Eulogy for my Grandfather: David Sydney Schaner (April 21, 1930 – October 3, 2014)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADavid Sydney Schaner, my grandfather, was born on April 21, 1930 in Long Beach, California. My grandfather was named after his maternal grandfather, but so were two of his cousins. Together, the trio were known collectively as “The Three Daves.”

David Schaner’s parents were Frieda Scharlin and Morris Schaner. Morris was a car mechanic who owned a garage in downtown Long Beach. Frieda was a bookkeeper for a wholesale produce business owned by an older sibling. Dave’s older sister, my Great Aunt Gertie, was born in 1924.

The son of two working parents, Dave was a “latchkey” kid. He was independent from a young age, giving him the freedom to develop many hobbies. He ran track in high school and college, and played volleyball. He was a Boy Scout. He always loved automobiles, and was able to help out at his dad’s garage by parking cars – as early as age 11.

He attended Burnett Elementary School, followed by Polytechnic High School, and then Long Beach City College for two years.

Migration patterns were different in those days, and it was typical for multiple generations to live in close proximity. Because his parents were not around to take care of him much of the time, my grandfather spent a lot of time at his Grandmother Lena’s, in her duplex on Myrtle Avenue. The entire family would gather there for her home-cooked meals.

Dave had many lifelong interests that he devoted himself to with a passion. He was interested in military history, especially the naval history of World War Two. He could tell you everything you could imagine (and a few things you couldn’t) about battleships, aircraft carriers, and the day to day progress of the War in the Pacific. He made scale models of World War Two ships, planes, and jeeps out of balsa wood.

Perhaps surpassing even his passion for military history was his love of music. Dave loved to dance, and he took swing lessons as a boy with his older sister Gertie.

As a teenager in the 1940’s, he began collecting records by artists like Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and Billie Holiday. He would sometimes go into Los Angeles in search for rarities. While he like the big bands, he really loved smaller ensembles.

During his senior year in high school, a friend of my grandfather’s, Mimi Aron – who happened to work in a record store – decided that he would be a good match for this cute Jewish girl who was moving from San Pedro to Long Beach with her family. My grandfather, who apparently was not shy, jumped the gun. After Friday night services at a synagogue in Long Beach, he went up to a young woman who was there with her parents to introduce himself.   It turned out this was the girl he was to be set up with. “I have a friend who wants to set me up with a new girl in town,” he told her. “That must be you.” Both were seniors in high school. Their first date was a double date to a track meet in Los Angeles with my grandfather’s cousin, Dave Scharlin. My grandpa gave my grandma a gold track charm, which she wore around her neck. Dave and Bea have been a pair ever since.

They were married on August 7, 1949. For their first year of married life, the struggling young couple lived in the Dave’s parents’ home. My mother, Leanne, was born in 1950. To support his wife and baby daughter, Dave had to quit school and start working. They moved into an apartment, and then rented a house on Gale Avenue. The young couple bought their first house – two bedroom, one bathroom – by borrowing money from Dave’s Aunt Jeanette. They paid every cent back. My uncle Ron was born in 1953. My mom and Uncle Ron got to share the larger bedroom.

Grandpa was always handy, a real Mr. Fix-It. He even built some furniture. After upgrading to another home in Long Beach, my grandparents moved to Irvine in 1969. That’s the home I remember visiting during my childhood.

In Irvine, Dave and Bea had a close circle of friends, drawn together by their shared love for tennis.

For nearly his entire career, from 1950 to 1984, Dave worked for Martin Decker – 34 1/2 years! It was an instrumentation and oil drilling company. He worked as a mechanical engineer.  He was involved in projects all over the world. Locally, he was involved in building the Palm Springs tram project.

After a brief stint in Murietta, my grandparents came here to Sun City in 1993. They were among the first couples to move into the entire development.

Dave and Bea always liked to travel. When they were younger, they would take family vacations to Palm Springs, as well as visit Las Vegas, Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe, and the Bay Area.

As empty nesters, they took advantage of business opportunities to do some international travel, visiting the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, and England. They also visited Israel.

They took road trips to New Mexico and Colorado, and were fortunate to go on many cruises together in the Caribbean, in Hawaii, and even through the Panama Canal. Several summers were spent in Mexico.

While, Bea shared Dave’s love of music, they did have something of a mixed marriage. He loved Benny Goodman, and she loved Artie Shaw. They went to concert, dances, and bars all over Southern California to hear live music. They had a chance to meet many musicians and develop relationships with them. They saw the jazz greats.

My grandparents had a very rich and active retirement here in Palm Desert. They helped to start the tennis club here in Sun City, and Dave served as a President. They were involved with the theater group, for which he managed the house, designed the seating, and kept things running.

Dave volunteered as a docent for eight years in the Navy hangar at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Together, they served as volunteer ushers at the McCallum Theater, the Tennis Gardens, the La Quinta Art Festival, and the Palm Springs Film Festival.

He taught driving classes to seniors to help them continue to drive safely in older age.

But of all his activities in retirement, Dave made his greatest mark by sharing his love of jazz.

He gave his first lecture at the Old Library in Rancho Mirage in 2000. Forty people came to hear him deliver a lecture on Billie Holiday. He got the bug. After that rookie presentation, Dave went on to present unique, one-of-a-kind lectures at Elderhostels, Princess Cruises, Cal State San Bernadino, in addition to a regular series at the Rancho Mirage Library for fourteen years. His reputation as a passionate and knowledgeable fan of jazz spread, and his programs ballooned in attendance to several hundred. For each topic, he would present videos, music, and anecdotes. Topics were organized along particular themes, whether an artist, an instrument, or a particular style. The annual Sinatra show was especially popular.

People often assumed that my grandfather played an instrument. When asked, he would respond. “I am not a musician… I play the phonograph.”

My grandfather was a man of many passions. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the things that he cared about, from history, to music, to his lifelong love Bea. He was someone who understood that inherently that we get out of life what we put into it, and to get the most out of life, one has to put the most in. He surely did this.

Grandpa would affectionately call his grandkids “kiddo.” I sometimes catch myself using the same endearing term with my own kids, and I think of him whenever I do.

I remember Grandpa Dave’s sense of humor. He liked a good joke, especially if it was a bit off-color. I remember once being in a practical joke store on Broadway in Seattle with Grandma and Grandpa. They found some dirty greeting card, I don’t remember what it said. But I remember the joy that they shared as they passed it around, including to me, their teenage grandson. That is how I will remember Grandpa Dave, devoted to my Grandma, focused on the things that interested him, and eager to share those interests with the people around him.

David Sydney Schaner, David Shlomo ben Moshe haLevi v’Frieda, is remembered by his lifelong wife and partner, Bea, his daughter Leanne with her husband Carl, his son Ron with his wife Tami, and his grandchildren myself, Michael, and Danny.

Yehi Zikhro Barukh.  May his memory be a blessing