Every evening when Miriam and I enjoy a glass of wine together, we raise a toast to someone who has left us smiling that day, or has inspired us, or has achieved success in fields of endeavour important to us, or has improved our community, or in one way or another has made a difference to our day.
It occurred to me a few evenings ago that we toast Dave Westfall more often than anyone else.
Let me tell you about Dave.
Dave has dealt with cerebral palsy all his life. As he remarked to me just yesterday, “You deal with what you are given” – and so he has. I only got to know Dave last year, and it is my loss for not having known him earlier – for few finer men exist. I can truthfully say that I have never encountered Dave in a down moment; he is always supremely cheerful and full of vigour.
Dave has led a productive life, until fairly recently working full time in the family insurance business in Kitchener. Along the way he has directed a youth camp, travelled in the Far East, designed the beautiful house (and extensive gardens) at SpruceHaven which he shares with sister Sandy, and her husband Jamie, and has contributed in countless ways to the betterment of all who know him, and has been generous philanthropically.
He considers himself privileged to have served as President of the Insurance Brokers of Waterloo Region and as Congregational Chairman for Kitchener’s Historic St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. He is a recipient of the Kitchener-Waterloo YMCA’s Meritorious Service Award and Canada’s Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Where Dave and I most closely align is as advocates for the environment. He is committed to the preservation and restoration of habitat for wild creatures – fellow travellers on this precious planet that serves as home for all of us. It has been my good fortune that Dave values my lifelong interest in and knowledge of birds and their world, and has entrusted to me the enhancement of their habitat and the initiation of scientific surveys such as bird banding, which even in this day of technological wizardry still contributes volumes of important data to biologists trying to reverse the catastrophic declines in avian populations. The best is yet to come!
As Dave gets older his mobility and flexibility decline somewhat, as it does indeed for all of us, but his sheer enjoyment when I tell him about species I have discovered on his property, is no less ebullient and sincere than if he could get out and observe them for himself. I cherish my licence to wander SpruceHaven at will, but I cherish no less the pure joy in seeing Dave’s enthusiastic reaction to the news I have for him about recent sightings, or suggestions that I have for new projects. I am not so sure that giving good news to Dave is not the best thing of all.
In life, if you are lucky, you meet people who make a difference, people who leave their mark on you, people who attach themselves to your psyche, people who tattoo their imprint on your brain. For me, Dave Westfall is such a person. I can state unabashedly that I am filled with admiration and respect (dare I say love?) for this truly decent human being, a person who in the nine months or so that I have known him, has contributed so much to me.I salute you Dave. Thanks for the privilege