Two Milwaukee friends of mine died in the past few months. They were as different from the other as night and day but they shared the common characteristic of being really good people who touched, and added something, to many lives.
Dave Cannon passed away a quietly with his family on July 26 after a battle with lung cancer. Gus Stankovic died alone of a heart attack at a bus stop on July 3, and his body laid in the Milwaukee morgue for weeks before being identified.
Dave was a successful lawyer who had served as Milwaukee D.A., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and a partner at Michael, Best and Friedrich. Gus was a barber who called himself the "Hair Developer." He practiced his craft in various nondescript places in the city over the past four decades.
I knew both of these guys for much of my life and both had an impact on me.
Dave was always part of my life, a pal of my dad and his law partners, and later a mentor to my brother Josh at Michael Best. His humor was as dry as a martini with no vermouth. He was extremely quick witted; self deprecating, but very sophisticated. His was both low and high profile at the same time. Very well known and respected in the legal community, but unpretentious to a fault.
For at least 15 years he was part of an annual Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin and Brown ski trip to Beaver Creek and I think that he wore the same nondescript ski jacket and knit cap all those years. While most everyone else updated their ski attire annually, Dave stayed the same, making it really easy to pick him out on the slopes as he was the guy who looked most out of place at the resort.
Gus started cutting my hair in the '60s when I was a little kid. A short, stout, bushy bearded Eastern European gypsy (hope that isn't politically incorrect), Gus started out working at Jose's barbershop in what is now the US Bank building.
He moved around over the years and last time I had an "in shop" cut from him he was located in a very low profile hovel at 49th and Lisbon. Most of the time he popped into the law offices to cut whoever needed it. Gus, to me, was the ultra-hip street guy. He always had an eclectic group of customers from judges and lawyers to con men and criminals.
He knew what was going on in Milwaukee that wasn't in the papers. I heard and saw things in his shops over the years that contributed to my education as much, if not more, than college or law school.
When I was in college and visited Gus he always provided a "doggie bag" (the contents of which I cannot disclose) for me to take back to school in Appleton. In 1990 when I left Milwaukee for Washington, D.C., Gus showed up at my party with a huge platter of his sister's fried chicken and a killer bottle of Slivovitz.
My head hurts just thinking about it. He was a compassionate and down to earth guy and didn't really need material things to be happy. So many times over the years Gus wouldn't even take money from me for a haircut, though he was anything but wealthy. In his youth he was an award winning body builder and had the old black and white photos on display in the little gym be designed next to his barber chair (kind of cool retro – but not in his mind). If you ever needed him, he was there.
Almost a month after his death, some of Gus's customers put together a little memorial service that was attended by about 50 people. My dad did a eulogy and mentioned that my brother Noah had written a paper on Gus called, "The Most Amazing Person I Know." Gus died alone, but I think he knew he had some true friends. To those of us who knew him he is immortal.
Dave's funeral attracted over 500 people. I'm told Dave's son Charlie made a very eloquent eulogy that captured the essence and spirit of the man. He was truly dedicated to his craft and in the tradition of his Marquette alma mater, he believed in service to the community.
Dave will live on in the thoughts and memories of the many people he touched over his lifetime.
These two guys were so different, yet so similar in spirit and joie de vie. I miss them both and will remember them always.