I found out today that one of my best friends, David Eid, passed away Oct 29th, 2020. His passing brings back a flood of memories.
I met Dave in 1992 when I was trying get a business off the ground. I was trying to offer various voicemail services to small businesses and individuals without any success. I found Dave in the phone book under “Voicemail Equipment” and thought we might refer each other. He sold equipment whereas I was selling a monthly service.
I orignally named by business “VoiceCenter”, the idea being that it was an answering service, but the answering was all done by a computer. Callers could be automatically directed to the business owner or others in his business. The system could also dial a pager.
From that, I tried variations. One was the “Home Alone” call service which would call homebound people once a day. If they didn’t answer, the system would automatically call up to 3 people and notify them that their loved one might be having a problem. I set my mom up with this since she was living mostly alone (with my bed-bound dad) on the farm. She the only customer I can remember.
Another idea was “Voice-Ads”, which were like classified ads except instead of reading them in the newspaper, you would call a number and select from a menu (“for cars and trucks, press 1, for furniture, press 2, for homes for sale, press 3, etc.). After making a selection, the caller would listen to various ads. If they wanted more information, they system could then transfer them to the person who had placed the ad. I spent considerable time and money (which I didn’t have) in an attempt to get that off the ground without success.
Anyway, I paid David a visit to his Akron office sometime in 1992 hoping he could send me some business. In the course of our conversation I mentioned that my system had the ability to transfer calls from one city to another, such as from Akron to Canton. He immediately suggested that I simply offer that as a service since my cost was only 8 cents (with no per minute cost), but people were normally paying the phone company (Ohio Bell at the time) up to 20 cents a minute for the same call.
I set the idea aside because I didn’t immediately see how I could make it work, thinking that my customers would be limited to businesses that made regular calls between the two cities. It didn’t seem like much of a market and seemed like a hard sell.
I didn’t forget our conversation, however, and months went by with his suggestion in my head. Then one day, while visiting a family in our ward (church), they mentioned that they were paying a lot of money to call a relative who lived only a few miles away. I suddenly realized that I had the ability to dramatically cut their cost, using my call-transfer technology. And I knew there were a lot of other people I could similarly help.
Within a month, the Akron-Canton Connection was born. The service grew slowly, but showed great promise. I told Dave that I had finally implemented his suggestion and at one point even asked him to partner with me when I wanted to expand the reach. He declined. He hadn’t quite caught the vision despite having given me the idea.
But we kept in touch, having lunch together periodically, and when he saw how my business was taking off, he finally decided to jump in himself. Thus one and a half years after I started Akron-Canton Connection, he started a competing service, naming it “CallNet”.
But we weren’t really competitors. Due to his location, it made more sense for him to offer service between Cleveland and Akron.
I think it’s safe to say that David and I had a profound affect on each other. That fateful first meeting eventually changed the course of both of our lives. We continued to meet for lunch every couple of months while we were each running our own businesses (and doing our best to remember whose turn it was to pay lol).
The Akron-Canton Connection eventually had over 20,000 customers and gross revenue topped $2 million a year. David also did very well, although I think his customer base topped out at under 5,000. Together we weathered business challenges, particularly the effort by the major telephone companies to put us out of business in the late ’90’s.
But I loved those lunches. Getting together to share ideas and challenges was therapeutic for both of us. We were an odd pair in many ways – he single with no children, me married with 4 children, he tall, me short (and about half his weight), he a liberal democrat, me a conservative republican, he an ex-Jehovah’s witness turned agnostic, me a Mormon.
But we both loved food and our common business interests bonded us together. We both had a strong interest in entrepreneurship. Every time we met, we’d share our latest business ideas. None of them ever came to fruition, but it was fun to discuss. In fact, David was the only friend I had who shared my interest in entrepreneurship, or at least the only one who I felt completely comfortable talking to about it.
We often went to Chinese buffets, but over the years tried various restaurants, occasionally bringing friends or co-workers with us. Lunch was not a 30 or 60 minute event. I would typically be gone 3 to 4 hours when I had lunch with Dave. I didn’t get a lot done those days, but I looked forward to them like nothing else.
Things changed in 2005 when I sold my business and got divorced, but we didn’t lose touch. We continued meeting for lunch every few months although things continued to change as his physical health and my financial health both took a down-turn. Even though I was 3 years older than him, I knew there was a good chance that he would dies before me, and since I wasn’t close to any of his friends or family members, I feared the possibility of him dying without me knowing and without the chance to say goodbye.
I eventually remarried and wanted David to meet my new wife, Susan. The three of us shared one lunch together, but then it was back to just Dave and me. In 2016 Susan and I moved to New Mexico which ended my regular lunches with Dave, but we would talk or text once in a while and, of course, would meet up on the rare occasions that I returned to Ohio.
The last time I saw David was just over 2 years ago when Susan and I visited Ohio to meet my new grandchild, Hunter (son of Andrew and Tina). It was Christmas-time and cold and cloudy – not my favorite time of year. We met at a Chinese buffet on the west side of Akron. Dave’s diabetes seemed to be under control, but he was having other issues.
Though we talked freely and had a long lunch, just as before, out talk was less about our business ideas and more about family and the mysteries of life. Dave had a deeply spiritual side though he doubted the existence of God.
This lunch was also a little different because we realized how much we had grown to value our friendship over the years. We loved each other – not a romantic love, of course, but a sincere interest in each other’s welfare. As we parted, we shook hands and Dave thanked me for being such a good friend for so many years.
It was a bittersweet parting. I felt Dave’s love for me which is something I especially appreciated having felt rejection in recent years from some members of my own family. I, in turn, felt a true love and appreciation for him, but sadly, didn’t know when, or if, we’d ever have lunch again.
Since we are now planning to move back to Ohio, I decided to send a text message to Dave, looking forward to yet another lunch. Sadly, no response came. I waited, then decided to search his name online. Nothing immediately came up, but on the second page, I found a death notice published by the local paper – David R. Eid 65, died Oct 29, 2020. My heart sank. I couldn’t be 100% positive it was him, but the age seemed right.
After more searching, I found a website that mentioned the name of someone who was connected with him (Wayne Bos), along with his phone number. I sent a message introducing myself and asking if Dave was alright. A few minutes later he phoned me. He had immediately recognized my name and felt I deserved a call. Wayne had know Dave longer and better than I did so his death had really affected and saddened him. He told me a few details of Dave’s passing, including the fact that he had died while being transported home from the hospital in an ambulance. Apparently David had reached a point where he was no longer interested in hanging on to life and had made the decision to refuse medication.
I wish that I’d thought of contacting Dave more often than I did. I wish I could have said goodbye to him. I wish I could have told him that I loved him and expressed how much I valued our friendship.
So tonight I’m sad. I’m sad that I can’t have any more lunches with Dave. I’m sad that those pleasant times are all in the past. I’m sad that I’m not as successful or as important as I was then. I’m sad that I also am getting older. Oh how I miss Dave and those happy conversations.
Dave, I really miss you and am looking forward to seeing you again.