, Salem, MA

December 5, 2012

Beverly native lived life to the fullest

By Bethany Bray

---- — Everyone’s life has a story. In “Lives,” we tell some of those stories about North Shore people who have died recently.

BEVERLY — David Cheney had a knack for making other people smile.

It was his outlook on life, his family said, as well as his good-natured teasing and penchant for breaking into dance, if only to get a laugh out of someone or pull them onto the dance floor at a party.

His sister, Erin, keeps a video of David and their mother, Janice, dancing in the kitchen of their Ryal Side home on her cellphone.

Cheney, 22, was killed in a plane crash with two of his University of Maine fraternity brothers on Nov. 16. He was the son of Michael and Janice Cheney and baby brother to sisters Erin and Cassie.

Through their heartbreak, the Cheney family remembers moments like Erin’s cellphone video of David breaking into dance while doing the dishes with his mother.

“I was honored to spend 22 years with him,” Janice said. “It was a blessing to have him. He taught us a lot.”

He was the type of person who lived every moment to its fullest, they said.

At his 21st birthday party, a large get-together of friends and family in the Cheney’s backyard, David insisted the band learn his parent’s wedding song. David had the party pause so Michael and Janice could dance to “their” song.

His Lambda Chi Alpha brothers remember David waking the entire fraternity house up at 2:30 a.m. so they wouldn’t miss a snowfall. He led the entire fraternity in a bike ride through the snow, simply to savor the moment, his family said.

“He was always happy, and wanted to share the stuff he loved with everyone else,” Erin said.

“He was very thoughtful, very fearless,” Cassie said. “... He would not want us to have any regrets.”

Despite his healthy sense of humor, David was “wise beyond his years,” Michael said. Even as a child, he was known to surprise his family with deep, thought-out comments on life, relationships and other observations.

In 2005, Briscoe Middle School gave David an award for generosity, humility, sensitivity and sense of humor.

The last adjective rang true as the family found the plaque in the living room soon after — David had hung it on the wall himself.

A 2009 Beverly High School grad, he played basketball and was captain of the lacrosse team.

At UMaine, Cheney was working on a major in public administration and two minors: renewable energy and environmental administration. He planned to join the Coast Guard after graduation, his family said.

He held several leadership positions with Lambda Chi Alpha. David was known for making sure his brothers kept their GPAs up and even helped those in need of counseling to find help.

Over the summers, Cheney worked at Manchester Marine and at Marini Farm in Ipswich, planting, picking and delivering produce.

He loved the work, his family said, especially learning from and interacting with the farm’s international workers.

“That shows you how special he was, and not just because he was my kid,” Michael said. “He was kind (and) helped people. He didn’t care if you were (a farm hand). That’s just how he was.”

Cheney also did an internship at Beverly City Hall, working with the purchasing and planning departments.

He worked on an evaluation of the city’s recycling program and loved the fact that he got to drive around in trash trucks for two weeks, Erin remembered with a smile.

The Beverly City Council held a moment of silence for David at a recent meeting and remembered him as “extremely bright, energetic, eager to learn and work.”

Since David’s death, the Cheneys have been flooded with condolence messages and support from the community. Stacks of cards several inches high have been collected on their dining room table. Janice said she’s gone to her mailbox and found flowers and notes from people with names she doesn’t recognize.

The family said they are very appreciative of the “overwhelming” support they’ve received.

The Nov. 16 plane crash occurred in Owl’s Head, Maine. David and two friends were on a sightseeing trip when their single-engine plane crashed on takeoff from the Knox County Regional Airport.

Members of the Cheney family went to funeral services for the accident’s other two victims: Marcelo Rugini, an exchange student from Brazil, and William “B.J.” Hannigan III of South Portland, Maine.

The close-knit Cheney family will remember David for his love of the outdoors — kayaking, mountain biking, snowmobiling, hiking, skiing, swimming and boating were favorites — as well as being an early riser.

He’d always be the first one up, sipping on a cup of coffee, waiting for the family to wake up so he’d have someone to play with, Michael said.

But most of all, they’ll remember his good nature, generous heart and sense of humor.

“He was the best. The best friend, the best role model,” Erin said. “When you have kids, you hope they’re half the person he was.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.