Dave Koelliker

There are many experiences and situations that go into the Howdy Homemade mission of inclusiveness. There are people that make you want to be a better person, love more and accept everyone. And there are hard times that push you to grow, learn and expand your views and opinions. But is there an event that encompasses all of the above?

I am sitting on a plane headed to our favorite home away from home, Newport Beach. Memories are flooding my mind as I play back the day’s events leading up to this point. We just attended a funeral, which I think is one of the only events that brings together all of the above mentioned.

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The funeral was for Dave Koelliker, a friend, a husband, a father and the man whose urgency propelled the creation of a Howdy Homemade in Salt Lake City.

If given a truth serum, my husband and I would admit that minutes before Dave persuaded us (actually, he told us) that we were all going to open Howdy Homemade, we had decided not to pursue the dream. In fact, my husband was only telling Dave about Howdy to convince himself that we did not want to get into the ice cream business.

The powers that be had other plans. Dave promptly called his wife over to his side and told her to clear his schedule because we were headed to Dallas to meet the owner of Howdy Homemade Dallas. Mind you, Dave was in his last stages of a terminal brain tumor and really did not have a pressing schedule. Nonetheless Susan did as she was asked and we all headed to Dallas. And that was all it took! Howdy was on its way to Salt Lake City.

Although this is a great story and has been told many times over, like many good stories there is so much more behind it. Dave’s real story was actually not Howdy or even being an amazing endodontist. His story, told by his family, is a story of love, dedication, service and extremely hard work. He mastered so much in 49 years and touched so many. Most of all he left a legacy for his children to be proud of.

Unfortunately I spent way too many hours in his endodontic chair. Fortunately during those hours spent in his office, I had some of the most thought provoking talks. He wanted to know about me, my life, and he never shirked from asking the tough questions. He was the first person to ask me how I felt after my son came out gay. At a time when I was somewhat confused about the subject, he made me feel like I was the luckiest mom in the world to have a brave son that was searching for his own path. This is how Dave made me feel about all of my kids. He was always interested in each one and what they were doing.

Dave lived life without fear. Through a series of events he came to lose the fear of death and instead lived life fully. In the last little bit of his life he continued to teach and serve. Although Dave was not a perfect man, his life paralleled Christ’s life as much as anyone I know. He lived the golden rule, which is simply to love your neighbor. In today’s world, loving your neighbor is not always the popular road but Dave took it, breaking speed limits along the way.

We will all miss Dave, and the Howdy employees will be no exception. Zach Morris remembers seeing Dave right after Thanksgiving and telling Dave just how much he loved him. I know Zach loved him because every time Dave would show up for work, Zach was the first to run to his car and help him in. Susan, Dave’s wife, reported that just before Dave died, he asked how Zach was doing. I know Dave thought about all of the employees at Howdy.

When Dave would come into Howdy on Tuesday nights, whoever was working would more often than not have Dave’s favorite ice cream cone ready to go. Dave would talk and maybe doze off a little, but even towards the end of his life Dave was determined to get to Howdy to do his shift. I know that he will always be watching over Rebecca, Zack, Patrick, Cathryn, James, Amy Jo, Marissa, Kurtis and Jack. He is now our guardian angel.

Part of the mission of Howdy Homemade will be how we repay Dave’s love and friendship. The chair in the corner of the store where Dave sat will be a reminder to love our neighbor, be inclusive and kind. But most of all it will remind us that, as Dave always said, “Every soul matters!”

Please help us continue Dave’s amazing life by doing something kind and making someone feel loved today. We love you Dave.

Heidi NielsonComment