I drove up into David’s life in the later ‘70’s. He had established with Link Z. Baum, a resort in the Rocky Mountains of Southern Colorado, aptly named ‘The Balloon Ranch’. Folks could come up there, usually from Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, and enjoy ballooning in the morning followed by a variety of activities all day. They would often fall asleep at the dinner table after a couple of drinks. We were at 8,000 feet elevation. The smitten could obtain their balloon licence in a very short time.
Flying 110+ days out of 120 days of the summer season, I still have a picture of a big grin on David’s face as he flipped backward out of my basket… ‘skydive!’. Ballooning and parachuting were his adrenalin kicks on our days off.
He wanted to get into competition ballooning. ‘Go for it’, I said. And he did… Boy, did he!!! Over the years, he climbed the ladder of national and international competition to reach the pinnacle of ability, unique in the world. Triple champion in Hot Air, Gas, and unlimited distance flying, ‘The Gordon Bennett’.
David didn’t sit back… he gave back. He travelled the world providing his services as an Event Director (Balloon Meister) for multiple world and national events. David came to the Trans Australia Challenge in ’88 and took 1st place. He returned many years later as Balloon Meister of the Australian Nationals. In Europe, he worked with Mathias de Bruin many times as a team. Many friendships were made in many countries, a million miles flown and a few thousand ‘floated’.
What was his skill? It was a mind that could absorb a local map, a multi-layer weather forecast, the terrain, and the time-frame…. And put this three-dimensional puzzle into a set of competition tasks that would challenge maybe a hundred eager balloonists to test their hand.
David wasn’t competing against the pilots. He had been there. He was trying to give them the opportunity to do their best. His early schooling to become an attorney prepared him for logical and fair interpretation of the ever-growing set of tasks and rules for competition ballooning. The evolution of modern day aerostatics, he took in his stride. GPS, digital tracking, moving maps, real time meteorological data, “Let’s get with it.”
Another picture in my mind…both of us flying across the Arizona desert, 50 yards apart, each in a gas balloon, David with his shirt off, soaking up some ‘rays’, a picture of joy, what was life about if not to enjoy, shouting inanities at each other.
Other passions included a variety of outdoor sports; running, skiing, paragliding. He devoted his time to ‘Ignite’, an organisation to introduce and train the disabled to ski. He gave joy to many souls.
A genuine sportsman, a good sport, a liberal thinker, a sharp business mind mostly hidden away, a free spirit in his youth (dare we say hippie?). He had a genuine ability to make things happen coupled with this magic talent of being able to think in 3D. Or, was it, he could just think clearly.
A special project, taking years to come to fruition, was the Jewish Community Centre in Boulder, Colorado. Sadly, just a few months after its inauguration, it was here that David’s memorial was held.
David was a devoted husband and father. His wife, Roberta, and two children, Matthew and Rebecca, were his pride and joy. To respect Roberta’s concern for his gas ballooning at night into often deteriorating conditions, he did give it up…true love?
We didn’t send instagrams or message three times a day, but just got together to largely enjoy each other’s company. My partner, Judy, and I will miss the many miles we chugged with David and Roberta through the French Canals, walked the world together through hills, mountains, deserts and jungles, and yes, shared the joy of ballooning. Then off we would go in different directions for another year. He was a constant reminder …enjoy life.
Our final days together were mastering a shiny, newly purchased Dutch ’Spiegel Cotter’ Cruiser. This boat had a few new tricks compared to a hundred-year-old, under powered, flat bottomed barge. Our new boat has bow thrusters, radar, digital maps, etc. David took it all in his stride as he waved goodbye and headed off into the canal system of Friesland to put the boat to bed for the winter.
I never saw him again except on FaceTime, failing fast, still hopeful, but never to sail again. A particularly aggressive pancreatic cancer took his life in a short time. A shock to many.
David was a global citizen who has left his message…do your best, give back, be generous in spirit, get on with it, and enjoy life.
You can look up details of David Levin’s impressive C.V. on Google, but you can’t see that mischievous grin or those penetrating insightful eyes, his perpetual motion and that puppy-dog-like enjoyment of life.