Julie Stalmer 7:15 p.m., June 25
My first week in San Diego, I had lunch with David Copley. I had no idea who he was at the time but later saw him in the news often, especially as he came to own the Union-Tribune. It was somewhere around 1986 and I had been sent to San Diego from El Paso, Texas, to find a satellite office space for a small advertising agency I was working for at the time. I was just out of college and had been hired as a junior copywriter by the firm.
My boss told me to find a small space in the most prestigious part of San Diego we could afford. Our agency had secured two new clients-McMahon's Furniture and Don Kott Ford's radio account based on our having a local office to service their businesses.
We rented a small space on Paseo del Ocasa (a name I spelled so many times I almost chanted it) and set up shop. I was sent out from the home office in El Paso for six months to complete this task. All my co-workers wanted this assignment but I was the only one without kids or a husband so I got it.
Everyone waited in El Paso (a military border town on the edge of Texas) to hear stories of my California experience. The first time I went out for lunch, I walked down Avenida de la Playa toward the beach and stopped at a little place called Gustaf Anders. Little did I know it was the most expensive restaurant this side of the Mississippi.
I was alone so I sat at the bar and ordered a cheeseburger at the recommendation of the waiter. I later told my co-workers back in Texas that it was the first $26. burger I had ever had. They collectively gasped at the California prices. Next to me sat a very large man in a very nice suit with impossibly elegant jewelry. It was David Copley.
Being new to San Diego, I had no idea who he was which I believe surprised him. We talked that day and ended up having lunch quite a few times. It wasn't until later that I saw his large, smiling face in the news for years to come. His was a much-chronicled life.
David found my Texas accent amusing and during one lunch tried to imitate me. After a few cocktails, he started sounding like a fool so I asked him to stop. He laughed himself silly over his efforts to talk like a southerner.
Years later, I was married and attending a formal function when I saw him again. It had been about 15 years since our lunches at that fancy restaurant in the La Jolla Shores and I wondered if he would remember me. As I approached him, I noticed that he was obviously intoxicated. I was a few feet from him when he leaned against a very long buffet table and brought the whole thing crashing down. I decided my timing was off and walked away.
I was sad somehow when I saw that he had passed away recently. My idea of his life is that it was not one of the happier ones. Fancy cars, like the one he died in (alone), multi-millon dollar homes (3.85M was the price tag on his Mission Beach digs) and all the historic items he auctioned off recently seem to spell abundance but I doubt that. Gluttony is just beyond abundance and I think he might have landed there instead.
It was nice to meet you David Copley. I pray that you rest in peace. Regards, SherryD