David Wittkamper, R.I.P.

I received some sad news this morning: David Wittkamper, one of Greg’s brothers, died of cancer overnight in West Virginia. He was 65.

David plays a vivid supporting role in “The Class of ’65.” He was the third of the Wittkamper boys, three years younger than Greg, and just starting school when the terror campaign against Koinonia began during the 1950s. David attended Americus High School for one year and then left because of the constant bullying and occasional physical abuse, continuing his education with family in Indiana. It was in David’s class in Americus that some students cheered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Greg and David were very close. When Greg returned to Georgia in 1969 after his travels with Friends World College, the two of them hopped on a motorcycle together and trekked out west and down to Central America. (The photo above shows them as they get ready to embark; that's David on the left.) Both were conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War and did their alternative service at the Friends World campus on Long Island. A few years later, they settled near each other in southern West Virginia, where they made their living with their hands, like a couple of farm boys, building barns, digging wells and such.

David always struck me as the quintessential latter-day hippie. When I met him, he was pushing 60 and still wore his hair in a pony tail. He distrusted authority with the conviction of someone who had grown up in a time and place where authority truly could not be trusted. He was a sensitive soul with a sweet disposition. Like Greg, he often teared up when he spoke about the things he and the others at Koinonia went through when they were young.

A couple of years before he fell ill with bladder cancer, David built a tree house on his property -- not a little playpen, but an aerial bungalow in a sturdy tree that he wanted to rent out and invite his friends to stay in. When he showed pictures of it in the binder he used to carry around, his face lit up with pride. I’d like to think of David sitting in that treehouse now, looking over the rest of us with a smile.

David is survived by his wife, Teresa, and his sons, Wesley and Jonah.

Greg Wittkamper with his brothers David (right) and Dan (front) at a Koinonia reunion in 2012. Their older brother, Bill, who lives outside Chicago, was not able to make it.