David G. Colwell, Jr.

David G. Colwell, Jr.

Died April 1, 2014

Dave came from a Yale family – his father and three uncles all attended Yale, as did his younger brother, Tom, Y’68, and his sister, Sarah. David Colwell, Sr. was a Congregational minister who was awarded a Yale honorary degree.

Dave attended East High School in Denver and Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA and came to Yale bearing a Yale Club of New York Scholarship. His years in New Haven were marked by energy and involvement; he was on the freshman and varsity track teams, and the Davenport crew, football team and swimming team, which he captained. Dave was also a member of the Freshman Cabinet and secretary of Alpha Phi Omega. Dave’s vision of life was expansive. He had majored in history and had a strong value of making the world better.

After graduation Dave joined the recently founded Peace Corps and, with the woman who was to become his wife, went to India for several years. On returning to the United States he moved to Seattle where he worked for the School District as a strategic planner, then for United Way, and finally for Boeing, where for 15 years he specialized in facilities planning.

Dave and his first wife, Susan, had two children: a son, Jonathan, and a daughter, Shanti, named under the influence of the Indian culture he had come to know. His marriage ended in divorce, but his vision of family remained extraordinarily inclusive.

In 1986 he married a woman who had two children of her own from a prior marriage. In subsequent Yale directories his step-children are listed as if they were his own, and he treated them as such. His first wife was also remarried, with step-children; and, at Dave’s death his son Jonathan received a heartfelt note from his halfbrother recalling how warm and accepting Dave had been to him as his ski instructor.

Outside work, Dave’s life was devoted to his children. He spent countless hours with them, skiing, hiking, camping, fishing and looking at seals and whales. He was an early personal computer devotee and hit on the idea of writing a program to provide math practice to students at his kids’ elementary school. In the words of his son, in all that he did, “He helped us get ready for the world.” The Yale family tradition stopped with Dave’s generation, however. When they came of college age, his children thought about applying, but were too thoroughly steeped in Pacific Northwest culture to want to transition to New Haven.

In the last years of his life Dave was overtaken by insidious dementia, but he did everything possible to keep it from slowing him down. One day, Hardy Pearce’s phone rang, with Dave at the other end. “Wean!” he said, “I’m coming out for a visit.” Wean was short for Weanie, the nickname Dave had given Hardy years before because he was reluctant to engage in ill-advised adolescent college behaviors. With a little help from his son and Hardy, he made the cross-country trip, tolerating just enough beer on the East Coast to revive shared memories without unduly clouding his head. In the end, dementia cost Dave his job, his marriage, his ability to speak,and his life. But it could not sever his connection to his family, whom he continued to recognize and enjoy until his last days.

Dave died on April 1, 2014, one month after the death of his younger brother Tom. He is survived by his two children, two stepchildren, and a sister.

Hardy Pearce remembers: David and I were bursary boys in JE freshman year, and became fast friends. We lived in the Washington area and played lots of bridge and drank beer. And, our families visited and remained close throughout the years. I will never forget David for his intelligence, warmth and sense of humor.

Daniel Oates remembers: Good friend. Always upbeat.