David Civile's Life Celebrated During St. Helen's Service
Trader Joes manager, son of longtime St. Helen's organist, missing after kayaking accident at Shore.
Editor's Note: This tribute was written by the family of David Paul Civile. Civile, a Cranford native, was the manager of the Trader Joes in Westfield and his father is the long time organist at St. Helen's.
Through humorous recollections while fighting back tears, friends and relatives painted a picture of a charismatic young man with a characteristic laugh at a Celebration of Life memorial service for 26-year-old Cranford native David Civile Saturday at St. Helen's Church.
"Next to my husband Jon, Dave is my best friend, my light, my world, and my superman," said sister Laura Davies, who also demonstrated her brother David's signature laugh by throwing back her head with a "ha!" that many family members and friends recognized with a chuckle.
Mr. Civile disappeared during a kayak trip down the Shewsbury River on Nov. 17. Authorities searched for him for four days but turned up nothing. The search for his body continues.
Family members paid tribute to David as they fondly recalled his uniqueness, his positive attitude and the profound effect he had on others through his compassion and sensitivity.
They also poked fun at his nuances and penchant for fine living. He drove a beloved black BMW sports car. With his dad, he watched and laughed heartily at DVDs of their favorite show "Frasier," even lounging around in a leather chair he purchased for his townhouse in Tinton Falls, "an authentic copy of the one Frasier had in his Seattle apartment" remarked his uncle, Robert Civile.
"Authenticity - it's a word that kept coming to my mind as I reminisced about David this week because that aptly describes David," his uncle shared in his tribute.
He steamed lattes for family and friends with his espresso machine that he had set up in his bedroom at his parents' house in Cranford, along with an electric fireplace. David's room was equally as cosmopolitan as the "Frasier" set, cousin Robb Canning recalled. "It was like I stepped into a Starbucks. Rich, deep colors on the wall, with David nonchalantly asking 'can I get you a latte?'"
Employees of Trader Joe's stores from across Passaic, Morris, Union, and Mercer counties attended the service and paid tribute to their colleague and manager. Many wore Hawaiian shirts to show solidarity and respect to a man who both befriended and inspired them. "Funny", "supportive", "hard-working", "smart", "handsome" were just some of the attributes shared by the Trader Joe's crew as they mingled after the service to share stories and offer each other consolation.
But while David enjoyed his toys, he also reveled in nature, according to the tribute paid by his girlfriend Hannah Schranz. She noted how David possessed a deep admiration and appreciation for an autumn day or a full moon.
The couple had recently purchased a 1,000-word jigsaw puzzle, depicting an ocean scene, complete with a sailboat, waves crashing on the shore and a single Adirondack chair. Ms. Schranz imagines he's somewhere similar now. "Sitting in that chair, taking in the ocean breeze," she envisioned to the nearly 1,000 people who had gathered in St. Helen's to pay their respect to a beloved family member and friend. Besides the loving tribute from family members, including the celebrant, Fr. Gene Squeo who was David's cousin, members of St. Helen's worship team provided music personally picked out by the family.
"The song, "Grown-Up Christmas List", was one of David's favorite at Christmas," explained Fr. Squeo, who also shared a touching re-telling of the "Freddy the Leaf" story and the lesson all could learn from it.
Family members also recalled a compassionate individual that, as a young child, took care of his sick grandfather, expressed a deep-seated faith in God and maintained a close-knit relationship with his family. This faith in God was a recurring theme in the tributes paid by two of David's uncles, Robert and George Civile. "David was not lost," expressed his uncle Robert. "True, we couldn't find him, but Jesus found him."
And David's uncle George focused on the reward of eternal life for those who have placed their trust in Jesus. "David is with the Lord and he wants us all to know that he is okay and is waiting for the day when we all can be together with him," George assured all who listened attentively to his words of hope and comfort.
The most moving moment of the celebration came at the end, from an open letter written by David's mom, Joan Civile. "The joy and love I've shared with you these past 26 years has been, in your own words, amazing," she wrote in a letter to David read aloud at the service.
And no matter what life threw at him, relatives said David stayed positive. "He really had this unique ability to stay happy no matter what he was doing," said Canning, whose theme was about the life lessons that David's life provided.
Born on Oct. 11, 1984 in Muhlenberg Hospital, David Civile grew up in Cranford and graduated high school in 2003. Cranford remained his home for 24 years, until he moved to Tinton Falls in 2008. He received a degree in business management from Kean University, and worked as a Trader Joe's store manager in Wayne, Westfield, Florham Park and Princeton.
Although he passed away, friends and family do agree that, even at such a young age, David had lived his life to the fullest and was a beacon of Christian faith and hope. Canning implored the audience to live by his example.
"You do have a choice on how to live your life," Canning said. "Choose happiness."