There’s a Dave Reid story that I think totally defines the man. Back in the days when we worked together at Continental Cablevision, Dave was happiest when on his boat. Our boss counseled me that, “It’s always better to know someone who owns a boat than to own one.” Dave leveraged that into a business opportunity. He was the boat owner. And we helped fund his addiction.
I lost count of how many times I paid for gas and beer so we could ply the Inter-coastal Waterway on the “Super Dave”. But I’ll never forget the time, Dave spun the wheel and pointed the boat toward what looked like a churning Atlantic Ocean. Kathy, Dave’s then wife and the moderator of his boundless taste for adventure said, “You’re not taking this dinghy into that maelstrom. You’ll sink us for sure.”
Dave cocked his head, smiled, and said, “We’ll never know until we try.”
That was Dave Reid’s motto. Whether it was rafting in the North Carolina rapids, or figuring out how to get my latest crazy idea through the City Council, Dave was an eternal optimist.
Dave Reid believed that there was always a way to find a win / win. When the local power company was contemplating getting into the fiber optic business, a possible competitor to our fledgling network, Dave negotiated a deal where we would build the network to their specifications and give them a long term lease for much less than it would have cost the tax payer to fund a competing system. He played a role behind the scenes when Jacksonville sought an NFL franchise. And it was the personal relationships he had with local leaders that earned us credibility as a community partner, something that made doing business much easier.
Dave’s love for creation of unique local programming earned us national awards. We were the first to have a local cable radio station. Dave’s team produced network quality sports shows that many confused with ESPN. And his aggressive commitment to public access television provided a platform for a richly diverse portfolio of community voices.
Dave was also a natural performer. He had the theatrical presence to speak with ease in any situation. He could do sports play-by-play and announce over the public address system at the Gator Bowl like the voice of god. He had a powerful singing voice that always got him on the mic, wherever his musical friends might be playing. His Elvis impression was second to none. Dave could make American Trilogy sound like a Vegas main stage act in a beach bar. And he helped organize a cadre of local politicos into what became “The Eric Smith Madrigal Singers“, Jacksonville’s version of “The Capitol Steps”.
Dave’s team members loved working for him because he gave them the elbow room to be creative, within the loose confines of a clearly articulated larger mission. His partners in the community loved him because he always could come up with innovative ways to tackle challenging issues. I admired his resiliency. The pressure to grow cash flow was intense. Dave always had ideas. They didn’t always work, but I was willing to give most a chance because I knew that if Dave believed in something, he figured out how to make it a reality.
His optimism sometimes clouded his judgement. But he was blessed to have people in his life who could reign him in when he was headed for rough water. Even when things went wrong, Dave always could find something to be grateful for. “I found one way it didn’t work,” he would say, channeling Edison. “We’re one step closer to finding the right way.”
When I met him, a quarter century ago, he was candid about the fragility of his health. But he rarely complained about it. Such was his importance in my life, as a friend and co-worker, that whenever someone would call me and say, “I need to tell you something about Dave,” I feared that it might be bad news. When Colleen and I returned to Florida two years ago, we rekindled our friendship with Dave and his companion, Sherry. Now in our 60s, “organ recitals” were part of every conversation. Dave was up front about his challenges. But unless you knew him well, it was something that never came up.
We wanted to believe that Dave was indestructible.
So when Sherry called me to report that Dave had suffered a cardiac arrest at his brother’s home in Charlotte, I vectored to the assumption that this was just another obstacle that Dave would hurdle. He always did.
But not this time.
It is said that a successful life is defined by the good deeds we do and the good friends who become our fellow travelers. Dave Reid leaves behind a rich portfolio of admirers and a resume of achievements that make those of us who were the beneficiaries grateful, and everyone else envious.
He left us on June 10th, 2020, having spent every last ounce of energy in the pursuit of happiness.
I can imagine him sliding into home plate at the Pearly Gates, a microphone in one hand and a cocktail in the other, with St. Peter shaking his head and saying, “It’s about time you showed up. Elvis wants to perform with you.”
May we all leave this world, equally fulfilled and equally admired.