HAMILTON, Mich. - He served in the U.S. Army, he was a truck driver, and he touched the lives of hundreds along the way.
This Memorial Day weekend has a special meaning for one family, because they lost him so suddenly.
On Friday, May 25, an extraordinary farewell for an extraordinary man took place in Hamilton.
David Wabeke lead a selfless life.
“I heard a lot of stories the last couple of days from people that said Dave changed my life. Dave saved my live, without Dave I wouldn't be here today,” said Douglas Wabeke, David’s twin brother.
His son works for Teddy’s Transport in Holland.
“He said my dad is an old truck driver, he used to drive for Holland Special Delivery," said Helen Zeerip, President of Teddy’s Transport. "He said it would be so nice if you could come up with some trucks to go by graveside when we do his funeral. I said I’ll see what I can do.”
And she did. There were 13 trucks in total.
“I think he would be looking down from heaven and smiling, thinking that’s my guys,” Zeerip said.
David dedicated his life to serving others.
“We went to basic training and AIT training together for the Army," Wabeke said. "He went on to Vietnam and I went on to Korea.”
But like so many veterans, he suffered from PTSD.
“He was a man that coming out of Vietnam became an alcoholic,” said Doug Bytwerk, First Baptist Church pastor.
“He admitted that to me and joined AA,” Wabeke said.
That's where he spent the last 27 and a half years.
“He would go on to talk to people about 'this is what I went through,'" Bytwerk said. "'You can go forward and get out of this. I did, too.'”
He changed countless lives.
“Standing there next to the coffin in the final moments, another man came up and said 'I am here because of the man who is buried there,'” Bytwerk said.
“So many stories, too numerous to even mention, of people that he helped out through AA,” Wabeke said.
He was a humble man.
“It blew me away, I couldn't believe what he had done, he's always been so quiet about it,” Wabeke said.
And a fighter.
“They found over 20 lesions on his brain. They did a CT scan and found cancer in his lungs and his kidney," Wabeke said. “The doctor was honest with us, gave him 2 to 3 days to live."
He lost his battle only a few days after diagnosis.
“I feel like part of me has gone with him because I’m a twin brother," Wabeke said. "I've had people come up to me and say you're not supposed to be walking around, you're not here.”
But he left behind an everlasting legacy.
“I’m a pastor. I do funerals all the time for people who die. But not all those people really lived and experienced what life is all about," Bytwerk said. "Between his love for god and his commitment to other people who are walking the same road that he walked, he really lived.”
The family said around 150 people from AA attended his service today.
He was 67 and leaves behind his wife, Margie, and three sons.
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