Friends grieve, remember shining farmboyNovember 20, 2013
By BILL POWELL
Herald Staff Writer
FERDINAND — David Auffart, an 18-year-old Ferdinand farmboy known for his keen humor, compassion, intelligence and spirituality, came home Friday from Purdue University for an epic weekend at his family’s annual deer camp near Bristow.
There, at 8:40 p.m. Saturday, David stopped an all-terrain vehicle he had ridden all of his life, complained of dizziness and suddenly died of what was later shown to be a previously undiagnosed heart condition.
There is a family snapshot of David and twin Kelley at 2 months of age by a creek in child safety seats atop the ATV that David was riding when he was stricken.
The 10-year member of the Country Stars 4-H Club was majoring in agricultural management — the business side of farming — at Purdue. He had planned to tack on other agri-business minors that would further bolster farming aspirations he shared with his father and farming partner, Daryl, according to his mother, the former Cathy Lasher. David wanted to ensure there would be enough income for two families.
Deacon James King, who taught David in religion class and led him in the high school youth group at St. Ferdinand Catholic Church, said David “had a love of the outdoors and a true love of farming and agriculture.”
David always helped his father on the farm as soon as he got home from Forest Park High School. His twin sister and confidant, Kelley, would hit the books but it was David who effortlessly landed on the honor roll with A’s and B’s in school, which drove Kelley crazy, their mother said.
The Purdue freshman earned a perfect 100 on his first college chemistry test, then heard talk around school that it must have been a fluke, his mother said. “He was bound and determined to get a 100 on his second test to show he was just that smart,” she said.
David scored a 95 on his second chemistry test and was very disappointed. His mother counseled him that a 95 in college chemistry “is really, really good.”
David always said he should have grown up in the 1970s. He loved the Beatles and his tricked-out 1970s Chevrolet pickup truck was as new as he wanted to go in a vehicle. He liked all genres of music but was especially fond of old country, especially trucking songs like C.W. McCall’s “Convoy.”
Forest Park High School Principal Jeff Jessee, a motorcycle- and cowboy-boots-loving educator, constantly raved about David’s cowboy boots with the flames going down the side. “We always teased about the boots back and forth,” he said.
David wore his beloved boots to graduation. He will be buried in them Thursday.
Kendall Martin, the county’s extension educator for 4-H youth development, said David’s friends keep sharing on Facebook how he never said an unkind word to anyone, how he treated everyone with respect and how everyone loved him.
“I thought, what a powerful thing that is for other teenagers to say that about a teen,” Martin said. “That kind of sums up what I feel about him too.”
Cathy Auffart had a nursing seminar over the weekend so David spent much of his last visit home with his father and with his cousins at deer camp.
The Perry County land where the camp took place originally belonged to the late James Lasher, Cathy’s grandfather. Cathy and her first cousins now collectively own it.
“The first weekend of deer season every year they have deer camp there,” Cathy said. “A lot of times my cousin from Alaska comes down and I have a cousin who lives in New York City who comes sometimes. There’s just a whole lot of family and friends of family. A lot of guys.”
While David’s fatal heart condition had gone undiagnosed, it was known that David had Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a common inherited neurological disorder.
“That made his legs a little weaker and his arms were getting weaker too,” says Cathy, a registered nurse. “Most people do not find out they have it until they are in their 60s or older. We found out when he was in band because he had trouble lifting his toes.
“We started taking him to doctors and we found this out. They got him braces so he could march. That’s the only thing he had to wear the braces for, but he was determined that he was going to march.”
A baritone saxophone player who was part of the 2012 state champion Marching Rangers, David sometimes went through multiple sets of braces during a band season. At Purdue, he was a member of the Fall Concert Band and the Gold and Black Sound ensemble that performs at women’s basketball games.
Of all David’s “best buds,” his mother said, perhaps his great-aunt and nextdoor neighbor, Mary Heberer, 67, was the tops.
“His grandfather is my brother,” Mary explains. “You would never, never know that. He and I would go ’round and ’round.”
When Mary tore her quadriceps tendon in January, David and his father picked her up and took her to the hospital.
“David had a ”˜deer in the headlights’ look and later I said to him, ”˜You really looked at me like you cared.’
“He said, ”˜Everybody else was so concerned, I just wanted to fit in.’”
A classic family story involves David instantly responding to a request to help Mary when a snake got in her house. No one knew, but he was petrified of snakes. He showed up on Mary’s doorstep wearing coveralls, tall boots, a hoodie, a welding helmet, a dust mask with dual filters and welding gloves, plus he was carrying a snare.
“Did I over-react?” he asked his great-aunt.
“No, come on in,” she said.
“We were both scared to death,” Mary says.
David’s father scoffed that it was probably a small garter snake but David and Mary knew that was untrue when the serpent made a racket falling down her ductwork during the hunt.
After Mary eventually trapped the snake under a Rubbermaid basket, it was identified as a 5-foot, 3-inch black snake with a diameter of 23â„4 inches.
In the wake of David’s passing, Jessee is comforted by something he heard years ago when someone talking about the 23rd Psalm pointed out how much sheep fear water.
“Sometimes in order to get sheep on the other side of the creek, (a shepherd) will take a young lamb and put that lamb on the other side,” Jessee said. “When that little lamb starts bleating ... the other sheep will cross over to get to the other side to be with that young lamb.
“For me, that’s the only thing that makes sense right now.”
In addition to his parents and his twin, his survivors include sisters Tempa, 20, and Rylee, 10.
The morning after David died, as the family debated whether to go to Sunday Mass, Kelley said her twin would want them to go. They sat in a back pew and heard crying from the loft when the priest prayed for the repose of David’s soul. The sobbing came from members of the youth choir. David had been a member of that choir and also was a youth group leader and Eucharistic minister at the church.
“Kelley and Tempa went upstairs to be with people in the high school choir,” Cathy said. “You could still hear them for a little bit and then it quieted back down.”
Contact Bill Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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