15 Dec 2015

A Nantucket Artist Who Finished Well

It’s been said that the measure of a man’s life can be counted in the people who show up to his funeral. By that standard, Nantucket artist, musician and friend to many, David Hostetler was a giant among men. David left his mark, not just on the art community, but in the hearts and lives of so many who had the opportunity to know him. I count it a privilege to be one of those people.
A lifetime “hippy” according to many of the estimated 400 people at his funeral, David was best known as the “cool guy” seen sporting a ponytail and do-rag. Always smiling, he was often heard quipping “far out” or “too much” in response to the latest local gossip heard on the bench outside his Nantucket gallery. Although I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him until later in his life, what struck me most was not what he’d accomplished in his early years…but how extraordinarily he was choosing to finish his life.
I learned some lessons from this life well lived. David never once stopped doing what he loved…painting, sculpting, dreaming of his next project and then getting busy completing it. He played jazz with friends frequently, dubbing the impromptu jam sessions “Club Dave” with open invites to anyone who might love the tunes and warm hospitality. David loved sincerely and extravagantly…his wife Susan, their friends, clients and family…and he wasn’t shy about expressing it. I never left his home without a bear hug and the words, “I love you honey.” He never put anything off until tomorrow. If you said, “We should have dinner soon,” his response was “our house Saturday night.” If a summer lunch was suggested, he’d coordinate a table at the Fairgrounds or SeaGrille for the next day…and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. A friend said at his funeral – “David squeezed the last drop of juice out of life.”
Soon after we first met David, our then fourteen year old daughter was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease. While many friends offered prayers, connections to doctors and encouragement (all SO appreciated), David quietly headed to his studio. He took a large piece of zebra wood and he sculpted Ashlie. He didn’t know how to help the illness…but he knew how to sculpt. So he did what he could do and the sentiment was an unbelievable gift. Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all to finishing well. Do what you can do and do it with all your heart.
As we head toward the end of another year, it’s a great time to think about finishing well. What mark would you like to leave on life…or on Nantucket…in 2015? So many island friends could use assistance through the Nantucket Food Pantry, Inky Santa, Meals on Wheels, A Safe Place or some other local organization. Maybe a friend, neighbor or family member would love a hand-made gift, a lunch date, surprise visit or phone call. We can’t do everything – but each of us can do something. When we simply do what we can do, it can transform someone’s life. Let’s commit to finishing well.
Too Much!
Shellie Dunlap
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