Remembering our friend Dave

By Shanelle Smith-Whigham
Published March 11, 2020

Remembering our friend Dave

We’re heartbroken at the recent passing of our friend and colleague Dave Vasarhelyi. He was part of The Trust for Public Land family for more than fifteen years.

Dave was a conservation hero with an unmatched passion, enthusiasm, and love for the environment and our region. He preserved 35 special places and over 5,000 acres for people in Ohio. One of his biggest accomplishments was launching the West Creek Greenway. He also worked tirelessly to preserve the home of Charles Young, the first African American superintendent of a national park. Today, Young’s home is open for all as the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.  Dave also helped expand Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where he worked as a ranger before joining us at The Trust for Public Land.

oh_blossommusiccenter_01272011_005.jpgDave helped conserve over 500 acres at the Blossom Music Center, home of the Cleveland Symphony, and add the land to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Although he was proud of the many places he protected, Dave’s greatest joy came from his girls, Leah and Kayla, and his wife, Jennie.

For those who knew and worked with Dave, his charismatic charm and dry sense of humor were some of his best qualities. We shared many laughs, and Dave’s way of showing his appreciation was to give us all a hard time. What also amazed us about Dave was his immense historical, regional, and environmental knowledge. As an avid birder, he ran into the office a few weeks ago after spotting a rare gull sitting amongst hundreds of seagulls on the frozen Cuyahoga River, saying, “You have to come see this great black-backed gull!” … and proceeded to tell us all about why it’s special.

And then there was the Dave that knew the name of every person who works at the brewery below our office and the parking attendant; he showed genuine interest in people’s lives and lived with a type of compassion for other people that was humbling. Dave was a man of faith and lived his values.

Dave VasarhelyiDave VasarhelyiPhoto credit: The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land’s community will never be the same. We ask that you keep Jennie, Leah, and Kayla, Dave’s parents Laszlo and Olga, and his brothers John and Mark in your thoughts and prayers. 

Shanelle Smith Whigham is Ohio State Director at The Trust for Public Land.

Shanelle Smith-Whigham

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