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How does one attempt to write the memorial of a beloved friend? It is an inevitable part of many people’s lives, but it is the first time I am attempting to do this for someone I have loved and I am finding it terrifically challenging. The hardest part of doing it is acknowledging what it means, the finality of it.
David occupied a unique place in my life, my only close friend from Amherst who was living in the Valley when my husband and I moved to Springfield in 1991. In all the time that I knew him, he had a vibrancy and uniquely kinetic presence that made the time I spent with him memorable.
I first met David in the winter of 1987. I had just returned from a semester abroad, and Ben Zimmerman introduced us. We hit it off immediately. Our love of the music of the Grateful Dead especially cemented our friendship. I was taken by his acerbic wit, his quick mind, low tolerance for phoniness of any sort, and innate athleticism. He had a bouncy gait that matched his irreverence for all things not sports-or-music-related, and I just loved him for being such a breath of fresh air in the stiff political correctness that frequently pervaded Amherst.
I enjoyed knowing Dave at Amherst and we had many good times at school that laid the basis for the feelings that would sustain our relationship for the next 25 years. We did not stay in touch initially after I graduated and moved to Boston in 1988. When I moved to Springfield with my husband, Jeff (Amherst ’86) in 1991, however, we quickly picked up where we had left off with our friendship. Jeff, David, and I had a lot of fun over the next few years. The concerts that we attended together were some of the best times of my life.
After my children were born, in 1995 and 1998, I saw less of David. Life gets in the way. Both of us were dealing with challenges and neither one of us was able to help the other in the way that friends hope they can be available to each other. We got caught up in our own affairs and the years have gone by. We communicated sporadically over the next decade, although when we did, it was always warm and the friendship easily rekindled.
I saw David in the summer of 2010. He was ever the Merry Prankster I loved so much that night. His girlfriend Mia had made a lovely dinner party and we had a blast. Jeff played his piano with a band for the first time that night and we listened to and sang many, many songs. It was an amazing Midsummer’s Night’s Dream of an evening.
When I last saw him a year ago, I brought my new iPad for him to explore. We had an enthusiastic discussion about the potential of technology to help people with disabilities. Of course, the only thing he wanted me to show him on the iPad was how easy it would be for him to access any Grateful Dead show or song from any year on demand, spontaneously. I will never forget the look of deep, deep satisfaction, joy, and amazement on his face as we sat, listening together to song after song that we loved.
“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
I am missing David so much. I miss what he brought to my life, and I miss what he will not be able to bring back to it. I am taking solace in the free-spirited words of Jack Kerouac in the hopes that in his leaving, David has finally found the ease he was seeking. I know that his energy is somewhere where the music never stops.
Tragically, David Pelczarski recently passed away. Speaking on behalf of a number of his good friends and roommates from his Amherst years, I can say that we all are truly saddened by the loss. Pelzo, as we called him, was not the easiest to get to know. He had a hard shell that often was difficult to pierce. Once you did so, however, and were able to get to know the real Dave, you were rewarded. He was intelligent, incredibly funny, and loyal. He had a biting, sarcastic wit that could make you laugh uncontrollably, and he wasn’t afraid to use it. He also had a gigantic heart and cared very much about the people close to him. In short, he was a good friend.
To be honest, I lost touch with Dave over the years since Amherst, and, unfortunately, I think that also was the case with many of Dave’s friends from college. Dave fell on rough times, and I believe things were not the easiest for him since we graduated. I’m sure this is what led to the tragedy of Dave’s much too-short life.
Fortunately for those of us who became friends with Dave, we will be able to remember the many good times we had with him and the many incredible talents he possessed. I remember hours spent playing various forms of catch with a football, basketball, or whatever was handy while Dave would provide the detailed play-by-play and sarcastic color commentary. I remember marveling at Dave’s athletic abilities on the basketball court. I remember being impressed by how intelligent Dave was even though he didn’t fit the mold of the academic intellectual. And, I remember Dave’s incredible generosity – whatever he had was yours to share. Most of all, I remember Dave as one of the most fun and enjoyable people to spend time with at Amherst. In a recent e-mail exchange reminiscing about Dave, Ben Zimmerman, ’89, noted that Pelzo was one of the funniest people he’d ever met. I couldn’t agree more.
Like many of Dave’s Amherst friends, I only knew him well for a short period of time, but, without a doubt, that limited time provided me with a host of wonderful memories. Moreover, I know that to be the case for all of us who were able to call Dave our friend during our years at Amherst. Pelzo, you will be missed.
Eric Jaffe, ‘90
Thanks for the great times and all the laughs. Forever a member of the "fun bunch",