My First Roommate

Envlope from Dave DeTullioWhen I went through those boxes of letters and other saved papers a few months ago, I came across dozens of items that might form the basis for blog posts. 

One that caught me completely by surprise was a letter that I received towards the end of August in 1967. It was from my future Penn State roommate, Dave DeTullio, as I didn’t remember it at all.

What was even more surprising was that it was in reply to a letter that I had sent to him—a letter that I have no memory of sending, let alone of what I may have written.

In his letter he thanks me for writing to him (apparently Penn State sent us each other’s address sometime in mid-summer) and says my letter was very humorous. I wonder if I intended it to be humorous? I would love to see that letter, but I guess it has long since gone the way of the dodo.

He mentions the things we have in common (love of science and science fiction) and those we don’t (where I’m into theater and musicals, he’s into soul music), but he says he’s an easy going guy who gets along with everyone and doesn’t think we should have any problems.

That turned out to be the case, as he was easily the best roommate I ever had. We hit it off from the start, and barely had any problems for the year we spent as roomies. And what problems we did have, we very quickly resolved.

And boy, did he love his Motown music! The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, etc. Plus other Black singers such as Dionne Warwick.

Most of the music he played was new to me, and while it was never going to be my favorite genre, I learned to enjoy it. How could I not? His enthusiasm for it was infectious.

Dave DeTullio

By the way, that photo of him, which he enclosed in his letter, doesn’t do him justice. The curl of his blond hair, the twinkle in his eyes, none of that comes through in that pic.

He had a girlfriend back home in Elmwood City, which was near Pittsburgh, so on weekends he often went to spend time with her. But one weekend when he stayed in the dorm, he became upset when she didn’t call him at a pre-arranged time. When he tried calling her and was told that she was out, he became livid and was sure that she was cheating him. It turned out to be just a misunderstanding in that her parents wouldn’t allow her to come to the phone for some reason. Happy ending. I was able to use the incident to make a point in one of the essays I submitted in my English course that term, which is the only reason I can include it here, as I don’t recall it at all.

His letter said he was registered in Liberal Arts just as I was, though he planned to switch to engineering in a year, but my recollection is that he did the switch right away. In any case he took a comp sci course, and the only time he could get to run his programs on the time sharing computer was after midnight, so he was up until all hours of the night, often cursing, trying to get his stacks of computer punch cards to run correctly. I had had an interest in computers, but his experience convinced me not to take any comp sci courses, as I had no interest in running to the computer lab at 2 AM.

Dave pledged at the Lambda Chi fraternity along with Mike Bibbo, whom I’ve previously written about. So he went to live in the frat house the following year, and we lost contact after that.

Except I have a vague memory of running into him a couple years later and he was no longer living at the frat house. He seemed more relaxed and perhaps more focussed, but as I said, it’s a vague memory.

Now longtime readers of this blog can probably predict where this is headed.

I was wondering if I could find him and see what he’s up to these days, maybe re-establish contact. And in one quick search (David DeTullio PA) I did find him. 

He died in 2007 at the age of 58. His obituary was published in the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

The obit describes him as a consensus builder. I can well believe that; his easy going personality allowed him to get along with even the most difficult people. I mean, he got along with me, didn’t he?

David DeTullio, 58, died peacefully at home on Saturday, June 2, 2007, following a brief illness. 

The son of Daniel and Gloria Zara DeTullio, David was born May 12, 1949 in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. 

Dave grew up in and graduated from high school in Ellwood City and was proud to be a Penn State graduate.

After receiving his M.S. degree in agricultural economics at Penn State, Dave went to work for the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District in Maryland. In 1975, he began a 25-year career in water resources planning for the Soil Conservation Service, now NRCS. 

Dave had a passion for conservation and keen insight into what it takes to balance human endeavors with the preservation of natural resources. A visionary leader and consensus builder, Dave was also a good mentor and counselor to others. His watershed work in Florida, Maryland, California, Idaho and Nevada touched many people and will have positive impacts within and outside NRCS for many years to come. 

After his retirement in May 2000, Dave turned a lifelong love of stamp collecting into a successful e-business. Yet nothing brought him more pleasure than spending time with the loves of his life, Terry and Mike, and with close family and friends. 

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