Claremore Daily Progress


September 7, 2012

David Bethune

CLAREMORE — A celebration service of David Bethune’s life will be at 2:00 pm, Saturday, Sept. 8 in the Chapel of the Garden at Rice Funeral Service.  The family requests no flowers and that any remembrances be made to First Baptist Church Claremore’s Building Fund.

David Michael Bethune, devoted husband, father and dog-lover, collector, man of many talents and interests, former NORDAM executive, current vintage watch dealer, and last but certainly not least, born-again Christian, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, Sept. 4, in an accident at the family home in Oologah.      In an instant David left his bloodied, battered  earthly shell on the driveway of his backyard to arrive in Jesus’ waiting arms, never to know again the pain and suffering he’d endured so continually and valiantly the past six years.

David, 69, was the third of three sons born to Waford and Pearl Elley Bethune in Oklahoma City on November 18, 1942;  however,  he resided the majority of his childhood in Texas, first in Taylor and later Austin after his parent’s divorce at age one.      Sibling rivalry and friendly competition took on a whole new meaning with the three rambunctious Bethune boys, separated by just a few years and raised by a very independent Mom, who was single for much of their youth and encouraged her boys in that spirit of independence, as well!    Many wrestling matches ensued to prove once and for all (till tomorrow, anyway, when they’d be pinning each other to the ground all over again!) who was stronger and “king of the hill!”    

He was groomed at an early age by his Mom, an ace door-to-door book and encyclopedia saleswoman who won many awards in her field, when he accompanied her on evening sales calls in lieu of being left with a babysitter she could ill afford.    It proved a wonderful training ground for his future business career in sales, because he definitely knew how to “close and seal the deal,” just as he’d heard her do so many times on her client’s living room sofa!

David excelled at baseball with his tall, lean frame that eventually grew to 6’ 4”.     He pitched a mean, wild fast ball that made his leery opponents duck and run for cover at times!      David also loved mechanics and tools and was constantly tinkering and troubleshooting on things – cars, household appliances, wood projects.  His stepdad, John Boriskie (whose last name the brothers actually took for the few years their parents were married) was his “mechanical mentor” in his elementary years.    John did contract repairs at Sears and one day brought home about 20 used vacuum cleaners for a very nominal fee to see if David could troubleshoot their problems, fix and resell them.    David did in record time and turned his first profit!    His first “real” job came at the local root beer stand, where he car-hopped for 10 cents an hour plus tips.

Money was always tight in the Bethune household in North Austin, but between the drive-in movie literally in their backyard, where the boys would frequently crawl under the fence for free entertainment, and the local swimming pool, where David spent more time under the water than above once he realized how many coins dropped out of swimmers pockets, he always had at least two nickels to rub together in his own pocket which was a fortune to a young boy in the early 1950’s.

David graduated McAllum High School in Austin in 1961 and spent the following year seeing many sights across the United States, as the moving truck employing him crisscrossed the country.     He joined the Navy in 1963, following in brother, Gordon’s footsteps, and trained as an electronics technician. David proudly served aboard the USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier on tours of duty in the Mediterranean, Pacific and coast of Viet Nam.    Honorably discharged in 1967, David used his GI benefits to attend the University of Texas in Austin.    Extra money was earned by refinishing antique furniture, which he had a great appreciation for and much knowledge of, later sharing that passion with brother, Jack.

David married first wife, Jody Cramer, and fathered two sons, David Arnold and Michael Grant.    Upon graduation in 1970 from UT with a degree in Business Management, David accepted a management position with Packaging Corporation of America in Wadsworth, Ohio.  Tiring of long winters and brutal cold, the former Texans relocated next to Milpitas, CA, where David found employment as a paper plant manager, first at Container Corporation of America in San Jose and later The Box Factory in San Francisco, commuting to work daily on the busy Highway 101 on his Honda motorcycle.      David and Jody’s marriage ended by 1978, when they divorced and he returned full circle to “hometown” Austin, where he sought employment as a new car salesman and later, finance manager.    A car lover from an early age and owner since age 12 when his Dad gave the three boys an old Jeepster, he found himself behind the wheel of some very nice, new automobiles during that period, which was definitely  a treat and perk.       

In the spring of 1980, a call from Brother Gordon changed his career direction and future completely.     Gordon, who’d recently joined Braniff Airlines in Dallas and would later become Vice-President of Maintenance, recommended that David apply for a supervisory position in Braniff’s Love Field avionics and tooling departments.    Here David developed a love and expertise for airlines and airline maintenance AND for a new gal, Karen Vandiver, who’d soon become his second and “permanent” wife.

They met when Karen’s Braniff Reservations co-worker and “match-making” girlfriend, Charlotte, accompanied  David through the company cafeteria line his very first day at work and then joined him for lunch .     During the course of that “fateful” lunch, Charlotte arranged for David to call and then meet Karen and the “rest is history”!    Karen was immediately taken by his zest for life and sense of humor and they enjoyed several years of extensive travel while they were both employed at Braniff.

Karen and David married eight months later and shortly built their first home in Grapevine, TX, where they resided 11 years and son Brent was born in 1983.    

When Braniff folded in 1982, David returned to his previous car-selling career but only temporarily until he could get his foot back into the airline business.    In 1984 he joined Aviall, an engine overhaul division of Ryder, at Love Field in Dallas as a director of sales.    In 1989 he joined Midway Airlines, overseeing their engines overhauls and repairs at Aviall, and also did airline consulting work from his home in Grapevine.     When Midway folded (causing many friends to joke that “Bethune was death on airlines”!), David was hired as  Director of Sales at Lockheed’s new 747 maintenance and overhaul base   in San Bernardino, CA.     After just over a year of stiff competition, Lockheed decided to close the base so David again sought airline employment and turned back to NORDAM in Tulsa, who’d actually offered him a position the previous year.

NORDAM sent David and family to Springdale, AR in the summer of 1993, where they remained until his transfer to Tulsa in 1995.     At that time, David and Karen bought their current home on Oologah Lake, where David enjoyed boating and fishing and was forever tinkering on vehicles in the home’s large basement and garages, a mechanic’s “heaven”.    His titles ranged from Director of Sales to eventually Vice-President of Strategic Planning during his 13 active years at NORDAM.

His career was cut short in 2006 when he was struck suddenly with an extreme bout of pancreatitis and spent over five months in St. Francis ICU and later rehab, enduring several surgeries and extreme pain that required much pain and anxiety medication to address over the next six years.      The ultimate cause of his illness was alcohol, where David had turned secretly for stress relief and to combat “demons” from his past that he, unfortunately, never fully explored, but that was certainly not the answer or solution he needed, as he would soon find.    

It was at St. Francis that David met someone he’d needed to know for a long, long time and who’d change his life forever.   Desiring that her husband intimately know and trust the Lord became Karen’s “mission,” and during the next five months, many of which he spent in an induced coma, Karen and precious church family and ministers from First Baptist Claremore consistently read the Bible and prayed over him.     Praise God, David awoke from his coma with a new heart and a new “best friend” and he would never be the same!    His relationship with Jesus was such a simple concept which his complex, mechanical brain had never been able to wrap itself around; until now that is, and now it all made perfect sense!     God, who’d been pursuing David’s heart since childhood and never given up on him, had been gracious and loving enough to give him a literal glimpse of hell in his comatose state, which scared the living (and dying) daylights out of him and he knew without a doubt he never wanted to make that a permanent visit, because it’s a one way ticket!      

David said many times afterward that he’d “dipped his big toe hell and couldn’t back out soon enough!”   Finally, at the age of 64, he became a “new creation” in Christ, when his eyes and heart were suddenly opened, after being shut-tight for so many years.     

He’d finally  realized the “obvious” and became profoundly and eternally grateful for the fact that the God of the Universe loved us/loved David SO much that He personally came down to live among us in the human form of his Son, took on and bore David’s sins and  the sins of all mankind on the cross in our place, died a horrid death for those sins, literally descended to the depths of hell for us, and rose again,  giving us a hope like no other, not to mention “real estate” for our permanent retirement address in Heaven with Him. What an incredible sacrifice and offer that David could not refuse,  and the beauty is we don’t have to make a single payment or sacrifice on our own for the gift of salvation…we just have to say “Yes” and accept God’s gift of grace, because He paid that debt for us over 2,000 years ago.       Not rocket science, but rather simple beyond belief!

 Now, no matter what the future held, David had a new hope and a new peace through his newfound relationship with Jesus Christ and nothing would ever be the same!  Though much prayer went up on his behalf in the years since for his healing and ever-growing pain to be relieved, that was not meant to be in this lifetime.     David suffered every waking minute of every day and was forced to take more and more prescription drugs to combat the ravages and toll his chronic pancreatitis was taking on his earthly body, all the while God was refining him and his new heart for the wonderful things, for the wonderful future that lay in store.

As Karen prayed a few hours before his death, again for his healing and relief from pain, little did she know that prayer would be answered that very day at noon as David, stubborn and self-sufficient and impaired by the enormous amounts of medicine in his veins, tried to tow a stuck car out of their flowerbed and ended up getting dragged and run over by his own Jeep.     His momentary trauma was forgotten and the prayer for God’s  “perfect healing” was answered in the twinkling of an eye, as he instantly appeared at Jesus side for the biggest bearhug of his life and welcome to his new home, where his Mom was likely waiting in the wings and shouting “Over here, Bubba!     You’re simply NOT gonna believe this place!!!”

In coming years, Karen will be joining David, a certainty that was once very uncertain, and we hope that we’ll be seeing all of our precious family and friends there, as well.     

If you’re reading this and did not know David personally, you can certainly know of the hope and peace that comes with knowing and accepting Jesus Christ, David’s Savior and Lord who he’d like nothing better than to share with you!

David was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by wife Karen of the home;  sons David A. Bethune of Key West, FL, Michael Bethune of Scotts Valley, CA, and Brent Bethune of Tulsa, plus Xavier Bethune of Rockwall, TX, who was “more like a son than a nephew”;    two brothers, Gordon Bethune of Houston and Jack Bethune of Sarasota, FL and their respective families;  also  former spouse Jody Cramer, son Michael’s caregiver and advocate after a debilitating automobile accident in his youth. David is also survived by many friends, including FBC Claremore and NORDAM families, and by his three beloved companions:   Molly, Spot and Punkin, the lights of his life! David’s family has already seen and sensed an incredible outpouring of love and support and much-appreciated/needed prayers through friends and family, especially FBC Claremore family, and wishes to thank you from the bottom of their hearts for being such a wonderful expression and personification of  God’s love.  

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