Even as they struggle with the senselessness of his death, friends and family of salon shooting victim David Caouette comforted themselves Monday with the knowledge that he lived without regrets.
Known for his sense of adventure and colorful tales of travel and off-roading, Caouette had his priorities in line, according to those who knew him. He loved a good story, good wine, good food and good company – but, most of all, he was dedicated to his family. He married his high school sweetheart, Paula, and doted on his three children and three grandchildren, said Charles and Beth Stuart, Caouette’s friends and relatives by marriage.
“As we try to make sense of it all and look back at his life to find meaning, you can see that he really lived in a different way than all of us,” said Charles Stuart. “He saw something that the rest of us couldn’t see. He had a vision of life, and was able to live in another place – he lived his priorities.”
More than a hundred of Caouette’s friends and relatives gathered Monday to celebrate his life, the first memorial for any of the eight people killed in last week’s rampage at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. The group met at Patty’s Place, Caouette’s favorite restaurant and his apparent destination when he died.
According to police, , killing eight, including his ex-wife, with whom he was engaged in a bitter custody battle. According to prosecutors and witnesses, he then walked through the parking lot and committed one last random murder, shooting Caouette as he sat in his parked Land Rover.
A memorial erected in the parking stall where Caouette perished paints a picture of a man who wasn’t afraid to challenge himself. He sought beauty and peace in nature and brought others with him for the journey.
Caouette loved the outdoors, so he worked for Land Rover Mission Viejo, planning off-road trips to show people what the vehicles could do. He was devoted to family, and showed it. Last year, he took his granddaughter on a trip to Italy, and he frequently drove up to Oregon to visit his grandchildren, said Stuart.
“He was such a deeply loyal, family-oriented guy. If you were even on the fringe [of his circle of friends], you were pulled in,” added Stuart. “You hope to see more people like him in the world, and it feels like we can’t afford to lose anyone like him. If there were a thousand Daves, it wouldn’t be enough.”
Beth Stuart is someone Caouette took in without reservation. Her brother married Caouette’s daughter, and when she decided to move to California from Kansas without knowing anyone, he found her a place to live with his next-door neighbor.
“He took me in as his own, and was forever ready with good conversation, good music and good wine,” she said.
The Stuarts, the Caouettes and next door-neighbor Ivonne Meader often went camping together.
“Their kids are our age, but we’re friends with Dave and Paula because they get along with people of every age,” Meader said. “Dave was always so generous. When my son turned 5, Dave brought him an entire fishing set. It was huge. That was Dave – always giving.”
Caouette will be laid to rest on the East Coast, where his family plans to hold a private funeral.