Knowing Dave

Dave At Piano
November 20, 1958 - July 26, 2017

By Mitch Allen

For almost 13 years, our dear friend and co-worker Dave Miethke served as a Personal Assistant to Mimi Vanderhaven. That was the title on his business card because that’s what we all called ourselves back in the day—before changing our titles to the less clever but more accurate, “Marketing Strategist.”

Dave was doing his job on Wednesday, July 26, in his home office in Hinckley, when his wife Karen came home and found him collapsed on the floor. He was already gone.

He was 58 years old.

His passing has left a hole in the Mimi organization—and a hole in our hearts.

Dave Miethke—if you believe the long line of brilliant and beautiful nieces and nephews who laughed and cried as they spoke at his funeral—was “the cool uncle,” who largely let them get away with their adolescent antics.

“We’d wait for the hammer to fall,” one nephew said. “But it never did.”

Dave wasn’t just the cool uncle, he was just plain cool. He drove a black Lincoln and sported Ray Ban sunglasses. He kept his hair a bit long and rebelliously unkempt. He played the electric guitar and wore tennis shoes with his slacks and sports coat. He had an impish smile and warm, gentle eyes that seemed not to know anger.

He was wildly creative, whether brainstorming ideas to help his advertising clients or building a luxury tree house in the backyard for his children, Tyler and Marielle, both now students at Ohio University. They are sweet, beautiful kids who at their father’s funeral stood tight with their mother—hip to hip to hip—a united front against the shock and uncertainty of sudden loss.

“She’s being strong,” everyone said about Karen. 

Yes, Karen has always been strong. When the man you love is the cool uncle, you have to be strong.

The day before Dave’s funeral, he and I were to have played in an annual golf outing at Bunker Hill Golf Course in Medina, an outing he helped organize 12 years ago along with club manager Chad Gibson. At Dave’s insistence, Mimi has always sponsored the outing, the proceeds of which benefit the American Cancer Society. In honor of Dave, we continued with the outing and before tee-off Chad led all of the participating foursomes in a moment of silence.

I rarely play golf and I’m terrible at it—but not on that day. On one hole I chipped the ball in from well off the green for a rare birdie. But it wasn’t me; I could feel Dave’s hands on my rusty pitching wedge.

Don’t believe me? I chipped the ball in again on the very next hole for another birdie—an impossible feat I am not capable of alone.

Each month we have an all-staff meeting we call “Tea with Mimi.” At last week’s meeting, we spent the bulk of our time remembering Dave. The major themes were how much he loved his family—Karen and the kids—and how hard he worked for his clients and, of course, how much fun he was.

Sue said he had a way of lighting up the Mimi office with his sense of humor and his knowledge of music. Marisa said that Dave was constantly working hard for his clients by coming up with original and clever marketing campaigns.

“He wasn’t afraid to think outside the box and speak his mind,” she said. “I will miss his laid back approach to life.”

Michelle, who had just joined a marketing team with Dave, noted that he immediately assumed the leadership role.

“Right away, he started calling me to check in,” she said.

Nina recalled a time when she arrived to interview one of Dave’s clients for a story—the owner of a Mexican restaurant. Nina was shivering with fever in July and couldn’t stop coughing. Dave noticed her distress and disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a hot bowl of chicken tortilla soup for Nina.

Bill Smith enjoyed sparring with Dave over Ohio University versus The Ohio State University, a familiar exchange for Bobcat fans.

Bill Yurgen said that he believed, “Somewhere up there, Dave is now cruising around in a shiny black-on-black classic Mark III or a maybe brand new Continental, windows down, Gibson guitar by his side, tunes playing on the radio, Ray Bans in place as he patiently waits the eons to come to pick up his beloved family, one by one, as they continue their journey together.”

That one brought us all to tears.

Judy mentioned how highly Dave always spoke of his family.

Lynn said that she will always remember him with a smile. 

Benjamin said, “For more than 12 years Dave met us at every photo shoot. We’d conceptualize to get just the right photo. He was always ready to help, always there to load, unload, be the right ‘stand-in’ model. That is how we prefer to remember Mimi’s GQ guy with the boyish smile who always viewed the world from behind his eyes.”

Patti said that Dave had “an unwavering passion” for helping businesses succeed.

Arlene agreed. “You could see and feel the joy he got in helping his clients,” she said. “Honestly, I cried myself to sleep last night thinking of his passing.”

Karli recalled the time Dave came into the office with two puppies in a basket for Tyler and Marielle.

Kelli said, “I’d always greet him the same way: ‘What’s uppppp, Dave!?’ I was trying to emulate his coolness and swagger myself but I always fell short.”

Ken said, “I told Dave for more than 10 years to call me on my land line because I have crappy cell reception in my home office. Yet there I was, whether it was 5 degrees or 95 degrees, in the garage, getting details of a new story assignment. And Dave always reminded me that ‘this one needs to be good.’” 

Felicia remembered the time Dave ate an entire glob of wasabi, thinking it was avocado.

Dale said he was a fun-loving family man who enjoyed life.

Tonda’s daughter also attends OU—one year ahead of Tyler and two ahead of Marielle. She said, “When Dave and I discovered our commonality, we discussed our kids, their antics and experiences as Bobcats every time we saw each other. I will never ever forget the twinkle in his eyes and how proud he was when he spoke about his children.”

Morgan said, “We’ll miss you more than we can possibly print on paper, Dave.”

Lots of people have said lots of other things; too many to list here.

Dave taught me about music, about real rock ‘n’ roll, not just the Southern-fried rock I knew from growing up in south Alabama. He also introduced me to folk music and artists like Arlo Guthrie, whose Alice’s Restaurant is now a Thanksgiving tradition in my own home as it is in his.

I never saw Dave angry. I never heard him utter a cross word. He quietly lit up the room, not with a bright light but with a soft glow. We all have a lot to learn from David L. Miethke about how to go through this life, and we will miss him dearly.

Man, he was cool.