David Ede

Jul 4th 1935 - Sep 13th 2008

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LIFESTORY:

David Ede was a man of principle and passion, of character and conviction, and most importantly a man with an open heart. David was a teacher and a mentor, a man who made a difference to the minds and views of so many. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, teacher and friend, but more than anything, David taught us to see the world from a different point of view, and to challenge what we know as true.

David’s story began on a hot summer day during the Great Depression, as the Fourth of July fireworks filled the sky in the little town of Wilbur, Washington. Those were such difficult days in this country, which was mired in economic hardship, affecting nearly every American family. Amid these tough times, Emile and Alphena (Christian) Ede found a reason to celebrate, with the birth of a baby boy, a son they named David. The story was always told on how Alphena ate a big bowl of cherries before giving birth to David.

David was the eldest of four children, and was later joined by his siblings Marcus, Sylvia and Roger. His father was a Lutheran minister, while his mother cared for the children and the home. Due to his father’s ministry, the family moved around quite a bit when David was growing up, and they lived everywhere from Washington to Iowa, from Montana to Minnesota.

David was especially close to his mother as a boy, and though his surroundings often changed, his mother’s love — and voice — remained the lone, soothing constant. He especially loved hearing her sing to him, giving him a love for music he would carry the rest of his life. She also taught him other practical lessons such as how to keep a kitchen clean and to never put tomatoes in the refrigerator.

David’s mother was a very personable, hospitable person, and being the wife of a minister, she was always entertaining company at their home. David, in turn, would become an equally sociable person throughout his lifetime.

After he graduated from high school, David headed off to St. Olaf College, a private Lutheran school in Northfield, Minnesota. Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, David attended seminary, but soon began reading other viewpoints on religion. One author he read was Cantwell Smith, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, who was an authority on Islamic studies.

David was deeply moved by Smith’s writings, and began to correspond with the professor, who eventually invited David to come to Montreal and study under him. Naturally, David jumped at the chance.

Attending McGill was a life-changing experience for David, where he came into contact with many different people from many different cultures and backgrounds. His eyes were opened to a whole new world, a world so different than the one he knew.

David’s time in Montreal came at the height of the 1960s, a time of great protest and unrest in America, which was entrenched in the Vietnam War. Montreal was a city with a very politically-charged atmosphere, further influencing David’s viewpoint and continually challenging his views. He was especially drawn to the Quebec separatist movement. As he was working on his PhD in Islamic Studies at McGill, David began to travel, studying in Iran for 6 months, which further broadened his view of the world, as he was able to look at America from the outside in.

In 1970 David took a teaching position at Western Michigan University, as a professor of Islamic Studies. After traveling so much throughout his young life, David soon fell in love with the town of Kalamazoo, and he would put down roots and remain there the rest of his life.

David also loved teaching, and loved the difference he could make to his students. David was truly more than a professor, however. He was also a mentor, to his students as well as to other faculty, who felt at ease around the generous, gregarious David. Like he learned from his mother, David often entertained students and colleagues at his home, and could break into song and dance at the drop of a hat! That’s the way he was, though, a fun-loving, spontaneous man, who loved to make people laugh and smile, and loved keeping the mood light. A special group of friends, “The Priesthood” met regularly on Thursday nights in Salt Lake City, Utah. Though much of his participation in this group was through long distance phone calls, David was sure to join them a couple of times a year. In 2008, the “Priesthood” met for a special meeting in Kalamazoo. The last meeting that he participated was on Thursday, September 11th.

The Summer of 2008 was a special summer. He took his first trip to Japan, “The Priesthood” came to Kalamazoo, his son Stephane and granddaughter Aicha came to visit in July, in August his daughter Lisa, son-in-law Shane, and two granddaughters Alexandra and Arianna came to visit and he welcomed a new faculty member to his department, Jue Guo. Just after Labor Day, Rusen, whom he considered a brother, came to stay for a visit.

David and his three friends from Montreal get together every year around September or October. Rusen had come from Turkey to visit David, and they were planning their meeting, but this year's meeting will be without the physical presence of David. He will be in the thoughts and talks of Habeeb, Henri and Rusen.

David was a man who made friends easily, a man with a generous heart who preferred to stay out of the limelight. He was never pretentious about his titles or degrees, unless the title was all in good fun! He enjoyed it when his Japanese friends called him “Uncle David,” and especially loved it when friends called him “Dave the Rave” for his singing and dancing prowess!

David’s teaching career at Western Michigan University was one of many peaks and valleys, as he was a man of deep conviction and beliefs, which were sometimes at odds with the administration. Still, he remained a valued and respected member of the faculty, and was eventually asked to assume the position of chair of the Department of Comparative Religion. David didn’t want to give up his classroom, and give up his students, but he reluctantly acquiesced, due to his dedication and love for his department.

While David’s professional life was immensely rewarding, so, too, was his personal life. David became the father of two beautiful children, Lisa and Stephane, and a stepfather to Catherine who filled their father with pride and joy through the years. Later he was also blessed with 3 grandchildren who he loved very much, Alexandra, Arianna and Aicha. David’s love for his children and grandchildren was unconditional and unwavering, and he was a very influential figure in their lives. He spent quality time with them during the holidays and in the summertime, when he took them camping or traveling with him. More than anything, David taught them to see the world through different points of view, just as he always did, a great lesson and an even greater gift.

One night David was planning on going out on the town, but needed someone to watch his faithful canine companion, a large golden retriever named Spotsky. A friend of David’s suggested one of their friends, a wonderful woman named Yumi. A friendship developed between David and Yumi, which eventually grew into love. In 2003 they adopted a beagle together, Wakame. In 2005 David and Yumi were married. Over the next three wonderful years, they shared a beautiful marriage, one of great talks, the great outdoors, and so many good times.

David loved his garden, the "Garden of Ede." For over ten years he rode his John Deere and plowed his field. David grew tomatoes, eggplant and many others, which he shared by the sack full with his friends and neighbors.

Sadly, David died suddenly on Saturday, September 13, 2008. Wakame joined early Sunday morning.

David was a remarkable man, who lived a remarkable life, a life devoted to teaching so many others. David was a professor, a mentor, and a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to many. Most of all, David was a man who taught us that the world is far too big a place for small minds, and to see things from a different point of view. Today David’s life, and his lessons, live on in all who knew him.

David Ede