David Livingston’s Story

David Orrin Livingston
Born August 19, 1943 in Schenectady, New York; died March 29, 2013 in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

David spent the 1st eleven years of life in Scotia, NY (town across the river from Schenectady) with parents, Orrin and Teresa Livingston, and older siblings, Mary and William.

He spent the rest of his pre-college years in Waynesboro, Virginia (in Shenandoah Valley next to Blue Ridge Mountains), where he enthusiastically played on the high school basketball team and became an avid reader of books.

David studied at Harvard for four years and then did graduate work in architecture/city planning in Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania).  One of his passions at this time was making nature videos, involving things like patterns of leaves on flowing water.
At the end of his stay in Philadelphia shortly after he started working as a VISTA volunteer at an Indian reservation in southwestern US, (which he considered an alternate to military service), he was drafted for the Vietnam War.  Instead of spending a large amount of time trying to get conscientious objector status, he decided to move to Canada, which he had been very attracted to in any case ever since a family trip to the Canadian Rockies a few years before.

After living in the Vancouver, BC area for a while, he bought a used military truck which he converted into a home and became a homesteader on some land he had bought in Usk.  He eventually designed and built a one-room octagonal cabin there with lumber that he had cut himself.

Work was always secondary to living.  He chose to let go of security in order to pursue the many things he wanted to do in his life and worked only when heneeded money for supplies, at whatever was convenient, including working for the railroad, a logging company, and a government housing inspection group.

In the early years of living in BC the required medical exam for a coast guard job he applied for led to the discovery that he had diabetes.

From his college days onward he made many cross country trips to explore the land and visit with friends and relatives.  On the first trip, he hitch-hiked starting with only $10 in his pocket, and later on he made many cross country trips by bicycle and at least one with a motor-scooter.  (He also spent time bicycling in Mexico and France, where a high school friend lived.)

His interest in architecture and innovative homes was triggered as a young child by the presence of a large number of architecture books including some about Frank Lloyd Wright (which his mother had borrowed from the library to further her unfulfilled dream of having an architect design a house for the family before the move to Virginia).  During college he helped build some very innovative homes –homes built in holes of trees in northeast US and reinforced concrete dome homes (mostly underground) in Arizona and Mexico.  And during his first years in British Columbia he put together his military truck home and his unconventional cabin in Usk.

After living in his cabin for a few years he became interested in living in an even smaller, and very mobile space.  He made a multitude of alterations to a Mini Cooper (including a large plexi-glass dome which was inserted into the car’s roof) and made this his home for a number of years while traveling all over Canada (including many months in the NW Territories) and the US and into Mexico, delighting to demonstrate that one could live happily in a very small space.

When he gravitated to a more conventional home than his Mini Cooper, he settled in the Vancouver area and eventually Nanaimo, and he got a degree in horticulture and worked for some time in a nursery.

When his failing eyesight no longer allowed him to drive a vehicle, buses became his preferred mode of crossing and re-crossing the US and Canada, which he did quite regularly, to the delight of all the relatives and friends he visited.

Survivors: brother William Livingston (Lynchburg, Virginia), sister Mary Snyder (Mansfield Center, Connecticut), nieces and nephews—Kenneth Snyder (London, UK), Douglas Snyder (Belchertown, Massachusetts), Katharine Snyder (Denver, Colorado), and Katherine Bold (Baltimore, Maryland), a 98-year old uncle, Leslie Rupert, in New Jersey and many cousins across the US: Annette Crater, David Ruppert, Jeanne Kerwin, William Dill, Frederick Dill, Nancy Belt, Richard Dill, Robert Dill, and Carol Kruse.

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4 thoughts on “David Livingston’s Story

  1. What a guy eh? My brother, Gary, in Seattle, said it well… “He’s my hero!” Kind, thoughtful of others as well as, “just thoughtful about life”; the intellect and non conventional solutions and ideas; the travels, the stories, the self-effacing laugh…what a wonderful example for the rest of us.

  2. David was a lovely man, and we at SECA have always valued his thoughtful contributions, his gentle kindness and willingness to engage in all aspects of neighbourhood life. David was the original “guerrilla gardener,” planting trees and shrubs throughout the neighbourhood and gladly sharing his deep knowledge of all things horticultural with neighbours and friends. We heard the sad news during this past week’s SECA meeting and a few stories were passed about. David Scott told a great story about David, with whom he was talking about living in the Canadian North and some of the characters that he came across there. David Scott mentioned seeing this guy who was driving across the country in a converted Morris Minor with a strange dome shaped roof that the owner had somehow jury rigged. “Oh”, said David Livingston, “that was me!”

  3. Mary, William, & David, a team that stayed together and kept on winning through the decades, at the Virginia Arboretum one very hot July day in 2002 when my brother Bill & I had gathered with them to honor the return home of their mother, Teresa. Though David’s sight was said to be waning, he romped the rolling grounds like a young deer, now calling out of the woods, now deep in a bed, exclaiming, “Oh they have such & such a variety of this!” or, “Look at that, I’ve never seen it before!”

    As we were leaving David asked a a young Arboretum staff member about some plant labels in minor distress by the walkway. This conversation went on for an hour. The Arboretum man kept up as he was led by David through all possible materials to use in making a plant label that would stand up in print and design.

    Ah, David, I thought, a scholar too, like his mother and his grandfather with deep knowledge of so many things. David had learned plant labeling as he worked with Teresa as she carefully built, on unused public land next to a road by their house, a native plants of Virginia garden, a garden to which botanists came to in time as quietly and as unscheduled as bees. When Teresa moved 100 miles to a senior community, David and William over time moved samples of that garden to an open wood on that property, all properly labeled, of course.

    Funny that folks mention what I always called, at least in my head, the Gorp-Mobile, as the to me most impressive part of that car was its 3 bushel basket size holding not only a level sleeping plane that would keep one dry in the worst storm but also a 2 ton capacity set of nicely designed grain bays for David’s proprietary trail mix – no stopping at McDonalds, no wasting money on the road. And when I saw the G-Mobile it was about 4,000 miles from home and on its way to being 6,000, before it would head back NW.

    David was then with the folks at my mother’s for some time in a small village. When he headed out, fully loaded, I had a moment’s sense that I ought to worry. Only I didn’t.

    In the following days I would be in the post office or the store and someone would stop me, “Oh, I saw your cousin in Lewiston yesterday…or outside Portland…or along the shore in New Hampshire…,” word coming back that the G-Mobile was ok which meant that David was ok and making good progress. As he is off now on another big journey I expect to hear soon that the red horse that arose from a C.S. Lewis trans-migration melt down has carried David safely & well far into the mountains of peace. There must be a Latin phrase for: A Life Without Controversy (and a clear desire for No More Pots).

    Thank you, David; thank you, All,
    Cousin Dick

  4. I remember Dave in high school as a very Quiet and very smart individual who came up to me after an almost fight I had with a bully that was picking on me.
    He said Larry just walk away and you will be a better person.
    I didn’t understand then but did after I grew up.
    After that incident we would always see each other and have little talks.
    I don’t think I have ever met a kinder person.
    Thank you Dave for the big smile and kind words.
    Larry Toms

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