Remembering Dave McKain

Downtown Parkersburg lost a dear friend last week with the passing of Dave McKain. If you’ve spent any time in this community, you’ve probably encountered Dave or his handiwork. From the Oil and Gas Museum to Henderson Hall, he spent a great deal of his time developing local historic institutions. It can also be said that he himself was a local institution.

Calling Dave an institution isn’t something I ever said directly to him, although I’m pretty sure in one of our many arguments, I may have suggested that he should be “institutionalized.” If you knew him, you understand my humor. Those who knew him would probably say that you didn’t just “meet” Dave McKain, you “encountered” him. He was that kind of man. He had passion and a plan. He was usually on a mission.

I considered Dave a friend. We served on several boards together and, to be honest, we were both thrown off boards together. We met regularly, in the hotel lounge, and would “hold forth” on a range of topics that included local politics, world religion, economic development and tourism. On most things, he was strong in his reasoning and his opinion. I can’t recall ever having the need to ask, “Dave, what’s your opinion?”

Dave brought out the emotion in people because he was passionate about everything he did. When he did something, he was convinced it was the most important thing to be doing, and was often bothered if others didn’t think the same. In Dave’s thinking, if you disagreed with him, you probably just “didn’t get it.” Passion can do that to people, and it certainly did it to Dave.

My No. 2 daughter is a costume designer and worked for Dave as a college intern at Henderson Hall as he was trying to understand what he had gotten himself into. She always referred to him as a “sweet, old, grumpy guy.” She remembers him with fondness, and is still grateful for his passion for history and the wonderful opportunity he gave her to be involved in local history.

Dave could be painfully blunt when he voiced his opinions. I think that happens when people are passionate. When I visited with him I would argue, laugh, nod my head, shake my head, shake my finger, raise my voice, interrupt and often roll my eyes. I would also be interrupted, be exasperated, be challenged, and even, be inspired and encouraged.

When I visited with Dave I felt all those emotions. Now, with him gone, I feel even more emotions. Most of all, I feel blessed because I got to know him.

Dave McKain may be one of the best examples of why downtown is so important. He brought heritage, culture, and character to downtown Parkersburg like no other. Downtown is a little smaller because he’s gone. Personally, my life is a little less full. I pray for his family for their loss, and I pray for our whole community for our loss.

Come see me. I’ll be in the lounge. We’ll lift a glass to Dave.


Cecil Childress is General Manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel and Chairman of Downtown PKB.