Published in the Woonsocket Call on August 9, 2015
Four days ago friends, Smith Hill colleagues, and media gathered at a memorial service to commemorate the life and times of the late David Raymond Barber, known to those attending simply as Dave, at Lachapelle Funeral Home. Over 100 people gathered at the Pawtucket funeral home to remember Dave, an award-winning veteran radio broadcaster with extensive experience in talk radio programming, marketing and advertising.
At the memorial service on August 6, everyone knew Dave had transitioned from radio talk show host to his current job at Capitol Television, .hosting the program “Straight from the Gavel.” For those who tuned into this cable program, they learned the mysteries of political sausage making, specifically how bills became enacted into law. During seven and a half years, he hosted 390 episodes of “Straight from the Gavel, and about 600 five-minute Capitol Spotlights, interviewing members of the state’s General Assembly. His replacement will find that Dave has very big shoes to fill.
Sharing Personal Memories
During the two-hour memorial service, personal stories where shared by a few of Dave’s colleagues and friends.
Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Jamestown) said that Dave always tuned into her radio show, “Amazing Women,” taped during the week and aired on Sunday morning. “He would take time to find me and comment about a question or a certain segment of the show. That was Dave. He was so genuine and honest,” said Ruggiero.
His liking of people made him a very good interviewer for the State House cable show television, added Ruggiero. “He would always be present with the guest at the other side of the microphone. Nothing mattered to him but that conversation,” she said.
Luigi DelPonte, Senate Doorman for four years, remembered that a mutual love of fashion caused him to seek out the man who everyone said was a better dresser than him. The North Providence resident said that after this initial meeting “You’d be hard pressed to find Dave with a hair out of place. From his tanned skin, manicured finger nails and tailored suits to his French cuff shirts and shined shoes.”
“I guess some might just call him a Fashionista,” said Del Ponte.
When first meeting Dave, Ron St. Pierre, morning talk-show host on WHJJ-AM, knew that Dave was “conversationalist,” a talk show host “who knew there’s a big world out there beyond just politics.”
As to one of Dave’s most memorable shows on WPRO, St. Pierre remembers him telling callers to talk about their favorite summer song and then a snip of the tune would follow. St. Pierre drove home enjoying the program. Pulling into his driveway he listened to the last 20 minutes until the show went off the air. “That’s he ultimate compliment you can pay anyone on the radio,” he said.
Dave’s Rhode Island Adventure
Rep. Dennis Canario (D-Portsmouth, Tiverton and Little Compton), brought up Dave’s love for his cream-colored Italian-made Vespa scooter. “I helped him get his helmet painted to match the color of it,” said the Deputy Majority Leader. “He was the infamous social butterfly on two wheels,” he said, noting that following Barber’s adventures on his scooter was almost like “Where in Rhode Island is Dave now.”
Jason Golditch, Senior Producer and Director at Capitol Television, told a story to illustrate Dave’s love of baseball and his sense of humor. Golditch says that oftentimes he would give out a fantasy baseball card with his image on the card along with a real major league baseball player wearing Detroit Tiger uniforms. “Little did those he gave the card to realize the photo was from a fantasy camp he once attended,” he added, noting that Dave would “go on to answer people’s questions about what it was like to play in the major leagues.”
Former WLNE-TV ABC 6 reporter and anchor Mark Curtis noted that Dave was “relentless” in using social media. Over six years Dave sent him almost 1,000 Facebook messages, texts and tweets, many sharing news tips that would allow his television station to quickly break a story.
Protecting the Public Interest
For this writer, I can say that Dave used his microphone as a talk radio host in Michigan and his brief stint at WPRO in Rhode Island to protect the public interest. He was very outspoken and opinionated, but his listeners loved him. They regularly tuned in to hear him taking on some of the biggest political heavyweights in these states. He was knowledgeable about his topic, yet very entertaining to boot. More important, he got his points across well.
Oftentimes, the former Pawtucket resident who would later relocate to East Greenwich, would say to this writer that he was “never happier being in a job surrounded by politics 24/7.
Dave loved to watch Rhode Island’s political scene, critiquing to those who would listen how an elected official’s message would generate support or fall flat. Like his days in talk show radio, he really called it like he saw it.
Progressive to the core, he was a strong union supporter. In my many conversations with Dave he repeatedly stressed the need and importance of unions. He also brought his understanding of media to many of the Rhode Island nonprofits around the Ocean State including the historic Slater Mill to help raise money, also to give marketing and public relations tips gleaned from his years in the advertising business.
After a long workweek, or on weekends, you might just see him, very tanned puttering around South County on his creamed-colored Vespa. He loved to go to the beach to view “the majestic Narragansett surf” at Bonnet Shores Beach Club, where he was a member. Or you might run into Dave leisurely reading the New York Post at his favorite East Greenwich breakfast joint, the Main Street Café or even Kip’s Restaurant in Pawtucket, when he lived in that city.
At age 60, Dave died too young but touched many people throughout his six decades of life. From Facebook messages, it’s quite clear that little things in life do count even more than larger more visible ones. Kind words and support at the exact time needed can have a major impact on a person and will be remembered decades later. Over the years Dave was there for many, and they remembered him for that, too.
But, Dave’s untimely death gives everyone an important message how to live. Each and every day tell your friends and loved you care for them and thank them for being in your life. If you don’t do this, you may just never have that chance.
Herb Weiss, LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.