I lost a friend.

I lost a friend.

Chicago (September 23, 2022) - I had no idea. There is a personal check on my desk less than a week old that I haven't had a chance to present for deposit. Recently, I was asked to obtain a certified copy of his birth certificate; but I didn't ask why. Why would I? We go to the Clerk's office every day to record real estate documents, so why wouldn't we be able to obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate from a different window?

For more than a decade David would walk straight past the receptionist into my office, close the door and start with "how are you?" And if I offered a superficial examination of myself he would show some level of irritation and start again. He is also the guy who years ago kicked off a telephone conversation with, "Zimberoff here. Have you heard of the word Mensch?"

"You're a Mensch, Rob,"  David labeled me. "Do you know what I mean?"

And so started an involuntary mentorship program in which I became the mentee by an eccentrically generous man I came to admire greatly. "You are not in touch with your feelings," he surmised. "And need help finding your way." He was not wrong. "Oh, Dave," I thought to myself, "you don't know the half of it." Well, he found out much more than the half of it, I can assure you. We had time. We both seemed to have plenty of time to reveal and examine our own stories. And we would go on to talk regularly for more than a decade. But now that is no longer possible; the clock has run. Unexpectedly so from my perspective; as I wasn't done. David, I thought we had more time.

"Can I tell you a story?" David initiated.  "Do you know the Chase branch on Clark and Division?"  Before I could fix the location in my mind, he continued, "The sidewalks are piled with snow. It's hard for me to walk on that stuff." And then for the next 30 or so minutes I would learn about a months long journey of a branch manager's lessons in leadership which was carefully crafted and taught in David's style that resulted in the manager learning to take ownership of his customers' experience, even if they were only transiting the sidewalk in front of his store window. Not only does that bank manger have a shovel leaning upright against the wall in his office, he also was the proud recipient of some corporate recognition for outstanding leadership. And then David reached for his hat, affixed it to his dome, and stood, proudly, having just dispatched his lesson for the day. There were no lingering greetings with David. At the end of a telephone conversation he hung up. And so it was the same in person; he walked out.

With him you could expect an invoice sent by email would be returned to be paid in person. And sometimes he would force you to provide an invoice; even if it wasn't on your mind. It's not that we didn't provide services, but if David did not make the loan after an examination we provided, it is industry practice to forgive the cost of preparing the report. But that's not how David works. More than once I received a handmade card with a picture from his travels on the cover with an unsolicited payment for work performed.

‘Nature Has Its Own Way of Ending Life. I’m Changing the Manner and the Time.’
Days before her grandfather-in-law was set to fly to Switzerland for a voluntary assisted death, Rachel Handler called him to say good-bye and more.

David had a way of finding me on my worst days. I even entertained the idea that he might be some sort of angel dispatched from above. I found it easy to inquire of his perspective on a creator God, or at least on a Hebrew God, the kind that can engulf a water soaked alter in flames by the call of Elijah. He wasn't sure about it all, if I recall correctly. The tradition of the story he embraced, for sure, but whether or not there was an unseen dimension that gathered an assembly of tested souls, he could not say.

And when the pandemic cloistered us all, basically mandating a hiatus of our own assembly, we stayed in touch by phone. Taking a cue from David's playbook, near the end of our corporate isolation, I chose to hand deliver documents that would normally have been mailed. Most of the time I left them with the doorman, enjoying the long walk from my Loop office. But one time I arrived, perhaps with an original loan policy in hand, the doorman told me to deliver it to his apartment. I was met by David and Levi, his grandson, and after a tour I was soon drinking a glass of red wine at the dining room table. Strangely, perhaps, this was all planned all along, because Levi pulled from the oven three warmed chicken breasts and an accompanying vegetable, and we ate together. We had a lovely time in conversation.  

I knew about Parkinson's toll, and I knew David was frustrated by it's ever tightening grip. He reported it's new strictures and physical aggravations; restless leg syndrome, loss of motor control.  And I heard about his decision to move into supportive housing along Lake Shore Drive, but that was only a few months ago. We still had business to discuss and had many of our usual conversations around default, foreclosure, choosing the proper mentor, and how important it is to answer the phone. But before I would have my next opportunity to be his courier, he left, announced to me by his son, Dan, only three days hence.

I haven't told you the most interesting part if his story, though, partly because it is not mine to tell, but also because his granddaughter-in-law, Rachel Handler, told it so well. Please take a moment to read his last interview, recorded by Rachel and posted to New York magazine. She writes beautifully about David, and does a great job of illuminating the man I call friend. One last lesson in leadership, delivered in David's style. You will be missed, David. You will be missed.