Deceased June 5, 2011

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In Memory

David G. Funk passed away on June 5, while playing tennis. David was born in Oak Park, Illinois on August 2, 1938. As a youth, he collected stamps, built his own darkroom, and sang leading roles in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. David majored in economics at Amherst, got his PhD from Harvard, and taught at Wellesley, where he met Joan Dreskin. They were married on August 22, 1970.

Three passions distinguished Dave throughout his life: tennis, music, and investing in the stock market. For a freshman, a passion for tennis was not unusual, but a passion for the stock market certainly was unusual. He was the first student I ever met who read the Wall Street Journal, knew what those long lists of numbers actually meant and talked authoritatively about stocks, the market and investing.

Shortly after finishing his PhD, Dave founded a venture capital and brokerage firm, Buttonwood Securities, named after the tree under which the New York Stock Exchange was founded. The stock market fascinated him throughout his life. In fact, our last conversation over dinner in South Florida was about the stock market. And his last book, “Option Writing Strategies for Extraordinary Returns” was also about the stock market and investing.

In 1987, as his interests turned to commercial real estate, David sold Buttonwood Securities and formed Florida Property Locaters Inc., hoping to sell Florida land opportunities to investors in Boston. Within a year, the Florida weather and the allure of playing tennis year-round became irresistible. In 1988, he moved with his family to Florida and formed Tennis Partners Inc, a business whose name he adored and whose tasks included buying and managing commercial real estate.

Music was his second passion. When David came to Amherst, he loved Scott Joplin and played ragtime very well. He developed a liking for classical music during his sophomore year. All of us who lived on the second floor of South Hall remember listening to Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor over and over and over again. Later, he developed a love for opera. For many years, he and Joan would finish work, head for Logan Airport, catch the Shuttle, and arrive at Lincoln Center in time to stop at the deli across the street to buy tuna salad sandwiches, which they ate during intermission in their respective restrooms. After the opera, they’d take the shuttle back to Boston and call it a day. Now that’s passion. Although he never boasted, I suspect that he must have been making an awful lot of money in the stock market!

Dave was no stodgy investor. I can’t quite remember whether it was after our freshman or sophomore year that we drove a 1936 Chevrolet from his house in Oak Park to Amherst. Probably not the best idea, but an adventure that sounded like a lot o fun back then. The car broke down in Gary, Indiana. Having no place to sleep and no cash, we decided it would be fun to ask the sheriff to let us sleep in the local jail. The sheriff demurred. Two college kids sharing a cell with criminals? Not a good idea. He put us up at the Y.

Dave was also full of surprises. During his senior year at Amherst, he showed up in a Rolls Royce! Granted, it was an old Rolls, but it was a Rolls nevertheless. What student shows up in a Rolls? I can only imagine the look on his date’s face when he picked her up in a Rolls! Only Dave. Another surprise: He started his MBA at Columbia University, but within two weeks he had decided that an MBA was not for him and reached out to an Amherst professor who recommended he study for a PhD at Harvard. Shortly after that phone call, Dave was parking his car near the Harvard Yard. He explained to me how he managed to transfer, but I was never able to understand it. Not really. How can you transfer in the middle of a quarter from one top university to another? Only Dave.

Dave developed an interest in travel early on. His first trip abroad was to Nicaragua to visit me the summer after our freshman year. With Joan, he saw much of the world, including trips to Scandinavia, to Germany for the Wagner festival, Costa Rica, Panama, Italy and, within the U.S., to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.

Dave lived his life without regrets, as he used to say, “I like to go to sleep at night without being hunted by the things I did during the day.” Whatever he did, he did with passion, whether it was work, music, or tennis, always maintaining a delicate balance between work and play. Above all else, David loved his family. He was sad when he saw his children struggle, and he rejoiced in their good news.  He respected Tim for his good work in the newsroom at ABC-TV, and was very proud of him when he got his promotion to Director. He was impressed with Tim’s growing interest in the field of economics and investments, and treasured all the back-and-forth emails and phone conversations, sharing views and information.  He greatly admired Abbey’s talents as an artist and graphic designer, and as a budding teacher, and loved her even more so as she grew and evolved into the beautiful and thoughtful young woman she is.  Most of all, he was proud of the fine people Tim and Abbey have become … kind, caring, and hard-working – people of integrity, who had come to value the very components of living he himself so deeply prized.

Dave’s passion for tennis, which he played throughout his life, kept him fit and youthful. He played it with Joan and with his many, many friends. One of the high points of his life was the time he played next to Andre Agassi. He was so delighted that he could not stop talking about it. That his life came to its conclusion on the tennis court is only fitting. Had Dave chosen a way to depart from this world, I am sure he would have chosen to go out playing tennis, just the way he did.

He is survived by Joan and their two children, Tim and Abbey.


Pedro Belli

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