Dave “The Bear” Vargesko; Gone at 65.

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I got a text this afternoon while I was out, I glanced at it and saw ‘Dave Vargesko’ in the ID and planned on calling when I stopped the truck. Reading the text was a shock, it was Dave’s wife Tammy texting that he had died of an apparent heart attack while working in his shop. He was 65, but if you knew him, his enthusiasm for everyday life made him seem much younger. Im typing this 8 hours later and it still seems unreal.

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Dave was known in the world of Corvairs by the moniker ‘Dave the Bear’. He was 6’3″ and near 300 pounds, but he was a very gentle giant. He was a core member of my six member “Hangar Gang” from 2001-2007. We often worked 80 hours a week back then, took countless trips together and packed a lot of good times and accomplishments into those years. If you are among the builders who met him, you understood that he was an uncommon creature, a relentlessly supportive and positive person.

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Dave was at my place for a few days in early September, the picture captures the mood. No matter how much time we were apart, we would pick up like this in one minute. I can say without the slightest hesitation that Dave was the kindest man I have ever met in my life. In 20 years of knowing him, I never heard him raise his voice or express anger about anyone. He had many things that he cared deeply about, family, friends, craftsmanship, our Country, but he was always positive. On occasions where I was ticked off at something, Dave by his presence and demeanor, demonstrated that anger was a waste of time and frequently a self embarrassment to the person who gives in to it.

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Dave did many things in aviation; He was a USAF KC-135 crewman (who had the misfortune of spending several winters at Kincheloe AFB, a frosty spot.) He was on the secret delivery team that ferried F-14s to the Shah of Iran. He worked for Piper aircraft at both Lakeland and Vero Beach plants; he was one of the first workers for Liberty Aerospace, and one of the last to leave; and he did an enormous amount of work on our friends 1941 DC-3, a plane Dave loved. He built mountain of Corvair components with us, and he is the builder of record for the Wagabond I have in my hangar. This is just hitting the highlights, he was always available for any aviation idea that promised some adventure and a dose of camaraderie.

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Easy example: 2004, three days before Oshkosh, we are in Florida, and Ed Fisher is in Ohio with a new ultralight design, but he is pessimistic about it’s less than absolute perfection and its appeal to new EAA people. Dave said to me ‘Lets kidnap him’ ; We drive to Ohio in Daves truck, stuff the ultralight biplane in a trailer, load Ed, and off to Airventure ……….. Where the plane is promptly awarded Grand Champion Light Plane, all rooted in Daves decision to always get involved rather than ever sit home.

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Above all else, Dave was a family man. Luckiest day of his life was the day he met Tammy. They were married for 39 years, she understood his need to create and roam around a bit, and she was relentlessly supportive of anything that Dave felt to be on his path in life, and for this he loved her dearly.

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It’s one am now, and I’m sipping a beer alone in my quiet house typing this. The words are not really flowing, because I know it’s a futile task. Typing words on a screen in an attempt to explain what was great about Dave just isn’t going to work. You can’t capture any of the color or style of who he was in real life. I just can’t find the words to describe what a treasure he was. So I’ll stop here and wander out to the porch and look out into the night and just think about how much richer my life is for the great fortune of having known him.

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William.

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6 Replies to “Dave “The Bear” Vargesko; Gone at 65.”

  1. I’m deeply saddened by the loss of Dave. He was a good man, and a good friend to many. I got to know him as I was finishing my airplane in your hangar in Edgewater. He was working on the Wagabond then, and we would show up every day and work on separate projects together. I remember him as a kind of quiet guy, until he had something to say and then he would tell a story or make a joke, and I remember always listening, because he didn’t overwhelm us with words. So when he spoke, I tuned in. He was a gentle giant, as you say.

  2. I’m sorry your friend Dave has passed, and glad he was a part of your life. A lot of us have friends like Dave. Peace to you and his family.

  3. I’m very sorry to hear that Dave the Bear has gone west – I remember the stories you wrote about your adventures together years ago. 65 is way too young, but then I’m a few weeks from 80 and that’s too young too. Rest in peace and sleep well, Dave…..

  4. So sorry for his wife & family’s & your loss of your great friend william ,one of the things I remember is him taking off out of your airport in edgewater when I was at a collage & how cool is that , thinking how you folks all help people grasp onto a dream & help make it possible for abnormal people like me to have one as seemingly impossible as that in my minds eye ,also even though it’s still a dream for me I still know it’s possible & if I never achieve it my life is allways that much richer for the friendships I’ve enriched my life with by the people I’ve been blessed that i have crossed paths with ,RIP Dave nice to have met you

  5. So sorry to hear that one of the Hangar Gang has passed on. I met Dave at the Edgewater Hangar back in 2007, I believe. You had a fun group of hangar mates back then and a ton of knowledge between them all. He will be missed by many.

  6. I’m sorry to hear about Dave’s passing. I never knew him, but from your discription I feel I could I can picture him in my mind’s eye. An easy going, hard working, supportive mountain of a guy (matches the description of my father). Anyone that’s lost a close friend (be it family by blood or family by virtue of circumstance) knows that on these days of loss we wonder how the world continues to move on with someone so integral being no longer in it. The world will wait for you though, to take a pause to take the time to remember and smile at those times you’ve had. To think of all the good that he’s brought to you and everyone else that his easy demeanor touched. Commemorate his legacy. Be well, sir.

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