The Happy Whites: David and Catherine

Two of the happiest persons I ever knew gave away hundreds of k-dollars a year. A great inheritance was viewed by Catherine and David as money to be stewarded in helping others, not for self. Knowing the amount of money donated to charities, it was always amusing and instructive to hear the following:

  • "Damned bus fares just went up fifteen cents" ...
  • "I substituted cottage cheese for ricotta cheese because it costs less." ...
  • "I want to go to China one more time before I die. I just have to figure out where to get the money."
  • "Bob, this is so funny. Here we are at a ceremony naming the new communications library after me, and I'm wearing a five dollar suit I bought at the thrift store."

The happy man of this team--who made others happy by investing his time and funds in their dreams to solve problems--was Dr. David Manning White. Like the father who puts time into his family, the greater reward of greater happiness comes to those who live simple lives so as to put time into the family of mankind.

When a fire burned up my business, my 75-year old friend came to the office at six in the morning to help free me of the worries that arose with this setback. Now that's a true friend , a freeing person.

David was was a 1st generation American who had many enviable kudos. Charter member Iowa Writers Workshop ... Japanese translator on MacArthur's staff ... recite the Illyad in Greek ... published 33 books ... co-wrote the seminal work in 1955 that prompted journalism to redefine itself as mass communication ... bantered with a friend who was also the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.

Catherine was no slouch. A razor-sharp mind who did not suffer silently fools or foolish actions. An active researcher in her sixties at which time she received her PhD in Biochemistry.

Gratis, he edited several of my books because he thought I had great ideas. Once I delivered a revised chapter that had two typos in the first paragraph which prompted him to throw the papers into the air with the caustic comment, "Don't bring me stuff with shit that disrupts my seeing your ideas." I, not he, picked up the sheets scattered about his den. He signaled the end of any mental jaunt with a reminder of what is more important than honor: inner peace.

I've been lucky. He was my best friend in Richmond for the last 15 years of his life. With frequent tears, I couldn't believe this man who was luckier than me did not live forever. He taught me how to achieve a higher, lasting plain of happiness and serenity.

Many were the amusing moments with the Whites. Before they married, they had what could be called a most unusual pre-nuptial agreement: They would give away earnings from the trusts that Catherine inherited with them living off the money that they made. Shortly, after David die, some visiting widows who had been Catherine's friends since adolescent were eating with Catherine one Sunday. I, like I had for years, had come by for lunch. When asked if she missed David, Catherine responded, "No, I spent 50 years with him. Why would I miss him?" Shortly after David died, the 20-year old Volvo was replaced with a brand-new top shelf BMW. When Catherine answered the door, I said, "I guess the pre-nuptial no longer applies." She laughed.

One of the most gracious moments in my life came from Catherine. At one Sunday lunch in the early 1990's, I told them that my business in which they had invested was going belly-up. David laughed and said that he thought it was a long shot but he wanted to see if I could convert the ideas into practice. After he stopped laughing, Catherine asked, "You'll still come to Sunday lunch won't you?"

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