Tributes to David Luckenbach 12/17/50 to 2/23/2010

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David Luckenbach died February 23rd 2010.

This is a page of just a few of the tributes to David received after his untimely death.

This letter was read by me at the memorial service.


I was hoping to be there for the memorial. Iíve tried to figure out how to get the essence of David, what I would say about him if asked. Iíd like you to know even tho I wonít be there.

Iím Jack Carter. Iím a professor at the medical school in San Antonio and Iíve been teaching medical students, interns and residents my entire life. Iíve been given several teaching awards by my residents and one Presidential Teaching Award by the President of the University. And I only hope I am as good a teacher as David Luckenbach was.

I met David for the first time in October 2004 when I took his sailing class. It was exactly as described in his website, a small boat, actually sailing, 3 students taking turns managing each of the functions. David only touched the controls the first time he demonstrated something like a man overboard recovery. We handled the boat the vast majority of the time. He was careful, in a position to fend off when we were in tight situations, but he let the students sail the boat and make the mistakes. Believe me when I tell you that the hardest thing to do is teach practical skills, teach actually doing something. For some of us getting the feel for doing something takes longer, takes more tries, which means you do it wrong a number of times. For teachers to sit on their hands during these attempts takes great effort. Patience, patience and more patience.

The following May I was ready to buy a boat and had decided on a flying scot. It turned out David had purchased a newer boat and needed to sell one of his. After we talked for a while he offered to sell me either of his. Iím sure he would have made some profit on the recent acquisition but basically whatever worked best for me was good, and he would adapt. It seemed to me that adapting was in his nature. He seemed able to fix anything or make adjustments to make anything better. He spent an afternoon sailing with me when I picked the boat up just to be sure I had retained some of what he taught me seven months before.

The third time we went sailing was in my Ė his old Ė boat. He also liked to explore new things. I donít remember how it actually happened, but we wound up going for a sail from a county park on Canyon Lake that he was unfamiliar with. It was his second date with Alison. Obviously that worked out well. Perhaps some of the ambience transferred to me as I would say that was the beginning of our actual friendship. I think our friendship was cemented when I was able to diagnose his cluster headache syndrome over the phone and work with him to try and control it, no easy task.

After that it was my great pleasure to race with David as crew on several occasions. He had the same approach to people in those situations that he did in his classes. He was very competitive but kept things in perspective. When a competitor fouled us once he didnít raise the protest flag. Instead, after the race he discussed it with the skipper, who acknowledged the foul. It wasnít about winning. It was about winning in good spirits and maintaining strong positive personal relationships.

Last May it was no pleasure at all to be the one to start David on his final journey by finding the brain tumor and sending him to Dr. Chris Bogaev for surgery and subsequent radiosurgery and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was tough. Everyone knows it is, but the reality when itís you is usually worse. In the end, Iím not sure David believed it was a good idea but I believe it bought him more time with us, some of which was well worthwhile. Still, this was not a battle that he could win. True to his basic personality, though, David was never prepared or even able to give up.

For me, however, the worst part of this was what it did to David the last few months of his life. Cancer in general affects the entire body including the mind and all the more so when tumors move to the brain. It is bad enough that this disease took David away from us. But to add insult to injury, it even took the real David away from us for the last few months of his life. The David we worked the past few months with was not the mentor and friend we all knew before last year. I will remember the real David whenever I sail, especially when I mess up. My mantra will be, What would David do here?

Tom Clancy and screenwriter John Milius wrote a line in the screenplay Clear and Present Danger that I believe sums up the way we need to deal with this.

"To the refuge of the earth we entrust our friendís body To the protection of our god in heaven we entrust his soul To ourselves we entrust his spirit."

I will remember Davidís spirit, the real David who taught me by instruction and by example how to be a better sailor and a better man.

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