Dave da Handyman: The Mission Continues

  • Ira Pavoni looks like a younger Paul Simon. He and Dave Giniewicz were friends for 36 years. He read his handwritten notes at the memorial to share a side of Dave that few here knew.

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    Ira Pavoni looks like a younger Paul Simon. He and Dave Giniewicz were friends for 36 years. He read his handwritten notes at the memorial to share a side of Dave that few here knew.

  • Beaver Cleaver or Dave Giniewicz in school photos? Dave was born in Alexandria, Virginia and raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with his brother and two sisters. He was the youngest.

    Image 2 of 4
    Beaver Cleaver or Dave Giniewicz in school photos? Dave was born in Alexandria, Virginia and raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with his brother and two sisters. He was the youngest.

  • Alice Assaly and Dave in 1983 at their wedding.

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    Alice Assaly and Dave in 1983 at their wedding.

  • Over 300 attended the memorial service at Frazier Mountain High School, and a small village of people worked together to make it a generous, joyful memory of a man who helped so many. Phil Wallace officiated.

    Image 4 of 4
    Over 300 attended the memorial service at Frazier Mountain High School, and a small village of people worked together to make it a generous, joyful memory of a man who helped so many. Phil Wallace officiated.

By Patric Hedlund

Over 300 mountain residents, family and friends came to say good-bye to David Gustave Giniewicz Saturday, Jan. 19 at Frazier Mountain High School.

If you do not know who he is, that is because he has used an alias for his mission in the Mountain Communities for the past seven years.

Here, he was known as Dave da Handyman, creator of thousands of private miracles in the lives of people fighting to survive a crushing recession.

The atmosphere was festive at the memorial, filled with gifts-from the hundreds of stuffed animal toys given to participants in memory of Dave, to the massive feast of potluck offerings the community brought to share wtih each other in his honor. There was a special jingle sung by "The Jingle Girls" to "Dave da Dude," a slide show, plenty of laughter, stories and plenty of tears.

There were the photos few had seen before: of Dave as a "Leave it to Beaver" lookalike kid born in 1956 who grew up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire without a dad, Dave and Alice Assaly on their wedding day, Dave the ace salesman and successful businessman who chose to dedicate the last years of his life to working tirelessly to help finance the Frazier Mountain Park skate park for youths, to supporting the Boys & Girls Club of the Mountain Communities, to opening and maintaining the brilliant Name Your Price Thrift Store, founded in Lebec and now moved to Frazier Park, and to being the driving force behind the Annual Easter Egg Hunt and BBQ at Frazier Mountain Park.

This is a special issue, dedicated to the legacy Dave da Handyman left this community.

A Friend for 36 years

By Eli Pavoni, longtime friend

I met David back in 1977 when I first came to California and answered an ad for a salesman job, selling meat door-to-door. I was 24 and he was 22.

He was the top salesman for a company called Best Beef. I remember he called to me: "Hey, kid!" Even though he was two years younger than me, it always seemed he was older. He always had an ‘older, wiser’ demeanor about him-an old soul, I guess.

He said, "Hey, kid, where are you from?" I told him I was from back east, New Jersey, and he said he was from Massachusetts. We seemed to hit it off with the connection of us both being from back east.

He said, "Jump in the truck. I am going to show you how to make $100 today," and we did exactly that. We made $100 that day.

We drove from Fullerton out to Los Angeles and he talked all the way up and all the way back.

I will never forget that day. He had a way of talking to people to get them to do what he wanted.

We knocked on this woman’s door. She had these big rollers in her hair and a pink robe with big pink fluffy slippers on her feet.

Dave said, "Come out here and take a look at what I have on special in the truck today, and by the way, bring your checkbook with you."

Darn if she didn’t come out, rollers and all, with her checkbook. David sold her a few boxes of meat and I couldn’t believe it.

After awhile at working this job I told David, "Listen, I am going to quit. I’m not really cut out for this sales stuff."

He said, "No, you can’t do that! You are the only driver who keeps his inventory straight, his truck clean and hasn’t stolen any meat from us."

He didn’t want me to leave, so he talked to the owners and got me a job in the office doing paperwork.

When the company closed down a few years later he decided to move back East and I stayed in California.

I guess he needed to go back East, because that is where he then met the love of his life, Alice.

He stayed in the meat business back there and started PYC Packing with a partner, Paul Kelly.

I had lost touch with him for a year or so until the phone rang one night about 11:30 p.m. my time, 2:30 in the morning eastern time. You see, David never wore a watch or paid attention to time, because in those days he never slept that much!

I had just recently gotten married to my wife Karen, and he called to tell me he had also gotten married just a few months after us, in 1983. He said he was thinking of moving back to California and asked what I was doing.

I told him I stayed in the meat business and opened a deli and meat market in Fullerton with one of the owners of Best Beef.

After talking for over an hour, I got back into bed and my wife asked me who I was talking with. She had never met David and said, "Who would call you so late at night?"

"Just crazy David, thinking of moving back to California."

He did. In 1985 Dave and Alice loaded up their van and drove across the country to move back to California.

Alice and Karen, my wife, hit it off and immediately became good friends. He had my company cut some meat for him and received monthly shipments from his company back east to continue the meat business.

Then in 1988 we became partners with another good friend, Bruce Shepard. We opened BBQ Kings Lemeux Beef Company. David wanted the Lemeux because it was French, he said. I’ve since learned it was also his mother’s maiden name.

We purchased an old packing and locker plant called Polar Bear Locker and turned it into a USDA-approved federal meat packing plant. We moved our families out to Riverside so we could all live close to the plant.

There are hundreds of stories I could go on with, about what I experienced as David’s partner over 10 years.

He was in charge of hiring and training the salesmen. I would ask him, "Where are you getting some of these guys? Are they coming in off the ad? Because they look like they are homeless." And he says, "Oh, no, don’t worry, I will get them cleaned up. It will be fine."

I said, "Where are they living? Get their address and driver’s license."

"Oh," he says, "OK." Then I would find out they were living with him and Alice. If someone didn’t have a place to stay, his door was always open.

It got to be that many of the drivers that did work for us lived at what we named The Steak Ranch-David and Alice’s home.

And some of the young guys he hired and trained became very successful in their own right and are here today.

When my son was born in 1990, my wife was in labor from 4:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night. Now you know why we only have one child! Anyway, the nurse came in to tell us someone has been out in the waiting room all day. This is before everyone had a cell phone.

I remember saying to my wife, "that has to be Dave." Most of our family was out of town.

I went out and told him to go home, we were in for a long haul, because the baby (our son) was breeched and they were hoping he would turn.

He said, "No." He was not leaving. He said he would just sit out there and pray. And he did. He stayed until Nathan was born Caesarean, and he got to see him before he went home.

Over the years Nathan always called him ‘Uncle David.’ Dave taught Nathan at an early age how to first use the computer.

He caught his first fish with me and his Uncle David, and Dave went to get it into the net. It was a good-sized catfish. When he went to get the hook out, the fish jumped and the hook went right through David’s thumb. He would not let me take him to the emergency room for them to get it out. He said, "Just let me play with it for awhile and I will get it out."

I cut part of the hook off with pliers. He finally got it out and continued to fish as if nothing had happened.

He stayed up one Christmas Eve all night when Nathan was four years old to finish building a train set for him that he had designed.

He really loved kids and Christmas.

When we closed the plant down in 1997 after our partner Bruce passed of cancer, he said he had enough and wanted to move on.

He and Alice moved up to the Los Angeles area for awhile. Then one day he went out to look at a home in Frazier Park. He called me to tell me they were moving there and I said, "Where in the world is Frazier Park?" I didn’t even know it was in California.

And I guess you know the rest is history.

He became known on the hill as Dave da Handyman. He opened two thrift stores with his wife Alice, Alice’s Attic and the Name Your Price Thrift Store.

A giant

David was not tall in stature, but a giant in so many ways.

In his community here, I know that most of you knew the countless hours he spent in raising money for the different functions and organizations here in Frazier Park.

From the building of the skatepark to the Annual Easter Egg Hunt, to helping the Rotary Club raise money for serving Thanksgiving dinners, to the art supplies he donated to the schools, and to the hundreds of individuals he helped here in town.

Many loves

I know some of the people and things David loved.

  • He loved single moms. You see, David grew up in the projects with hisbrother and two sisters. His dad left when his mom was pregnant with him.That is why he always had a soft spot in his heart for single moms. He knewfrom his own mom the struggle they face everyday.
  • He loved his mom and when she became really ill he moved her from backeast out here to live with him and Alice and took care of her until herpassing.
  • He loved his sister Sophie. He would tell me, "If you think I am smart,you should meet my sister Sophie. She works for the government, the CIA, Ithink," he would tell me. He was very proud of her and who she had become inlife and the man she married, Michael.
  • He loved his brother Butch and his sister-in-law Pam. David would often build a lot of his own shelves and he said, "I wish my brother was here, he can really build stuff. He is really talented when it comes to building."
  • He loved his sister Linda, whom the family at times lost touch with, notby their choosing, but hers. He would tell me, "I pray for her and I knowthat God is watching over her.
  • And he loved his many nieces and nephews, who he would often brag about.
  • He loved to draw. Most of his drawings were of famous people, and themusic he wrote. We saw some of his work here today. He once got Dolly Parton to call his mom on the phone to talk to her when his mom was very ill. How he did it, I really don’t know.
  • He loved stuffed animals, and loved handing them out to kids.
  • He loved to find a treasure that you might have told him youcollected-only to find it on your desk or doorstep, knowing that Dave leftit there for you.
  • He loved a good steak rare… and thin-sliced pizza.
  • He loved to listen to Elvis and Dean Martin, and to sing along withthem.
  • He loved making people laugh with his silly jokes, that we didn’t alwaysget.
  • He loved calling you late at night with a crazy idea, that you knew hewould somehow make come to pass and work out.
  • He loved making his famous tomato sauce and jarring it up and passing itall out until it was gone.
  • He loved a good movie, and watching it over and over again!
  • But most of all, he loved His Alice, as he would call her. He would say,"She gets me. Maybe she doesn’t always understand what I was doing or why,but she is always there for me," and she always was. From one mission (as he would call them) to the next, Alice was always by his side to support him.

Fond wish

In the last few weeks of his life he would call and say, "I know I don’t have much more time here on Earth," and I would dismiss him and say, "No, you’re crazy, you are going to outlive me."

And he would say, "Look after My Alice please."

I hope that each one of you here today will do that now for David. In the weeks and months ahead, look in on her or give her a call, and if you can help her to keep her store going, by donating some treasures… or when you walk by a dumpster, as David would always say, "Don’t think of it as ‘trash,’ but as finding a treasure inside that someone else might need."

Or if you hear a horn honk as you are walking down the street, wave to someone, and ask, "How you doing?"

I often would ask him why he moved up here where it is so cold. And on a dirt road with so much dust, when he had chronic bronchitis?

A mission

He said he was on a mission. God’s mission. "This is where he wants me to be," he would say. "The people of Frazier Park need me. I need them."

And he said, "The only way I would leave this mountain is when I die."

He was right about one thing. The people of Frazier Park did need him, but he was wrong about leaving…because I believe his spirit will always live on here on the mountain-in each and every one of you whose lives he has touched in some way or another-by being the friend and neighbor that he would want us to be.

We were all so blessed to have known him and to have loved him. What you all saw in David was the real thing.

The spirit of God was in him because he had the love of Jesus in his heart. I know that he often shared that with many of you here today.

I would hope that we will all continue to do as David did and share the love of Jesus. So, until we meet again, my dear friend.

Your death leaves a heartache that no one can heal, but your love left us memories that no one can steal. "It is All Good. It Really Is, All Good." We love ya, David.

Eli M. Pavoni was a business partner with Dave Giniewicz for 10 years and a friend for 36 years. He is now marketing manager for a mortgage company in the Temecula Valley. His son Nathan is attending college to be a physical therapist.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Mountain Communities

By Linda MacKay

If ever there was a life to be celebrated, it is Dave’s.

There are some people who stand out in our lives-and for me, (and it looks like for a lot of other folks)-Dave is one those people.

I really got to know Dave while I was president of the Frazier Mountain Boys & Girls Club board. Dave volunteered to run the Name Your Price Thrift Store to support the club.

I actually knew Dave before that though, because he often helped the families I worked with while I was a family advocate at the Family Resource Center. He was always helping a single mom get something she needed-a fridge, a washing machine, a crib for her baby. He loved helping people get what they needed.

But as Dave and I had to communicate pretty frequently on a business level once he committed to running the store to support the Boys & Girls Club, and I served in the role of managing the financial end of things for the store, we became pretty good friends.

Dave was so funny. He would always say that he liked working with me-because I was one of the few people who "got" him (understood him).

Ha ha. I was accused more than once of letting Dave take advantage of me-because he was doing things at the store in a way that others wouldn’t do them. I would just look at them and think, "Hell, this man is dedicating 50 to 70 hours a week to this store, with no wages. He deserves to be able to do some things his own way. He’s got to have some kind of perks in all this. I have no intention of working those kinds of hours at the store-do you?"

If I was wrong for letting Dave run the store the way he felt he needed to, I don’t apologize. He was effective and the profits from the store made all the difference, especially in the first several years, to keep the Boys & Girls Club’s doors open to serve all the families involved.

In addition, the store helped so many people get things they needed in these hard economic times. Dave created such good karma for the club by helping so many people in so many ways.

When Dave and I used to talk about the amount of crazy time he would dedicate to the store, he used to express how important he felt it was to maintain the club for the kids. And then he would add-and this is classic Dave-he would say, "You know, Linda, you gotta do whatever you gotta do to keep the little bas@*#ds off the street."

[There was a sudden roar of shocked laughter throughout the auditorium, as over 300 people responded to Dave’s joking manner to deflect the seriousness of concern over how hard he worked. Then Linda continued.]

I imagined that when we all came together today to celebrate Dave’s life, that there would be a lot of tears. But I also knew there would be a lot of laughter too, as we shared how often Dave would make us laugh or smile with something he said or did.

Dave may have been unorthodox in his way of doing some things (okay, a lot of things) . But the point is—he did things
He was a problem-solver. He didn’t sit around and wallow in what’s wrong in the world, he just got down and dirty and started doing things to help. He worked like a dog to help our community and he helped so many people here.

If I was one of the few lucky people who “got” Dave, by understanding him, then I feel blessed. I think there are a lot of folks in this room who absolutely loved Dave for who he was.

He was definitely one of my very favorite people whom I got to know since I moved to the Mountain Communities. Actually, Dave is one of my favorite people I’ve ever known, anywhere.

Such a good guy. I’ll always celebrate knowing Dave. If you are out there Dave—in the ethers, in spirit, energy or whatever—I just want to tell you, like so many here today, I miss you and I love you. And thank you Dave, for being my friend.

Moving Forward
By Patric Hedlund

Children, teenagers, elders and mid-career adults joined in the Saturday celebration of Dave da Handyman’s life and deeds. Kelly Franti and her husband Terry brought their two young children,Tate and Finn. Franti laughed and told how “we all named the ‘stuffies’ we picked up at the memorial ‘Dave.’

"Mine is a kitten and the kids made up a little song that he sings. It goes: "Mew, Dave kitty…It’s all good."

"It was inspiring," she said, "I wish we had Dave around for one more hour, so he could tell us how he did all he did. It is truly awesome, all that he accomplished and how much he did that most were not even aware of. Humility is a most underrated (and under-utilized) virtue, no?"

Franti said her husband asked their oldest boy, Finn, what he took away from the experience. Finn replied, "He was a really, really, really nice guy who helped a lot of people and loved kids."

She said she asked him if he remembered who people had mentioned that Dave had a soft spot for (single moms) and Finn said, "Alice." He said his favorite speaker was Eli, and told about the story Eli told about the first time he met Dave.

"I wanted to bring them," Franti explained, "because we talk to them about how each person can make a difference in the world and they were able to get a real sense of that today."

By Tuesday, Jan. 22 The Mountain Enterprise was able to interview Alice Assaly. She said that the Name Your Price Thrift Store in Frazier Park and Alice’s Attic in Lebec will continue.

She wants to carry forward Dave’s plan of giving a full day’s profits each month from the Name Your Price Thrift Store to a charity that wants to take over the store and invite their friends to come and buy whatever they want.

Lari Marasa, who volunteers to work Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Name Your Price Thrift Store says there is a core crew who divide up the days and will continue on.

Recyclable treasures and still useful items can be brought to the store as donations.

The stores are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Alice says there is a need for those who may wish to help with deliveries. Volunteers to work in the Name Your Price Thrift Store are always welcome.

“We can always find valuable work for people to do to help,” Lari Marasa said. She wants to see the Annual Easter Egg Hunt continue also.

Claudio Escobedo of Lake of the Woods wrote an OpEd calling Dave’s creation “a community inheritance.” He says we can all pitch in to “pick up the torch” and continue on in the spirit of Dave da Handyman.

Bob Anderson of Lebec said “we all have a little Dave in our hearts…” Yes, and he’s probably sitting in there laughing, right now, saying, “It’s’ all good.”

This is part of the January 25, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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