On Wednesday December 14, 2006, my stepfather and friend, Dave Williams, died very suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 61. Unlike many of the people who’ve been memorialized on ScienceBlogs, Dave was not a celebrity academic or a scientific luminary. His contributions to humanity will not be heralded in newspapers or immortalized in textbooks, but that makes them no less real and no less worthy of recognition.

Dave was a wonderful man with a wonderful brain, and those who knew him will understand what I mean when I say that his passing has left a Dave-shaped hole in the universe. There is simply no one else like him. A polymath in the truest sense of the word, Dave was a teacher, a photographer, a writer, a technology guru, a world-traveler, a political activist, an ecologist, a self-taught geographer and historian, a tinkerer and a foodie.

While he excelled at virtually everything he did, Dave had a singular gift with people. His faith in humanity was unwavering and he was deeply committed to helping the people in his life achieve their potential. Much of his time was devoted to urging those he cared about to relinquish the self-defeating beliefs, the lingering resentments, and the inertia that kept them from achieving their inherent “greatness.” The ‘thank you’s’ that have poured in over the past two weeks are evidence of the profound impact he had on people’s lives.

There are no words sharp enough, deep enough, or wide enough to encapsulate this loss and so I won’t try. Besides Dave wouldn’t have wanted his friends and family to spend this time finding poetic ways of articulating our grief. He would want the shock of his death to serve as a lesson, to remind us to be grateful for our lives, our loves, and our dreams. He would want it to galvanize us, make us finally stop dithering and go after what we really want.

Goethe once wrote, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Dave lived by this credo. Given his short time on earth, he left an immense legacy. He wasted no time and left with few regrets. Beyond that, he was a truly happy man, who experienced great love and deep satisfaction, and there is real solace in that.

If you feel moved, I’d urge you to visit Dave’s photography website. His passion is evident in all of the pictures that he took: Davies Williams Photography.


  1. #1 Cindy Potter
    January 23, 2007

    His photographs are so intriguing.

  2. #2 Dave
    January 23, 2007

    Orli, Thank you so very much for your piece here about Dave. I also felt strongly that your mother’s eulogy at the funeral was something that Dave’s friends would love to have access to. And I thought many other people would care to read it if it was available, because how many well written description of happy marriages do we have? The happy tend not to analyze themselves – they are too interested in other people and the world around them, which is one of the main reasons they are happy. Isn’t this what you were referring to when you wrote, “Dave wouldn’t have wanted his friends and family to spend this time finding poetic ways of articulating our grief”? But I am glad that Leslie did find the strength to write, and beautifully too. So I have put it up on my website:

  3. #3 Orli
    January 23, 2007

    Dave B,
    Thank you so much for posting Mom’s tribute. I hope those who knew Dave will take the time to visit your site.

  4. #4 jen
    January 25, 2007

    A bittersweet surprise to see Dave peering back at me from your blog and (of course) I’m teary after reading your entry and Leslie’s wonderful eulogy – both are perfect tributes to him. I consider myself lucky to have known him, even for so brief of a time.

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