I am heartbroken. My friend Dave Lesh passed away last week and I have not been able to get into words how I feel until today.
I met Dave Lesh in 1990 on a website called Ispot talking about stock houses and we became friends soon after.
It was not hard to become friends with Dave because he was the kind of guy everyone wishes their older brother to be. To me, he was like a family member always concerned about your well being and how you were doing. We talked for hours about art, life and making decisions. We would talk about how hard it was being a father with kids in this industry. I think because we both had kids that we had this common bond.
He would ask me how my kids were or how “...my lovely wife Arlene was...” and his thoughts were genuine and his concern sincere. I would listen to him talk about Vicky, Bo, Joe and his dogs. He would talk about the lake and he would describe how much fun it was to have a boat sailing the water.
“You should come up here with the family and stay at one of the cabins” Dave would always tell me or “ You should see about getting involved with a boat company for your furniture, maybe move up here and let me see what I can do for you.” Dave was always trying to help by thinking or suggesting ways for me to find new opportunities.
He always had this little line on his tear sheets, “All it takes is imagination, yours and mine.” I always liked that saying because it said everything about Dave Lesh. He was always seeking collaboration in work and in friendships.
For three years, while I worked with Dave for the Illustrator’s Partnership, we would talk almost daily on the phone. Sometimes about IPA, sometimes about our industry but mostly it was two friends talking. One time while we talked about family, Dave said he wanted to say how much he appreciated our friendship. I made light of his sentiment. Dave shouted over my comments with “ Kenny I’m trying to tell you how glad that we are friends.” I remember replying to Dave that I wish I had an older brother that cared as much as he did.
I appreciated Dave’s friendship a great deal and that is why this hurts so much.
Dave is the only person I would let call me Kenny. Years ago, he asked me what I like to be called, Ken, Kenny or Kenneth.
“My God Dave don’t call me Kenny...” I replied “ my Mom calls me that and it drives me crazy.”
“Yeah, drives me nuts Dave.”
I gave up and Dave continued calling me Kenny after that. He would call on the phone and say “Hey Kenny” in that Indiana accent that sounded more like Kenknee. I will miss that more than I can tell you.
Dave has been on my mind, since he called to say goodbye. Dave called to say the cancer he had thought he had beaten had returned and he was home with his family. He wanted to make sure he knew how much he loved me. There was such sadness in his voice. I could not say anything except to cry. When I hung up, I felt like I missed my chance to say more. I tried calling the next day but Dave was to ill to talk.
Now days after Dave has passed, I sit here with his shadow looming over my thoughts. I know I am blessed to have known Dave but that does little to stop the tears.
I was lucky to have been influenced by people of character. Brad Holland, Chris Payne and Dave were three people with the same moral center and it was no accident that they became friends. I was gifted to become their friend and learn from them. I appreciate their friendship to this day and I am forever changed. But now Dave is gone and it has torn a hole in my heart.
I am sure Dave’s family knows this, but Dave showed me what integrity and friendship really means and how easy both are to lose. People may feel they have integrity but it is the people around them who help shape it and make it stronger. Friendships are easily dismissed as time and distance push those friendships away. Dave made both stronger for me.
I will never forget his presence and friendship and I take along his passion for doing what is right. You don’t always find someone like Dave who embodies both and that is what I will miss. No matter what the issue was, Dave would take the high ground.
When I first met Dave in person and not over the phone it was at the first illustration conference in Santa Fe. At the end of the event, some on the conference board wanted to use the extra revenue to fund a trip to Hawaii, Dave was adamant to stop it because he knew it was wrong and he and others on the board did stop it. I never forgot that.
I have seen in our industry, people willing to take the short road, to make the easy choice and take the money. Dave was not one of those people and if you met him you know exactly what I mean. His moral compass was set in the right direction and his sailing was straight. Even as he was leaving us, he stopped to pick up the phone one last time to say goodbye to a friend. I only hope that for the rest of my life, that I make Dave proud and follow his examples.
Dave, I miss you already...I wish the phone would ring.