Opinion
3 min

David Holtzman’s legacy

Smile bigger, live brighter, be braver, give more

His last words to me  were “Happy Birthday Dear One,” written on my Facebook wall 21 days before he died.

Typical David Holtzman. Taking a moment to spread a little warmth, share a little love, build a community one genuinely friendly gesture at a time.

I had no idea I’d never get to speak to him again.

Really, I barely knew David, but the man I met was caring, with a bright smile aimed directly at me every moment we shared. One of those exceptional people with beautiful energy who know who they want to be and live accordingly, consciously contributing to the world they choose to live in.

The condolences and tributes still pouring onto his Facebook page are testament to the profoundly positive way he touched so many people in his life.

“I am heartbroken his light has been extinguished so soon but know we all shine brighter because we were touched by David,” his friend David Palmer posted, echoing so many. “Once the grief has passed and I am able to smile again, I will think of him and remember to smile bigger, live brighter, be braver and give more, as he always did.”

Smile bigger, live brighter, be braver, give more.

“Community and community development excites me because it affects all of us,” David wrote on his LinkedIn profile. “It’s the challenge that lies in consciously creating the physical and social communities we want.

“I feel humbled and very fortunate to live in the best country in the world and most livable city,” he continued. “Yet I think we can do better in the way we live, work and play together and the way we steward our planet.”

I interviewed David last September on the eve of the 10th anniversary of a gay man’s murder in Stanley Park. I asked him what impact he thought Aaron Webster’s brutal gaybashing had on our community.

It struck a painful blow, but it “also became a powerful barometer of the help and community love that we share,” he said, focusing as always on the possibility for collaborative compassion.

We came together “to show everyone that this is not okay and that we are a healthy community and that we support each other.”

What does a healthy community look like, I asked.

It has “room for tolerance and acceptance and diversity and sharing,” he said, adding that everyone has a role to play in keeping it healthy.

I asked if Aaron Webster’s story hit closer to home after he and his partner, Peter, were attacked on their doorstep in June 2010. After a few quips, he reluctantly admitted that getting gaybashed had affected him. He felt less comfortable now walking down the street in drag.

Something has changed for you, I said.

“The possibility of personal harm,” he replied.

Then he deliberately struck a note of strength, recalling a recent conversation with Jordan Smith, who was also gaybashed in 2008. “We’re the lucky ones,” David told Jordan. “It’s important to remember Aaron Webster. It’s important to remember Ritchie Dowrey. We’re the ones who can talk about it, who can say, ‘Hey, pay attention to this.’ And by paying attention to it, it increases our community’s resilience.

“And our community is strong and resilient,” he stressed.

Our community is strong — made stronger by people like David, who choose to strengthen it.

“It is a pleasure to explore and engage people in seemingly simple but enormously important ideas like democracy, civil society, dialogue, conflict resolution (or better yet — conflict avoidance),” David wrote on LinkedIn.

The challenge, he said, is to foster meaningful collaboration and community leadership. “That’s the challenge — and the reward.”

“David Holtzman, you understood in this life what so many more should: that there are infinite ways we can make a difference in this world when we live a life with such intentional purpose and passion,” Perry Boldt posted on his Facebook wall. “Thank you for your courage and convictions, your eloquent voice in our community and your signature sass.”

To a life well lived and generously shared. I didn’t know you well, David, but I miss you already.