Remembering David Allen

by John R. Sweet

David in 1998, photo by Pat Wilson

David Allen was one of my best friends in Highland County, though the friendship was regrettably brief. I first met David in 1997 when he and Pat Wilson were looking for property to buy in this area. They eventually bought a rundown farm of about 500 acres up a hollow just across Vinegar Run Road from our place. The farm had an old barn, a couple of dilapidated houses, a nice stream, lots of rocks and not much else.

They proceeded to build a good-sized metal building, partitioned off one corner of it into an apartment, and in January 1998 moved in with several cats and the most eclectic collection of stuff I think Iíve ever seen. As an inveterate collector myself I’m not easily impressed. I was impressed. Mostly it was the cars. There were as many of 40 of them, counting trailers and cars that lacked most of their functional parts. All shapes and sizes but mostly odd things – Citroëns in particular. Before long a flock of llamas appeared. The eclectic collection just got more so!

We did not get to know David and Pat very quickly. They were busy moving in and made frequent trips back to Georgia. My wife, Char, and I were busy running our business and looking after the rundown farm we had bought ten years earlier. Over time we began to get together for supper, one thing led to another, and we became good friends. One of the things we learned right away was that David was a gourmet cook. He had every kitchen gadget known to man or woman and enjoyed using them. It was always a treat to go there for supper but we found that his recipes were not available. Almost every dish was put together ad hoc, never to be repeated in precisely the same way again.

Their farm had been rented out for cattle grazing before they bought it. Most of the fields were badly rutted up or heavily overgrown with brush. Llamas need hay so I started to help out with haymaking and bush-hogging the brush and weeds. One of the overgrown fields offered a spectacular vista out over the valley, including a view of almost our entire farm. Now that it is cleared we take visitors up there whenever possible. I call it the Overlook Meadow. It was also the site of David’s funeral service. I cannot look in that direction from our place without remembering David.

Following is a brief biography of David and his family. It is more cut and dried than I would like — mostly names and dates — but even some of those are missing. I would like to have more personal remembrances and anecdotes but this is the best I can do with the information at hand. More can be added whenever friends and family can provide it.

David circa 1941, photographer unknown

David, college age, probably a passport photo.   May 1962.
photographer unknown

David Lambert Allen was born in Atlanta, GA, on 7 November 1940, the oldest child of George Frederick Allen (1902-1946) and Dorothy Lambert (1909-1980), though George had an older son, George Jr., by a previous marriage. (David’s half brother, but we have no information about him.) David’s father died of leukemia and his mother married Herbert Barrett several years thereafter. Paternal grandparents were Benjamin Bradley Allen and Jemima Duffield. Maternal grandparents were Andrew Busey Lambert and Della Sutton. Andrew was the sixth child of R. A. Lambert and Verdelia Busey of Mobile, AL. David has one sister, Dorothy Jean Allen Howell of (City, State), born 1 July 1945.

Newspaper article about Andrew Lambert.   [43 KB]
Newspaper article about R. A. and Verdelia Lambert.   [84 KB]

David attended Appalachian School in Penland, NC, and later Christ School in nearby Arden, NC. David was graduated from Henry Grady High School in Atlanta, GA, in 1959 and went on to Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, where he received a grant-in-aid scholarship to manage the university photographic department. He also did free-lance photography, as evidenced by a photo we have that is stamped “Allen’s Photography, Oglethorpe University Sta., Atlanta, Ga.” on the back.

Photo Gallery of David from infancy through high school.   [74 KB]
Photo Gallery of David in his twenties and his family.   [79 KB]

He attended the Leica Schule der Fotografie in Wetzlar, Germany, and returned to employment as a photographic illustrator for Interstaff Industrial Reporting Service in New York City. Later he operated Photocraft Studios in Greensboro, NC, and was employed from 1965 to 1970 by Gilbarco, Inc., of Greensboro as assistant advertising/sales promotion manager.

From 1974 to 1988 he was self-employed as president of Alpha+Omega, a portable-exhibit manufacturing concern in Buford, GA. In 1987 he began a new career as a specialist in brokering, locating, importing, exporting and appraising the unusual French automobile, Citroën, and is the only person known to specialize in this marque-related type business throughout the world and is internationally renowned. We have a magazine article about David’s Citroën business.   [5 KB]

While at Oglethorpe David married Anna Louise Snyder. His first daughter, Beth Louise, was born on 6 July 1960. This marriage ended after about five years. Anna remarried and is now Anna Gray. David married Pamelia Jane Harris on 13 August 1966 and his second daughter, Dana LaRee, was born on 16 December 1968. The second marriage lasted until 1986, after which he was married to Cathy Quinn for about five years. He had been with Pat Wilson from 1993 until his death on 10 October 2001.

Photo Gallery of David from in his thirties and his family.   [150 KB]

In addition to Pat, his sister and his two daughters, David is survived by five grandchildren. Beth lives in Cumming, GA, and has three children, Brooke Louise Stathes, born 27 August 1985, George Branden Stathes, born 21 December 1986, and Brittany Lauren Stathes, born 14 March 1989. Dana is married to Ron Reed and has two daughters, Alyssa Nicole Reed, born 4 July 1996, and Sierra Elizabeth Reed, born 25 May 1998. They also live in Cumming, GA.

Pat Wilson with David holding Zorro, a newborn llama. Pat is holding a bathroom scale – the baby has just been weighed.   22 June 2000.
Photo by John Sweet

After moving to Mustoe, in Highland County, VA, in 1998, David became deeply involved in the community. Highland is the least populous and one of the most mountainous counties in the eastern United States. With only 2400 people it is easy to get involved and make a real difference. He fell in love with the place and wanted desperately to protect and preserve its quality of life. One of his first efforts was to upgrade the photographic facilities at our award-winning local newspaper, The Recorder. [4 KB]   Then came US 250. The Virginia Department of Transportation proposed a massive rebuild of a short section of the main highway leading into Highland from the east. Many of us thought it was an ill-advised, poorly designed, and short-sighted plan. David took it on as a personal challenge. In the process he submitted a proposal to Scenic America, nominating the County as a Last-Chance Landscape in their national contest. We did not win but it drew a great deal of public attention, including that of Leo Schwartz, a local radical, who published an article entitled “David Allen Strikes Again” in his personal newsletter. Most of us figured that anyone who could irritate Leo that much must be doing the right thing by and large!! Meanwhile, the 250 project has been derailed, more for state budgetary reasons than from the extensive protests, but everyone up to the Governor now knows it is controversial and unlikely ever to be built.

Photo Gallery of David in recent years and his family.   [236 KB]

David suffered a minor stroke in 2000 and never fully regained his strength but no one thought he was in serious danger. As 2001 progressed he seemed depressed and much more subdued than usual, which was distressing but not necessarily alarming. He was also experiencing severe pain in one arm and hence was taking a lot of over-the-counter pain medication. He suffered internal bleeding on 8 October and was rushed to Bath County Community Hospital, where he was stabilized and then helicoptered to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. He was in the Intensive Care Unit and seemed to be making some recovery when he died suddenly on the 10TH, ostensibly from acute myocardial infarction.

Funeral services, attended by a large group of family and friends, were held on 15 October 2001, under the direction of Rev. Lester LaPrade of the McDowell Presbyterian Church. After the service David’s family scattered his ashes over the meadow from which his spirit will keep watch over us.

Photo Gallery of David’s funeral service.   [169 KB]