We are each given a finite time here on earth. It's what we do with that time that defines us.
David Fleetwood's lifetime definitely defined him. Perhaps that's why he died a hero.
Dave Fleetwood, 62, of Saylorsburg, the vice chairman supervisor of Chestnuthill Township, chose to give of himself to his family and community in countless ways of unselfishness. He served his country in the United States Air Force and had a long and dedicated career with IBM. He threw himself wholeheartedly into his West End community. He was heavily involved with Little League baseball and served as president of the West End Little League for many years. He ran the parking at Pocono Raceway on race weekends to help volunteer groups raise money for their organizations. He was a strong supporter of the West End Park and Open Space Commission, and worked tirelessly in its many projects. When the Chestnuthill Historical Society was formed a couple of years ago, he was instrumental in its formation. With Chestnuthill observing its 250th year this September, he eagerly worked on the 250th Anniversary Committee with the planning of the celebration to take place on Sept. 7. He served nearly six years as a Chestnuthill Township supervisor and planned on running for a second term.
But it was perhaps the small things that endeared him to his neighbors and friends like plowing driveways, cutting down trees ... anything to help them.
"He was great to work with. He'd give the shirt off his back for you. As a colleague and a friend, he was the best," said Dave Albright, Chestnuthill Township's manager. "He was so honest and forthright. He didn't beat around the bush. You always knew where you stood with Dave."
Chestnuthill Township supervisor Chris Eckert was always impressed with Dave's optimism and his "never surrender" attitude.
"That really carried over to the very end. He was always optimistic about everything he did. He didn't accept surrender or give an inch whether it was with the park or the Anniversary Committee. He never focused on the obstacles but focused on getting around the obstacles. He worked through things. He was tireless and never gave up. You always left him feeling better about things," said Chris.
He was talking to Dave Albright as they were taking food to Dave's wife, Pam.
"We drove by projects we were involved in and I told Dave how angry I am. I'm angry Dave won't see the things he worked on come to fruition, like the 250th anniversary. He worked so tirelessly. And the park ... the countless hours he gave to it, cutting brush, moving stone, helping the Boy Scouts with their projects and now he won't get to see the end results. He got cheated."
Another side of Dave was his humor.
"I'll miss Dave's stories and joking with him. He worked with the staff at Ross Township. Their secretary, Doris Price, and I were always battling over him. She'd tell me how he'd get her a cup of coffee and then when I'd see him I'd say, 'How come you don't get me coffee?' And his eyes would twinkle. He just loved to tease us. He was such a great guy," said Cathy Martinelli, Chestnuthill Township's office manager.
"Even my wife and kids all said Dave had a twinkle in his eyes," added Dave.
"He had a grin that you didn't know if he was going to joke with you or take you to task," said Chuck Gould, Chestnuthill Township supervisor chairman and Dave's friend.
One of Chuck's favorite Dave stories is how one night after a meeting, they all went out to dinner.
"Dave got a phone call from Pam at work that her car wouldn't start. He left to see what he could do. A couple of days later he came in and was so proud of himself because he figured out what to get his wife for Christmas ... a new car battery, four new tires and an automatic garage door opener. I said to him that maybe he should think that one over. 'Do you realize to her that will sound like you're just seeing that she can get to work in inclement weather.' He got this blank stare and then said, 'Oh' because all he was thinking about was her safety. That's the kind of guy Dave was. He truly embodied public service, right up to the end," said Chuck.
That end came on Monday night when he pushed one person out of harm's way and stood in front of another person in protection as a gunman fired bullets into the attendance at the Ross Township supervisors' meeting. He was shot twice in the stomach and died from his wounds.
"He paid the price," said Chuck. "If that wasn't public service, I don't know what is."
Gerard Kozic, 53 and James LaGuardia, 64, also lost their lives at the masacre at the meeting.
Chuck said that Dave was in good company that night because they also died heroes, doing their best to protect others.
Bernie Kozen, Executive Director of the West End Park and Open Space Commission, and Mark Kresh are also being hailed as heroes from that night of carnage. Bernie tackled the gunman, Rockne Newell, to the floor and Mark helped restrain him.
I don't know about you, but I have often wondered after hearing about a tragedy like this, if I have any heroic traits in me. Would I have what it takes to put others' safety first? I pray I'm never in the situation that would test me.
In a world where we put movie stars and athletes on pedestals, it's important to acknowledge the Daves, Gerards, James, Bernies and Marks.
Their lives define and defined them.
"And then a hero comes along, With the strength to carry on, And you cast your fears aside, And you know you can survive, So when you feel like hope is gone, Look inside you and be strong, And you'll finally see the truth, That a hero lies in you." Mariah Carey, "A Hero Lies In You."