OBITUARY: David Charles Page
On April 25, 2017, David Charles Page, loving grandfather, beloved father, brother, uncle, cousin, and dear friend, passed away in his sleep. He was a highly skilled professional tradesman, hunter and angler; a master electrician who was a live wire among the old-school raconteurs of Denver's African-American working class community. A man you might see sharply dressed on occasion, but more recognizable in his work boots. He was known for his big smile, kind eyes, and salty tongue. He was passionate, skilled, and had a voice that could fill a room. Whether celebrating Christmas with his children in his parents' living room on Race Street, in the mountain cabin he built in Grand Lake, Colorado, tucked back in his shop, or giving friends what-for from his stool at Pierre's Supper Club - all rooms, actual and symbolic, will be quieter and darker with his passing. He will never be forgotten, even as life today moves fast, and much of Denver and its people are vastly different from the life David knew.
These days, anyone who has lived in Denver over ten years begins to talk like they know the place, speaking with put-on airs about what it's like in their 'hood, but it takes more than Googled knowledge, an easily purchased "NATIVE" sticker, or $100 Bronco jersey to separate the late-comers from folks who have "been around the way", like David, whose experiences and memories go a long way back.
To understand what around the way used to be in Denver, walk the streets David walked, step inside the buildings he wired, listen for the wolf-whistles echoing the places he frequented. If you want to know more than what Google tells you about Denver, walk the streets of Whittier, Curtis Park, Five Points, and imagine a Black residential and business community: post-Jim Crow, pre-gentrification. If you want to find out who knows these streets, ask about Pierre's. Millennials who live in the condos where Pierre's used to be would be hard pressed to tell you about a place that was more than a watering hole. The folks who know Pierre's are folks who knew David and they will tell you it was the best place to get a plate of catfish, have a drink, and share in good times with Blackfolk.
David could wire any building to the most up-to-date codes, but unlike these folks, he didn't waste his time updating his Facebook page; he didn't drive a Prius, or shop at Whole Foods. For work, he drove a van, "the bread truck" as his older brother called it and the kids thought it looked like an ice cream truck. When he wasn't working, he rode in American made trucks, like David's father, Dan, drove. Folks of David's era bought their food and goods at stores that had welcomed their parents through the front door. His social network went viral through word of mouth, across fences, down church pews, and over beers on the fishing and hunting trips. David loved the mountains, where he with the help of friends, family, and even strangers built a cabin at a time when few brothers would dare to do so.
Unlike most late-comer Coloradans now, these folks are older, showing their grey hairs from the long years they lived through a very different Denver. They will have the spark of wisdom the way our elders do. Their hands will be bent, worn, calloused from hard work, as David's were from the years he put in, lighting up small homes and large institutional buildings. The wrinkles on their face will curve to smiling about memories of days gone by. The same wrinkles can feel the grimace from days of striving as well. They might tell you how David's father, Daniel, who started the first Black electrician's business in the region, had to shadow a White electrician when the electricians union would not allow a Black man to work from apprentice to journeyman to master electrician. And those same faces can recount fixtures to the Black community, the many churches and stores, gathering venues, homes where they grew up and raised families. They might recall Dan Page opening his shop on what is now the ultra-trendy Larimer Street long before hipsters with salon-coiffed beards and blond dreadlocks showed up in dog parks and microbreweries. They remember the blue van that David drove, which was first his father's. They recall with pride how Dan's Electric was one of many successful Black businesses in spite of Jim Crow, and they might even chime in what the truck announced: "Here comes Dan the Electric Man"on the front and then "there goes Dan the Electric Man!" on the back.
The elders will tell you they don't make homes like the Denver Square, the brick homes most of them lived in. And just as they don't make homes like that anymore, they bear witness to the sad fact that they don't make 'em like Pierre's, where light and dark Black folks ate catfish, drank any beer but Coors, laughed over whist and dominoes, keeping alive a vibrant community in an age before cell phones and Amazon, when eye-contact and a handshake was how you built your brand, and the only twitter happening was gossip, grapevine, and good cheer up and down the bar rail. These are Denverites who, if they wore them, would bear jerseys with names like Davis, Fletcher, and Jackson more so than the bandwagon transplants with their trendy Manning jerseys. They will tell you that Pierre's is no more, gone for more than thirteen years. They will tell you how, in Pierre's heyday, they kept a barstool open for David Page, for whom, like the old ways and old streets, like the Denver Square, they broke the mold long ago. But without David Page, there is no real Denver, no true Colorado. And on a cool morning of April 25, 2017, when David Page passed on from this world, a little more of that Denver we knew also passed on.
David Charles Page was born on May 27, 1942, third son of Britannia, a licensed nurse, and Daniel Page, who, as a master electrician, ran Dan's Electric, the first Black-owned electrical company in the region, and one of the most successful family-owned trade businesses in Denver. As a boy, David grew up on Williams Street, with his eldest brother Danny, and middle brother Jerome. Like his brothers, he attended East High School at a time when few African-Americans did. Unlike Danny, who took to professional work in finance, and Jerome, who found his professional home in civil rights, David took an early interest in his father's electrical work, continuing his education at Emily Griffith, and more significantly, apprenticed in the wise and talented company of his father, Dan, the Electric Man. Dan Page was already a fixture throughout Denver, known for his professionalism, elite electrician's skill, and could be said to be a pioneering "creative" who saw the business potential when he opened up his shop in the 3000 block of Larimer Street, now a bustling arts and boutique community serving new-money millennials. When Dan entered his golden years, David continued the legacy that this enterprising father had begun, and continued to deliver the same professionalism, craftsmanship, and connection to a range of communities. Dan's Electric van was an easily recognizable symbol of this prosperity among the residents of Denver, and David's work spanned from the most modest homes to large buildings, including wiring work in Denver International Airport.
David Page worked hard, but when not on the job, he played hard and cared deeply for those around him. He was a devoted Broncos fan. He attended many games back when they played in the old Mile High Stadium and followed the Nuggets back when they were called the Rockets and the players wore tight shorts. Like his father, he was a hunter and fisherman, heading off on trips with friends into the mountains that many Black folks might see from their Denver porches, but few felt comfortable to enter. David was a man who made his own comfort, be that on his stool in Pierre's or on the porch of his mountain cabin. This enterprise, like so many others, was not simply a project to be completed. Older Denver residents already knew about Lincoln Hills, a mountain retreat for some of Denver's upwardly mobile middle class folks, but with the help of other African-American tradesmen, David built in a place where working class Black folks did not always imagine themselves to be, and in this way, he helped others realize the full promise of the American Dream, that a person can enjoy happiness wherever and whenever one may chose.
David's pursuit of happiness never required any law or anyone's permission, and he pursued the American Dream best through his family. David's life was not without challenges, but he balanced his life against those challenges with strong connections to his children, Najla, Miya, and Gabriel, their children, and the children of his brothers and relatives. The next generation of children, who also rode along with David to the shop and on jobs, witnessed a professional in his element and now know what it is to provide through hard work. His children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins recount playing in the woods around the cabin while David chopped wood, or playing in the shop with conduit joints and terminals as gleefully as if they were Legos.
He was loyal to those he loved and fiercely protective of family, having travelled to Maryland, Texas, California, Michigan, and elsewhere to bring his infectious laugh into the homes of relatives, all of which also bear signs of his electrical genius. Beyond his big laugh and quick wit, he literally lit up all of our lives, as he has worked on every family home, and every relative will tell you that his work on family homes, spanning as far back as the 70's remains intact and fully functional.
Many West African cultures claim that one is wealthy not because of his money or possessions, but because of the children one has. If this is true, David Charles Page was, and is a wealthy man whose legacy will be carried in the lives of three children and eight grandchildren. Preceded in death by his parents, Brittania and Daniel Page and brother Daniel Page. David is survived by his first wife, Peaches Taylor, their daughter Najla Page Hamilton (Kennith Hamilton) of Los Angeles, as well as daughter, Miya Page Scott (Peter Scott) of Laurel, Maryland, and son Gabriel David Page of Wheaton, Maryland, born during his marriage to Garcia Gabriel (deceased). His brother, Jerome W. Page (JoKatherine Holliman Page) of Denver, grandchildren Hisham Scott, Desmond Page, Niya John, Elijah John, Glory John, Gabrielle Page, Lena Scott and Dylan Page, and nieces and nephews who loved him dearly.