Once we both got our driver's licenses at age 16 (learning to drive in the Blizzard of 1977), our world exponentially increased and we traveled (with a large group) - on day trips all over Northeast Ohio (and many concerts at Blossom Music Center as "lawn seats" were $5 a concert - and thankfully, we enjoyed seeing all the big names in rock and roll as they came through the venue - sometimes up to three concerts in one week!) Talking with Dave recently, I told him that he was the brother I never had and he lived up to the title superbly!
Dave was born in Cleveland to Italian parents who coincidentally grew up in an orphanage; Louis (passed away in 2013) and Thelma (passed away in 2018). He also has two siblings, an older brother, Louie (also a Rhodes Grad who is married and has two children) and younger sister, by three years, Ann Kukucka (married with three children, and now, three grandchildren!). It was a busy and fun childhood growing up in Old Brooklyn where Dave attended the same schools as me and his parents and siblings enjoyed big Italian meals with homemade pizzas and the most awesome homemade chocolate chip cookies in town.
Dave also reminded me that once we hit James Ford Rhodes High School, he became involved in the "Funlovers Club," started by a few upperclassmen to do fun and crazy things together (most likely trying to get the girls attention) by rolling people's houses (with toilet paper), delivering flowers to said girls, going on huge summer picnics in the MetroParks and planning events to have big fun. By the time Dave graduated in 1980, he made great friends and decided to continue his education at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.
And as the running craze continued throughout the 1970's and 1980's, Dave continued to run his way onto the cross-country and track teams at BW. Dave admitted that his 'guilty pleasure' is a long run, so it made perfect sense that he took that all those miles, and being in great running shape, to parlay his team to do well and excel throughout their conference meets all four years he was on the team. Ultimately, Dave continues to run - 12 miles a day (rarely takes a day off), and has run 15 marathons with a best time of 2:24 (that's 5:30 per mile pace). While home on summer breaks, we signed up (with Ann too) and ran many road races together throughout NE Ohio and loved every minute of it, typically winning our age groups at most races.
Although college running was a lot of fun for Dave, he also continued to excel in the classroom, and the reason we go to college - to get a great education, right? Dave majored in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing, graduating in 1984 with honors.
He then began his illustrious career, mostly in medical devices (dental), commonly known as biologistics in dental implants within a couple of years after graduating. But before I go into more detail on Dave's career path, the job market was scarce in 1984, so Dave began working in retail (Chess King) to make ends meet (and also worked there as an intern while in college and on breaks). By 1986, with few interviews in what he'd like to do (sell medical devices/pharmaceuticals), nothing was panning out, at least not yet). So, by divine intervention in looking back, Dave decided to enter the Higbee Company Store Management Training Program, where lo and behold, met the love of his life, Beth, who was in the same company's Buyer Training Program.
Interestingly, this blue loving guy was only in the program for one month because one of the companies he was interviewing for had an opening and Dave was hired. In the meantime, Beth had moved from Springfield, Ohio, to Cleveland with Higbee's, was was only there a month when a mutual friend introduced them because she wanted to know more about her new city, and their mutual friend "knew a guy" who was "Mr. Cleveland" and could show her the sights and sounds of her new city. Love blossomed after a whirlwind romance ensued and they married on June 10, 1989, in Springfield, Ohio.
Dave and Beth then moved around quite a bit (Cleveland/Chicago/Columbus) as Dave was building his career in dental implant companies, becoming the CEO of two companies and a COO of one company.
They also began building their awesome family of four children; Ian, born in 1990 - graduated from BGSU and has a Masters from Ball State, and works as an applied behavior analyst; Gabby, born in 1993 - graduated from Kent State and works as an account manager for a Cleveland Ad Agency; Rebecca, born in 1996 (in Chicago) - graduated from John Carroll University and currently earning her Masters Degree at Cleveland State University in Non-Profit Administration, and Sophia, born in 2000 - a sophomore at Xavier University in their Honors Program and according to Dave, affectionately stated that she will be next "RBG or Ruth Bader Ginsburg."
For the last 15 years, they've been residing in a Cleveland suburb with Dave still working in the dental implant industry and Beth going back to work once the kids were grown as a dental implant coordinator for a couple of oral surgery practices in their local area. They both love their work, their home and enjoy their children fiercely. Dave revealed that having his kids was the best gift(s) he ever received, and that his family makes him brave. They also make him tick with pride that only a father can understand. He then admitted that he loves surprising his whole family with gifts and trinkets and even trips when possible.
When I asked him what his favorite possession is, he rattled off very quickly it is his St. Christopher medal that helps keep travelers safe (and Dave did a lot of traveling on his job through the years). He'd like to keep the good karma of his medal with a bucket list trip to Rome, Italy, preferably with his entire family. I do hope the world will open up once again for that kind of travel, and Dave and Beth can get in that trip!
As I wrap up this post, it was certainly a pleasure for me to catch up with "my brother," and have to confess that we giggled and laughed for the first 20 minutes of our "interview." What I couldn't remember, Dave did, and visa versa. I'm so proud of him and his family, and can't believe 40 years melted away as we spoke, 'er, laughed.
And lastly, I would like to share one funny story that really had us laughing; the ride to Blossom Music Center in my Dad's 1973 Maxi-blue Gremlin for a summer rock and roll concert, probably the summer of 1978. I don't believe we were late in going, but without a GPS/iphones/Alexa/Suri/or a Tom-Tom for directions, we either had to use a map or wing it (Blossom was about 26 miles from where we lived). While driving, I realized very quickly I missed a key exit, but told the folks in the car not to worry as I proceeded to cross the barriers from one interstate to the other (I480 to I77). Do you know what the grassy areas have between those highways? They have big concrete "boulders" that you cannot see to the naked eye - especially with all that green grass. Only when you have a Gremlin sitting on top of one do you know. After we settled down from laughing so hard, we all got out of the car and rocked it back and forth until it "fell" frontwards and I was able to drive out and get onto the correct highway...and my Dad never knew...(they don't call me Wild Ter for nothin').
BSoleille! The bright side of shining the spotlight and #CelebratingOthers with David Gentile!
Photos provided by Dave: