DULUTH — David Weston will not be forgotten by his friends.
“He was a person that made a friend wherever he went,” said Kristie Buchman, executive director of CHOICE, Unlimited. “Dave was just an incredibly friendly person who was always so positive, always asked people how they were doing, what they were up to and was just such a happy, friendly person.”
Weston died Friday, Sept. 10, after he was struck by a Duluth Transit Authority bus at Miller Hill Mall in Duluth.
CHOICE, Unlimited is a community-based private nonprofit organization that is dedicated to supporting adults with disabilities and individuals who experience barriers to employment and community inclusion. Weston, 64, received services through CHOICE, and even worked there for a while as a janitor.
“He was not only a friend, but someone who we employed,” Buchman said. “Our hearts are very heavy at the news of his tragic passing, for Dave and for everyone involved in that situation.”
Annie Roseen is the arts program director at CHOICE and met Weston through her classes. She said Weston would come to her art classes, participate in dance and perform plays. One of her favorite memories of Weston was going out to coffee with him.
“We just sat there and went through all the TV from the '60s, '70s and '80s and all the lines that they would say,” Roseen said. “That was a way for him to connect to people and with me, too, because I love all those old shows.”
Roseen said Weston wasn’t just a goof. He wanted to avoid feeling sad, purposefully, and dedicated his life to meeting people and connecting with them.
“I think he probably lived a tough life,” she said. “A lot of folks with disabilities his age have been through a lot of terrible things.”
Roseen said part of Weston’s magic was that he made every single person he met feel special. This was evident by the outpouring of comments on social media from people who knew or met Weston.
“I work at a group home across the street from where David lived. Every morning David and I would exchange greetings. I'm going to miss him and his ‘whoop de doo,’” Barbara Kinney Erjavec wrote on Facebook.
Max Zubaz wrote that he will always remember “David walking through the mall with a Caribou Coffee in one hand and a 20-ounce soda in the other. Stopping and talking to mall employees. … Always so cheerful to all who he would visit.”
The Miller Hill Mall was like a second home to Weston, Buchman said. Jacob Beyer, manager at the FYE store, met Weston over 15 years ago at the mall. Before he was the manager at FYE, Beyer worked at Sears.
“Everybody up at this mall loved him and took care of him,” Beyer said. “Everybody enjoyed his time up here. He made everybody happy every day when he would come around and say hi.”
Beyer said he had walked out of the mall about a minute or two after the incident, but he didn’t know it was Weston until it was reported by the news media. But that’s not how he wants to remember Weston.
One of Beyer's favorite things about Weston was his smiles and the smiles he put on everyone’s faces.
“There is this little girl here at one of the booths in front of my store he would interact with every day,” Beyer said. “She would come to work with her mom and he made that girl happy every day. They were best friends up here.”
CHOICE started a memorial in honor of Weston outside the mall near Dick’s Sporting Goods. People have been stopping by and adding to it. Someone even added a bingo card with the number I-22 circled in his honor.
“Dave loved playing bingo,” said Richard Rowson, a support staff member at CHOICE who worked with Weston. “His favorite number was I-22 and whenever it was called he would say ‘two, two, two’ and it was always met with laughter and other people would join in with him.”
Weston loved looking at stained-glass windows in churches.
“We had a mission to visit every church in Duluth and Superior,” Rowson said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to complete that mission.”
Rowson said Weston only had one family member — a brother who is also in a group home. Because of this, Beyer is working on a fundraiser with businesses at the mall and setting up a GoFundMe page to help pay for a proper funeral and burial for Weston.
“Everyone in this mall loved and cared for him,” Beyer said. “He made the lights turn on in this building every day and made every day go by with happiness. That’s the way we want to remember him here.”