I never met Earnest Hemingway, for he left us before I was born. I have however read several of his books. While I enjoyed them, I never understood the thinking of the man behind them until one day I was at Dave Nuffer’s house and he started to tell me about the man. Dave had been researching Hemingway’s life for one of the books he wrote about him, and had some great stories to share. When I learned of Dave’s passion for understanding the life of Ernest Hemingway, I knew he must be a pretty interesting guy, because the only person I have ever met that comes close to living as large as Ernest Hemingway was Dave Nuffer.
I think Dave liked Hemingway because his writing was so raw and authentic, just like Dave. Oh trust me, Dave could write too. I will never forget the sound of Dave pounding away on the 1942 Royal manual typewriter that he had in his office for decades. Yes, he typed with two fingers, but he did it faster than most of us can on a modern keyboard. More importantly were the words that flowed from that typewriter. Sometimes it was a news release or other item related to the public relations profession, but just as often it was a thank you note, a poem or a song he had written to sing to someone that later he would serenade them with, along with his wonderful ukulele accompaniment. You knew that if Dave wrote a song for or about you, it was something special. Dave taught me, and many others, to have passion for the written word. If you share that passion, you know exactly what I mean.
Dave’s other passion was baseball. It was rare to go to a Padres home game and not see Dave and Mary cheering on their team. Many will fondly remember the signs Dave would bring in to the stadium that as often as not made fun of the visiting team and the umpires. Yes, he held up signs that supported the Pads, but the memorable ones were signs that had sayings such as “Boo Hoo Blue,” or Just Another Laugher.” Even if they never met Dave, many knew him by his signs.
He was a staple at spring training, and some of my fondest memories were of the large groups we would join each year for the annual trek to Yuma Arizona in March to watch the Padres get ready for the season. That is where we all learned Dave’s most well known song “Blizzards, Baseball and Booze…..You Ain’t Got Nothing To Lose.” It became our theme song for the trip, but meant so much more than just the words, it was all about friends and co-workers getting together to have fun and enjoy a weekend of baseball (and a few Blizzards from Dairy Queen and perhaps a couple of cold beers). I never remembered if the Padres won the game or not, but do remember that everyone that spent time with Dave at spring training or at a Padres game was a winner. His passion for baseball and the Padres was infectious. You could not help but root alongside him.
However, Dave’s single greatest passion was in relationships. Yes, he was in the relationship business as a public relations pro. but Dave took it to a whole new level. His obituary in the Union-Tribune referenced that Dave had a million friends. I think they were a couple of hundred thousand people short. Whether you met Dave in a boardroom, or on a barstool, it was easy to become instant, lifelong friends. He was always eager to hear your story, and just as eager to tell his. More often than not, Dave did something to help you out, even if it was your first meeting.
I had the pleasure of working with Dave for nearly 25 years, and I can hardly remember a time where he did not know most of the people in any given setting. Whenever I told someone that I was lucky enough to work at NST, the most common response was: “Oh, I know Dave.” I am constantly amazed at the number of people that give Dave credit for their first job. I was always shocked by this, because few of them ended up working at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker. Those of us lucky enough to work there don’t leave very often, which created very few openings over the years. Yet Dave would help them get a job somewhere else. Sometimes it was just advice on how to break in, but often it was Dave becoming their champion and actively helping them advance their careers. He has served as a mentor to all of us at NST, but the list is much bigger than that. Many people have written or called in the past couple of days to tell us how Dave helped them and the mentorship role he played for them.
His passion for relationships carried over into the work he did to make San Diego a better place. Dave worked tirelessly to do the right thing for his community. His efforts with the Chamber, Conviz, Scripps and many other important organizations in San Diego have made this a better place to live. His passion for Mexico and the importance of looking at all of us as one region was ahead of its time.
This past October we celebrated Dave’s 78th birthday with a day trip to Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada Mexico. The family, friends and colleagues that were on that trip will never forget it. Dave will never forget it. The stories from that one day could fill a novel, and will have to wait for another day to tell. Just know that if you did not go with us, you really missed out.
And most importantly, Dave loved his family. Last Monday Dave and Mary celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. He is also left behind by his brother Danny, his three children, Sheri, Larry and Carl, six grandkids and more than a million friends that felt like part of the family.
Dave has left a large hole here on earth, but I bet he is “upstairs” watching a baseball game with Ernest Hemingway, perhaps with an adult beverage.
Dave, you will be missed by one and all. We love you man.
If you have a story to tell about Dave, and we know you do, please share it as a comment here. We will make sure they get compiled and shared with Mary and the rest of the family.