the club or even whose club it was. Maybe it doesn’t matter.


In recent years we went to Florida, ostensibly to see spring training games, but our real purpose was to be with Dave.


We are so grateful to have had these years with him.


There is a famous definition of courage as “grace under pressure.”


Who ever showed more grace under pressure than he did?


I like to think that David somehow spoke to the better angels in our nature; we felt good about ourselves when we were with him.


We somehow felt validated and vindicated.


For me, it sort of came down to one thing:


How bad could I be if I had a friend like this?


It is almost as if he represented a neglected inner part of each of us that we know is there and would nourish … if only we had more time, or more patience, or more wisdom, or more humor.


So I have no whoppers to tell this afternoon.


Just one simple truth.


This was a splendid, graceful human being who represents just about the best we can be.

































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11/03/11 05:23 PM #1    

John Primm

I First met Dave when we were neighbors at the age of ten. Tom Convey and I drove up to Lanny's beautiful place in Bozeman, Mt. Where Dave and his wife were visiting, to essentially say good bye.
The visit was bitter sweet but I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. There were lots of laughs, watched the Cards win a thriller and visited for the last time a wonderful friend and courageously gentle man.

11/29/11 12:05 PM #2    

John Hensley


What a wonderful tribute.  You described him so well.  He did have a great sense of humor and quiet drive but he was shy at times and "self deprecating" as you said.  He made you feel like you were very special to him.  How nice that you were there to share those kind words about him.

11/30/11 08:52 AM #3    

Mike Witte


Your eulogy is so sweet and true. I miss David a lot and this reminds me why in many ways.


10/27/12 03:47 AM #4    

Steve Lord

Dave was the sweetest , most gentle person I have ever known. He seemed to have no ego.  And yes as John Hensley said, he did make you feel special. to him.

One story I remember about him is that this decent time  440 yard track man did not run a 6:15 mile in Football Camp so each day at 2 Pm when the heat was sweltering ,and we were al exhausted from morning practice,  someone would come into the locker room were we all stayed and yell out  "Milers" and in addition to 2 a day long practices in that heat, he had to run the mile again every day.  He would let out the most anguished moan each time he heard that man call out to him. I dont know how he stood it.

Also Lanny , I think you can confirm this, he was to give a speech once in front of a lot of people and as he walked to the podium he was so nervous he literally  fainted  and fell into the orchestra pit,, LOL , oh my God!!


Steve Lord

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