The Friday of Labor Day weekend marks the beginning of the Gateway Cup bicycle races. This end of summer ritual is high season for cycling, what with the Bike MS ride occurring the following weekend. Last year, like many previous years, we had a dinner date with our friends Don and DJ. Last Sunday, having returned to town after a summer long exodus, I had a thought that I should ask them, if they wanted to meet us again this year. I was still planning on acting on this thought, when on Monday, I received word that Don had died on Sunday night. I was shocked. We had had lunched with him in May, just before we left town. I could tell that he had lost some cognitive capabilities, but he was still fully ambulatory and could converse. I learned later that very shortly after that lunch, his health began to rapidly deteriorate. He was 78.
I met Don in 1980, when I moved to Saint Louis. We both worked for Control Data and he was lead analyst at McDonnell Douglas, where we also both worked. Then, he would deliver my paycheck. We worked together off and on over the next ten years. Most closely as part of a sales team that was calling on the University of Illinois. I eventually left CDC, which by then had earned the nickname constantly diminishing corporation and we lost touch for a while.
Don reached out to me later, when he got into bicycling. I was going great guns with the sport then, but with his natural athletic abilities, he soon eclipsed me. Around Don, formed a cadre of former CDC employees and new friends that teenage Dave took to calling the Ons: “Dave, did anyone call for me?” “Yea.” “Who?” “I don’t know, one of the Ons (Don, John, Ron).”
We rode together almost every weekend. Mostly doing organized rides. On one of these rides, I was present when Don and DJ met. Another ride was the MS-150. We all joined the TWA charity bike team and when the company TWA folded, Don took the lead and reformed its members as Team Kaldi’s. His years in sales and his way with people made him a natural leader in this field. His first year out, the jersey that he commissioned won first prize for its design. He and DJ grew the team to the point that it was the largest team here in Saint Louis, both in number of people and in funds raised. It was the first team in Saint Louis to top a million dollars in funds raised, out raising all the area’s corporate titans. I was at the DeMun Kaldi’s when I first heard the news of Don’s passing.
We had dinner last night with DJ, at Polite Society. As you can tell from the photo, it was a dark and stormy night. As we walked back to the car, the only people still out were the racers, who were riding in the rain, and their immediate circle. All the fair weather fans had fled. Don always did right by me. He was a good man. He touched a lot of lives. He will be missed.