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Larry “Big Dave” Bartlett, but please, only call him Larry if you’re ‘cruising for a bruisin,’ transitioned at his home, surrounded by his wife, his children and his grandchildren on November 6th, 2023, at 5:12 PM, which, incidentally, was his favorite time of day: Happy Hour. We believe this was not a random act, but a choice made by Dave himself, for our benefit. Over the past several days, try as we might to turn his beloved Happy Hour into a “Sad Hour,” we’ve felt a ... nudge. A whisper ... A call from him to our hearts, urging us to pour a drink and smile through our tears, as we toast this indescribably colorful human being, as he orders up a “J&B rocks with a twist” from the bartender in the Great Beyond. Big Dave has made it abundantly clear that he will not be missing any opportunities to hold the hand of the love of his life, his wife Michele, taking in a gorgeous sunset while sipping a drink, even if that means he’s doing it from the afterlife. Dave was born to Charles and Winifred Bartlett in Hartford, Kentucky on June 1st of 1949. Chuck and Freddy taught Dave early on that no one in life is required to give you a handout, and he took that to heart. It’s not lost on us that if your mother’s name is “Fred,” becoming a tough SOB was likely a requirement of the job. But to the people Dave knew and loved most, his heart was ten times the size of his brawn. He gave selflessly to all who knew him. Dave gave you what he thought you deserved—maybe that was money, or advice, or even his time, but also ... It could have been a knuckle sandwich. If any of you reading this ever received the latter, well, we’re almost positive you deserved it. And in the unlikely event you didn’t, maybe you did something questionable at some point and got away with it, so now you can rest easy that Big Dave aided you in clearing your conscience. Speaking of “brawn,” Dave seemed almost mythological in nature. One almost can’t help but conjure images the likes of “Paul Bunyan” or “Big Bad Leroy Brown” The baddest man in the whole damn town and “Big Bad John” He stood six-foot-six and weighed two-forty-five. Kinda broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip. Everybody knew ya didn't give no lip to big bad John, when thinking of Dave. And so, it was no surprise that our “own personal man of steel” would choose an industry of a similar constitution for his life’s work. The Steel Manufacturing Industry was tough, but Dave was tougher. A standout leader of hundreds of men, in 1991 Big Dave earned the coveted “manager’s award” for “outstanding contribution to the LTV Hot Strip Mill at Indiana Harbor Works” where he spent his days inspecting, mitigating risk, and extending the life of what was once thought of as our nation's most invincible resource —Steel. Poetry to us, because Big Dave was our most invincible resource. Absolutely bulletproof in our eyes. Big Dave made it through the other side of the mill, which is a heroic accomplishment all on its own, and ended his career there after a 33-year stint and went on to pursue his Masters Degree. On June 23rd of 1995, he was inducted into the “International Business Honor Society of Alpha Beta Gamma,” one of his proudest moments. This brought him an opportunity to work as an expert consulting engineer and to manage the company ESW Inc., an engineering and consulting firm. Dave had more than earned his corner office and cushy chair, but more than that, his knowledge and expertise of the industry garnered Big Dave a staff of employees he respected and work that interested and challenged him for 20 more years. The pandemic may have hastened his retirement in 2021, but it freed him up to explore other pursuits. Dave was an avid golfer, boater and became a beloved member of many a “high falootin’” country club, where he could display his competitive nature and also his newfound love for the more “civilized things in life.” A member of Woodmar Country Club, Briar Ridge Country Club and the Lake Michigan Yacht Club, Dave had numerous friends at these establishments and enjoyed countless sunsets. Another great joy of Dave’s life revolved around his die-hard fandom of the Notre Dame football program, stemming from his beloved little brother Randy Harrison’s years on the team, from 1975-1979. Dave carried this pride until the very end, attending games and tailgating with his family. Come to think of it, he even made his transition wearing a “Fighting Irish” T-shirt—a description of Big Dave we couldn’t make better if we tried. We would be remiss not to mention Dave’s faithful companion, his dog “Bella” and the greatest joy of his life: The love and joy he obtained from being a father and grandfather. He left this world with ten grandchildren, their “Papa” was the light of their lives. Dave graduated in the 1967 class of Hammond High School in Hammond, Indiana. During these formative years, he developed a love for “Doo-Wop” music. Bands like The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Drifters, etc., were on “The playlist of Big Dave’s life” which led to him to eventually form his own band, aptly named “The Sounds.” What kind of sounds his band made can be left to your imagination, but suffice it to say that Dave believed Smokey Robinson need not apply. Up until the end, you could find Dave showing off dance moves he believed rivaled The Platters and crooning to anyone within earshot who would agree that he had, in fact, “missed his calling.” News flash: He didn’t. Dave’s true calling was that of “Coach” or “Mr. B” as his players would affectionately call him. Mr. B ingrained mental and physical resilience into the minds and bodies of his players. He accepted nothing less. If you think Dave coached boys, think again. He believed female athletes, specifically softball players, were every bit as mentally tough as male athletes—probably tougher. Mr. B created “chips off the old steel block” and with “heart and intestinal fortitude” anyone could become excellent. A typical beginning of the season speech went something like this: You can call me Coach, you can call me Mr. B, hell, you can call me Santa Claus, but god*$amnit, WHEN I TALK, YOU LISTEN! THIS AINT NO DEMOCRACY! Dave started his coaching career in the Highland Youth Softball Association (HYSA). He coached many teams to state and even national championships and was the founder of the summer travel league “The Ultrasonics” which fostered many a college athlete. Dave was on the board of HYSA for many years, becoming president from the years spanning 1984-1986. Because of his exceptional track record, later in life he was urged to take on the job of head softball coach for Highland High Women’s Varsity Softball; he acquiesced, and in his first year as coach in 1995, he was given the prestigious honor of becoming “High School Coach of the Year” of the Lake Ten Athletic Conference and also coached the Highland High Varsity Softball team to become the Lake Ten Conference Champions, not only in 1995, but also 1998. But of all of these coaching accolades, becoming the President of Highland Youth softball proved to change the course of his life. That’s when he came face to face with his true destiny. A fiery young woman, who was also a coach and officer of the association in her own right, was tasked with the job of presenting Big Dave and the board with a request for her 9-year-old girl’s summer league team. When this woman, who suffered no fools, pushed back on Dave—who was throwing his weight around in an attempt to peacock for her benefit—he was left gob-smacked. This gutsy lady would become his wife. Big Dave had finally met his match, and in 1989 he and Michele blended their six children, creating a sort of “bizarro world Brady Bunch” which had its ups and downs, as you can imagine. It was of no real consequence to Dave, as being with Michele afforded him the biggest gift he had ever been given in his life: real safety and happiness for the first time. Her love and support never once wavered. The mythological, bigger than life “Big Dave” was finally able to take his armor off, rest his weary head, and let somebody truly love him. And not just the version of himself that he liked to show, but the real Dave, deep down in his soul. And come to think of it, we bet she could have even called him “Larry.” Dave was preceded in death by father Charles and Phyllis Bartlett, mother Winifred Harrison and Clifford Harrison, sister Terri Mathur, and brother Jerry Bartlett. Dave is survived by his wife Michele Bartlett, his daughters Amy Mosoriak (Mark) of Highland, IN, Jill Bartlett Datz (Mike) of Los Angeles, CA, son Dave Bartlett of Chesterton, IN, Sarah Clark (Chris) of Ann Arbor, MI, Molly Wiltfang (Chris) of Valparaiso, IN, Maggie Ambruster of Orlando, FL, Brother Randy Harrison (Cheryl) of Henderson, NV; grandchildren Alex Adams (Mike), Rachel Ecsy (Nick), Nicholas Bremer, Hannah Stewart, Hunter Stewart, Jayne Bartlett, Jack Bartlett, Piper Clark, Parker Clark and Arlo Datz; and his beloved dog “Bella” who stayed by his side until the end.
Please join us for Big Dave’s joyous celebration of life on Monday, November 13, 2023 from 4-8pm at Hillside Funeral Home located at 8941 Kleinman Road Highland, IN 46322. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Providence Hospice: 10700 Park Place St. John, IN 46373 Checks can be made payable to: Providence Hospice, or in memory of Dave Bartlett at The Prostate Cancer Foundation for the cure at www.cure.pcf.org.