The mood was a somber one at Dave’s Chevron on Friday.

Shoppers glanced up at a banner hanging from a snow-covered eave as they approached the entrance, some glancing at the words in surprise.

“In loving memory of our friend, Dave Walters.”

Dave Walters, 68, was found dead Thursday in Arizona where he had gone to escape the chill of winter for a bit. Walters, known to so many in Pendleton for his support of youth softball and baseball, died suddenly and unexpectedly. The cause and exact time of death is so far undetermined. His family and friends were still trying to wrap their minds around the fact they will never see him again.

Walters, a 1966 graduate of Pendleton High School, went into business with his father, Gurney Walters, who ran a Chevron station on the southeast side of town. In the mid-’90s, Dave, his wife and son launched a convenience store near Roy Raley Park that became a magnet for those in search of ice cream, coffee, gas or a quick bite to eat. Walters retired several years ago and his wife, Toni, runs the store.

Car washes, run by various sports team, are a common sight in the Dave’s parking lot during warm summer days. Hanging inside above the entryway are posters featuring five girls’ softball teams that Walters sponsored last summer. Kristan Garton, who co-coaches two of the teams, said Walters often spent entire days in the stands cheering on young Pendleton softball players.

“He was their biggest fan,” Garton said. “And they were his, too.”

The players called him “Papa Dave.” When a team was having a rough time, Walters had a ritual.

“If the team was struggling, down a couple of runs, Dave would go get a hot dog from the concession stand,” she said. “Some games he had at least two hot dogs. At some tournaments, where he watched six to eight games a day, we weren’t the only team he ate hot dogs for.”

Walters’ love of sports took root in his own athletic competition. As a 12-year-old, Walters’ Little League team won second in state. In high school, the left-hander played first base. Later, he found a niche playing men’s softball.

Dean Fouquette remembers being a bat boy for one of Walters’ baseball teams and later played slow pitch softball with him on a men’s team. Walters, who also coached, “was a quiet leader who let the guys play.”

Fouquette expressed shock at Walters’ passing.

“He was in great shape,” Fouquette said. “He was lean and mean and took good care of himself.”

Another former teammate, Tom Melton, said he will miss Walters’ dry sense of humor and positive take on life.

“He really cared about others,” Melton said. “He looked at the good side of people.”

As far as his ball playing abilities, Melton was tongue-in-cheek.

“He was all glove and no hit,” he said. “We teased him about that.”

Despite Walters’ ability to reach out and encourage, he was something of an introvert. Ric Walters said the upcoming funeral will likely be the only one his older brother ever attended.

“He loved visiting with people,” Ric said, “but he was never comfortable with large social events.”

High school friend Susan Corey, who helps organize class reunions, said Dave was a no-show.

“In all the years, Dave never attended a single class reunion, but the day after the reunion, I’d go get gas at Dave’s Chevron and he’d pump me for information,” Corey said. “He always bought a class picture.”

She still can’t believe her friend, the guy who taught her how to drive a stick shift, is gone.

“Everybody liked David,” she said.

Pendleton’s softball players will miss seeing him in the stands this spring. Coach Kristan Garton remembers Papa Dave with gratitude for his financial support and his gift of time.

“He was such a generous man,” she said. “He didn’t have to do any of this. He did it for the love of the game. He did it for the love of the kids.”

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or call 541-966-0810.

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