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A Good Man

A good man died Friday, August 14th.  His name was David Hodges.  Some of you knew him as Diver Dave.  Many of you may recognize his face, as your septic truck driver, or your customer, or your neighbor.

Dave hadn’t lived on Vashon many years, and it would be easy for his passing to slide by the general consciousness of the Island. This shouldn’t happen to anyone; no one should be unknown like that. And so I am writing to share what I knew of Dave.

I realize it will be strictly from my point of view, which is even shorter than his years here, and which is also narrowed mostly to a working relationship.  But it is what I have to give, and I want to offer it in Dave’s memory.
It started when I was the secretary for Larry Niece, Niece (septic) Pumping.  Larry was out of state, and we had one driver for the trucks (also certified as a septic pumper) and a sidekick, Jim Freeland, also a pumper but not licensed to drive combination vehicles.  All was going smoothly until the regular driver, Dale Korenek, was injured on the job.  We needed a driver, and fast, to care for the Island’s pressing septic needs.

After hours of scrambling on the phone, calling everyone I could think of who might have an extra driver and receiving no positive answers, Dave Hodges called the office.  Someone where he was working at the time had told him of our need. He was willing to drive for Niece Pumping on his two days off.  “I like to work,” he said. “But…” (and this was extremely hesitant) “do I have to handle any of the…you know…stuff?”  I assured him that his only responsibility would be to drive the truck. Jim would handle the “product”.

What followed was years of Dave as an employee, first just as a backup and then building up to more and more hours.  In the few minutes we all had each morning before work, I learned a lot about this man.

I learned that he spent part of his growing up in an orphanage/school, even though both of his parents were alive at the time.  He grew up to be a teacher to at-risk students in the Florida schools, before coming to Vashon.  Dave loved kids; he talked right to them, as if they were the only reason he was in the same room as they.

He had also taught SCUBA diving.  He and a crew sailed to many of the islands in the Caribbean, often on mercy errands, but he never elaborated much about the trips. Dave was not a person to toot his own horn. He was very fond of Key West, and said it was a lot like Vashon, except for the climate.  He volunteered with an organization that gave very sick children some happy and fun times in their short lives.  He said that when other volunteers would gripe about being given, say, KP duties for the day, Dave would tell them to look at the kids. “It’s all for them; it’s not about you,” he would remind them.  “This is your gift to them.”   Dave’s dad lived in Florida, and was taking care of Dave’s dog, Shiddy. (A former girlfriend had said to him, “You love that sh****y dog more than you love me!”  Dave responded thus.) Dave would often fly out on short notice to visit his dog, and be sure she got to sleep on the bed.  One day Dave came to work all excited and said he had found his dad on Google Earth.  He was pretty sure he was peeing on the roses in front of his house, and made us zoom in to see.  A close-up view revealed a watering can, but Dave so wanted it to be otherwise that we never pointed out the can.
Dave bought sand, Tiki torches and a pit grill so that he could make a beach, a little Key West, in his yard on Vashon, and then he threw a party for his friends.  He did some diving on the darker waters of Puget Sound, and loved to go fishing.  He pursued his Captain’s license, and when he achieved it, I started calling him Captain Dave.  We had a joke between us, that some day I would find him a brass diving helmet and he would find me a pilot house to put in my yard.

Dave was quick to lose his fear of the contents of septic tanks.   Although never becoming a licensed pumper (and you have to admit, Pumper Dave just doesn’t have the same ring as Diver or Captain) he worked hard to assist in all the ways he could on the job.  He bought his work clothes at Granny’s Attic, which made for some interesting outfits.  One day, he showed up in an electric yellow, long-sleeved t-shirt.  When teased about its color, he replied, without missing a beat, “yes, it matches my thong.”

Dave liked strong coffee.  He tried to be careful about what he ate, because he knew his heart needed good food. He had recently acquired a small boat, a gift from a customer, and was fixing it up. Sometimes he was very sad and deeply affected by life, like when he turned 40. Sometimes he told stupid jokes.  He had a great smile and a voice that was easy listening. He really wanted a dog, since his dad had pretty much adopted Shiddy, so Dave did some dog sitting for friends.  He would bring his charges in to my present place of employment, so I could meet them.  He was always so proud of them.

Dave’s last week on earth, he brought his own dog in to Ace so I could fuss over it.  Dave was beaming; he set him on the counter: his own dog, again, at last.  That same week, he and his roommate also took a couple of kids fishing, kids who wouldn’t have that sort of opportunity very often, an echo of his volunteerism in Florida.

The night he died, I went out with my binoculars and swept the sky for shooting stars. I wanted to know Dave was safe and sound, and that seemed as good a way as any to reach him.

It isn’t much, what I know about David Hodges. But to allow him to disappear from Vashon without some sort of remembrance is wrong, and so I offer this pixillated snapshot to you. Remember Dave was good, and kind, and had a great sense of humor. He was ready to be your friend. That we should all achieve as much.