Dr. David Mac Myers died on May 27, surrounded by family and loved ones. The cause was pancreatic cancer. He was 73.
David will be remembered as a lovable curmudgeon filled with integrity, generosity, loyalty, intelligence and wit who left his footprints on the hearts of many. For his wife Sue Ellen Hunter Myers, he didn’t just leave his footprints on her heart, he was her heart.
He grew up in Potterville, Mich., a small town surrounded by dairy farms. David was the son of Doc and Bobby Myers of Potterville. He often said living in Potterville, (pop. 600) taught him to appreciate the simple life. Perhaps that’s why he owned a Bentley, but preferred to drive a pickup. His childhood was filled with adventures — milking his first cow at age five, building award-winning model planes from scratch, getting a pilot’s license, starting a home building business with his brother Jim Myers when he was 14, and learning to skydive at 20.
David’s love of flying came from his parents, who were licensed pilots. Some of his earliest memories are of riding in the open cockpit of his mother’s biplane. At the time of his death, David held almost every advance rating a pilot could achieve, ultimately being certified in his high performance twin-engine jet. On his first date with his wife they flew to Block Island for a day at the beach.
David enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1958. There he pursued the highly unusual dual majors of art history and biology, earning B.A. and B.S. degrees simultaneously. But he wasn’t all work and no play. During his sophomore year, David attended the University of Vienna to soak up the art, but admits he probably spent more time soaking up the wine. He loved art and it infused everything in his life, especially his home. He designed his own headstone which is placed in a prominent location at the St. Bernard’s Cemetery in Bernardsville.
David was always resourceful, so when he needed spending money while in college, he taught his fellow students skydiving. Perhaps he was a tad reckless as well, never giving a thought to obtaining liability insurance for this endeavor. As for his own 600 dives, he said it wasn’t scary unless your chute didn’t open. You would have read this obituary much earlier had that occurred.
He was exposed to the practice of medicine early as his father was Potterville’s only doctor. Doc’s office was next door to the house. With that history, David entered the University of Michigan Medical School in 1965, graduating with distinction. David did his surgical residency at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village where he did cirrhosis research.
He learned much about the practice of medicine from his father, who was compassionate toward his patients, made house calls and accepted chickens and vegetables from cash-strapped patients. David applied these traits to modern-day Manhattan, founding Doctors on Call, a group of like-minded residents who made house calls to those without means or transportation. He often related how he carried his medical supplies in a backpack and his meager earnings in his socks as he traveled New York City’s five boroughs in his beat up VW.
During the Viet Nam War, David served two years in the Navy assigned to the Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Me., and the hospital ship, Repose, as a general surgeon. He loved his experience in the Navy and was a true American patriot. After he was honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander, David continued his residency at New York University-Bellevue Hospital. After completion of his orthopedic residency he set up a private practice in New Jersey. In 1979, the entrepreneurial bug again bit him, and with two other doctors they launched one of the first Urgent Care Centers in New Jersey. David quickly grew this to 14 centers throughout the northeast. After buying out his partners, David doubled down on his commitment to delivering health care to the disadvantaged by purchasing a large personal injury/workers compensation practice located in New Jersey, and then expanding it into Maryland. These multiple business interests became the HealthNet Corporation, which he ultimately sold to Coastal Heath Care, a New York Stock Exchange traded company. Harking back to his father’s example, accessibility and affordability of health care were of extreme importance to him. He added to his knowledge of heath care delivery as a member of the Health Policy Institute of Boston University.
He served as a member of Boston University’s board of trustees from 1989 to 2005. On the board, David’s background in finance was put to good use — by then he had a master’s degree in finance from the Wharton School — serving on the executive committee and as chairman of the audit committee. Lifelong friends we acquired. All four of his children graduated from B.U. with advanced degrees.
In 2002, seeing the plight of the elderly poor who had no place to receive food and services, David started Second Home LLC, which transported patients from their homes to his centers for food, medical care, exercise and social contact. Over time, Second Home grew to six adult day centers and enabled hundreds of people to avoid premature placement in nursing homes.
His philanthropy included endowment of the David M. Myers distinguished professor of physics chair at Boston University. But his special passion was helping disadvantaged kids. Ashley Lyles and Nick Culbertson exemplify his success. David learned from a news article that they were living in a motel with their maternal grandmother. He set them up in a house, got Nick into a private school, and with his mentoring and financial assistance, the two ultimately graduated from Harvard and Davidson. Nick wrote to David prior to his death: “I have seen an entirely new world, thanks to you, and I am the person I am today because of it.”
David was a keen outdoorsman. He skied throughout the U.S. and Europe with his family and enjoyed participating with his sons in sailing races around Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. He summered on the Vineyard and often took his dogs to walk at the Edgartown Lighthouse, or to the beaches early in the morning. He particularly loved Lily, his yellow lab, recently deceased, who was interred with him. David often went to Dipping Donuts for hot coffee and doughnuts for himself and the dogs. He and his family truly loved the Vineyard and felt very much at home there.
Later in life, he was a golfer whose enthusiasm far exceeded his skill. Nevertheless, he especially cherished his time at the Greenbrier Golf Club with the Greenbrier Geezers: Peter Grimm, Don Norton and Joe Goryeb.
David’s first marriage ended in divorce and in 1991 he married Sue Ellen. David always said that when he married her, he married the girl next door. Sue loved David’s humor, but aware that his quick wit could sometimes sting, she would announce to new friends: “I am not responsible for anything he says.” Their marriage was magical; there was almost nothing they disagreed about and they relished many things that they were deeply attached to, including Martha’s Vineyard, golfing, walks on the beach, skiing, walking with their beloved dogs, sitting by the fireplace on cold mornings and feeding the birds. They had mutual family support and delightful friends who greatly enriched their lives.
David is survived by his twin sons, Bradford and Gregory Myers of Ashland; and his two daughters, Holly Gauthier and Courtney Miglietta of Andover and Norwood, N.J., respectively. His brother and life mentor James W. Myers of Houston, Tex., also survives him. David’s greatest regret facing his impending death was that he could not watch his grandchildren — David Mac Myers 2nd, Giovanni, Alessandra and Madison Miglietta, and Carter and Logan Gauthier — grow up.
He and Sue had always desired to grow old together, but God had other plans. David treasured his in laws and his multiple nieces and nephews gave him much joy and purpose. He admired his 98-year-old mother in law, Helen Hunter, and spent many hours with her. Before his mother’s death, the family enjoyed many vacations and pranks David played on them. Once he opened the windows of their bedroom in Vermont and pulled the curtains closed when it was 20 degrees below zero. The mothers are still frozen from that joke.
He was not afraid of death and had a deep faith in his religion. He never said, “why me”? He looked forward to seeing old friends and family who had already passed away.
David received many accolades in his life, including Inc Magazine’s prestigious master entrepreneur award in 1991 for his outstanding contribution to health care delivery, and was listed in Connelly’s Who’s Who in American Medicine. He was also:
A trustee for the Coalition for Homeless, trustee for Legal Institute for Medical Education, member of AMA, member of New Jersey Orthopedic Society, board certified in orthopedics, member of Passaic County Medical Society, member of AOPA, former president of Flying Physician Club, member of Business Aviation Association, member of Alpha Tau Omega, fellow of American Board of Aviation Forensic Examiners, member of National Association of Freestanding Ambulatory Centers, member of University of Michigan Alumni Association, member of American College of Group Practice Administrators, director of American Association of Physicians Executives, chairman and CEO of Health Net Corporation, president of Healthmed Corporation, Chesapeake Medical Associates, Urgent Care Associates, Family Medical Centers, Tri-State Therapy Centers, clinical instructor Orthopedics, NYU, and was lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, (ret).
The medically needy have lost an outstanding advocate with his passing.
A memorial service was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Mendham in Mendham, N.J., on June 9, followed by a military funeral at St. Bernard’s Cemetery in Bernardsville, N.J.
Memorial donations may be made to the John Hopkins Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center in Baltimore, Md,, or the The Seeing Eye in Morristown, N.J.