David lived in Haiti from 1990-1991, helping to teach in a run down shed of a school in Pandiasou. He had been the first full time volunteer sent by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia’s Haiti twinning parish program created under Bishop Walter Sullivan. Gaby was going to high school at the time in nearby Hinche when he met David. Through their daily friendship, David successfully taught him enough english for Gaby to pass his proficiency exam to be accepted to Virginia Tech. Returning back to the states, he went to Virginia Tech to earn his master’s degree in electrical engineering. After graduation he moved to Richmond where he worked at J. Sargent Reynolds Community College, still returning to Haiti every year over Christmas until being diagnosed with cancer in 1996. David died from cancer at the age of 33 on October 29th 1997.
His parents, Paul and Linda, started a memorial fund in his honor to build a school in Haiti. They originally had planned the school for Pandiasou but the French had already built a school there. The Xaverian brothers asked if they would build a school in Matabonite instead. Gaby is from Matabonite so this seemed an ideal location. The fund was established and administered in Virginia because that’s where David had lived since the late 80’s. It was David’s greatest wish to help the people of Haiti help themselves.
Linda wrote of his son “Now that I’ve been there I can understand his devotion. When we cleaned David’s apartment we found papers that indicated he was applying to go back to Haiti as a permanent volunteer. So it seemed appropriate that he be buried in a country he had grown to love.”
In one of his letters from his life in Haiti David wrote, “I don’t know if I’ve done any good here, but I have planted seeds”.
Today we strive to continue to help Matabonite reap the harvest.
From Virginia Tech Newman Community Catholic Campus Ministry staffer, Marlene McGrath
David was already a grown man when I first met him at the Newman Community in Blacksburg. He seemed a quiet and shy engineering student with a strong attachment to the spiritual and community celebrations we had there. He was older than most of the undergrads and not prone to their antics, but he did have a sense of humor which we (the staff) frequently tested. I think he saw the needs in the sad and poor country of Haiti and decided that is where he would put his energies, his talents and his holy spirit to work. David was always so low-key that I never realized how much he was interested in this mission until the Sunday I heard him speak at Mass. An eloquent, sincere and strong description of Haiti and the needs he saw there. One of the best speeches I’d ever heard from him. For that goal, gone was the shy, quiet and sometimes softly cynical Catholic. Here instead was the missionary, with love for those in Haiti.