By Rose O'Keefe with Lisa Halter
At the service for the celebration of the life of David “Dave” Halter on March 4th at Calvary St. Andrew’s Church, everyone who spoke showed a side of him that others didn’t know. Sandy Brewer, who knew Dave as a boy growing up with his brother Jack in their parent’s home on Mount Vernon Avenue, remembered his mother very fondly. His parents were the late Peter and Margaretta (Peg) Halter.
Rev. Judy Lee Hay, who led the service, spoke of the faith that Dave learned at Calvary Presbyterian Church. “A strong neighborhood requires people of passion and vision who dedicate their lives to making the community a better place for all of its residents. David Halter was a community activist, a doer, a man of compassion and integrity who exemplifies the best of what it means to be a good neighbor and a South Wedge resident.”
Dave went to 13 School on Gregory Street, 24 School on Linden Street and Monroe High School. He and his family were active in Calvary Church on South Avenue at Hamilton Street, which disbanded in the late sixties. He remembered hearing President Roosevelt declare war on Dec. 7, 1941. A highlight of his childhood was winning the annual Soapbox Derby along Lakeshore Boulevard at age 15 in 1950, on his fourth attempt.
He graduated from the University of Buffalo and served in the Naval Air Force, receiving an honorable discharge. He ran for public office several times. After working with his equally strong-minded dad in the family business, PJ Halter Incorporated, Dave formed his own company, Epsilon Construction, doing amazing renovations and unique additions.
Beth Struever spoke of his working for ten years on her beloved grand oldie in the city and bringing it back to life. His “Good Man Friday” and loyal friend Steve Lyons shared memories of working with and learning from Dave for many years.
In the late sixties, he joined the Canterbury-Harvard Neighborhood Association and was its treasurer for about seven years. He was also treasurer of Ellwanger Barry Neighborhood Association, and in the early nineties joined the Sector Six committee to determine what the neighborhood south of 490 and Field Street to the Genesee River needed.
Dave was a true renaissance man. He valued physical fitness, running track in high school and marathons including the Boston and New York Marathons. A good friend remembered playing volley ball with him for 25 years. He built hydrofoil boats and sailed on Lake Ontario. He was a silversmith who created modern jewelry that was ahead of its time. He was also a ceramic artist and created and restored stained glass windows. He was a skilled woodworker who treasured historical artifacts and could restore them to their former glory.
Dave was a vocal community activist. Neighbor Lisa Reagan recalled he opposed Rite Aid’s moving into the neighborhood twice – once into the Abeles Building at South and Gregory and again into the space where Highland Market now stands at South and Linden.
In the nineties he was a member of the Southeast Landlords Council that brought together landlords, owners, the neighborhood conservation office, Rochester Police Department, mediation and environmental services. They shut down drug houses around Meigs and Pearl Street.
At the time of an interview in The Wedge newspaper in July 1997, Dave had been a member of South Wedge Planning Committee’s housing committee and had become its chair that spring. He volunteered at SWPC for 30 years, said Frank Logan, SWPC board president. He owned several buildings where he stored all kinds of oddities – just in case. Artist and neighbor Jill Gussow shared that he gave her a tub and a sink that he had to spare. He sold off most of his buildings in recent years.
After health setbacks that would have caused others to call it quits, Dave got around in his motorized wheelchair for years. Friend Cathy Martin who was his bookkeeper for a time, visited him regularly when he was hospitalized, and he in turn visited her daily when she was.
He was the model for the statue of Nathaniel Rochester created by Pepsy Kettavong that was installed at Nathaniel Square Park, the pocket park on South Avenue at Alexander Street, in May 2008. He attended neighborhood meetings where he shared his strong opinions – each one of them earned by having worked on that problem decades ago.
Dave lived on Caroline Street for thirty years or so. He is the father of two daughters, Lisa and Kira. He was so proud that they inherited his creativity and went to Rochester Institute of Technology. Lisa also inherited his real estate gene and is the principal broker and owner of Halter Associates Realty in the Hudson Valley; and Kira, an interior designer, who took up running marathons, lives in Altadena, California.
For myself, I am grateful for books he gave me, particularly a copy of The Shopkeeper’s Millennial which he thought I would appreciate and which I truly enjoyed.
Dave was cremated and interred at White Haven near his beloved parents. He wanted donations to go to the ABVI and Los Lobos animal rescue.