Friend in business: Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce's Dave Walls remembered for good nature, passion for supporting local businesses

Dave Walls died at the age of 67 from a heart attack on Feb. 11.

Dave Walls started working at the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce in 2020. Courtesy photo
Dave Walls started working at the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce in 2020. Courtesy photo
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For David Walls, supporting local businesses wasn't just a part of his job with the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce — it was a way of life.

It was eating at restaurants that were members of the chamber. It was getting his homeowners insurance from a company that was a member. It was only referring people to businesses that were members. 

"The mission of the chamber truly became a part of him," Chamber President and CEO Debbie Cotton said. "I don't know that he realized that at the time, but in hindsight, when we reflect on him now about things, and when I get calls from people ... I don't think he realized the impact he had on the people here in Ormond Beach."

But she knew. From the moment she hired him in 2020 to be the director of membership and marketing at the chamber, Cotton said she knew he would be a good fit.

"I knew he had a big impact, but I think his reach was broader than anybody ever expected it to be, which is an amazing thing to have an individual that you were part of," Cotton said. "It's great talking about him, but it sure does make me miss him being here in this office, with his team."

Walls died unexpectedly on Feb. 11 from a heart attack. He was 67. 

'He was so easy to get to know'

Walls was born on Aug. 7, 1956, in Indianapolis, Indiana. A graduate from Purdue University, he worked as buyer for Marshall Fields in Chicago until 2018, according to his obituary.

In 2020, he decided to move to Ormond Beach and it was Don Grindle, franchise owner of Money Pages Volusia, that referred Walls to Cotton for the job at the chamber. Grindle first met Walls in the 1970s, as Walls was his college roommate's hometown best friend. It was only in the last 10-15 years that they got to know each other better though, and Walls would come down to Ormond and stay with Grindle.

Cameron Lechota, chamber office manager; Debbie Cotton, chamber president and CEO; Jessica Miller, events and communications director; and Dave Walls, director of membership and marketing. Photo courtesy of Stacy Wyborny

"He was so easy to get to know," Grindle said. "He was very kind, very open and just very outgoing."

When Walls moved to Ormond, he didn't know many people outside of Grindle and his family. So Grindle introduced him to his golf group (they convinced Cotton to let Walls take Friday afternoons off for golf).

That's how Brad Disch, regional director of operations for Peach Valley Cafe, met Walls. One of the memories that has stuck with him since hearing of Walls' death is a recent one: Walls coming back for a friend he hadn't been able to say goodbye to after playing golf, despite having already gotten in his car. 

"That just says in a nutshell how he appreciated everybody around him," Disch said.

He also thinks about a story he heard from Grindle's son Walker about Walls showing up for a baseball game Walker's son was playing in — just to show his support. 

"He was someone that really would go an extra mile for anyone," Disch said. 

Walls is survived by his mother Barbara; brother Jeffery Walls and sister Holly Wait; children Victoria and Christopher Walls; nephews Jason Walls and Tyler Wait; niece Jami Walls; ex-wife and friend Megan Walls; and significant other Gayle Webb, according to his obiturary.

A robust impact

As director of membership and marketing, Walls' main goal was to onboard new businesses as members of the chamber. He also served as the staff liaison for the chamber's ambassador committee. 

Steven Oliver, a digital marketing expert with LocaliQ, serves on the committee. But he first met Walls when he walked into the chamber about two years ago. Oliver had recently moved into the area and he was looking to get acquainted in the community. 

Walls was nice, welcoming and funny, Oliver said. 

"He could work the room and light up the room when he walked in," he said.

Dave Walls (second row, second from left) was part of the Leadership Ormond Beach Class XVIII in 2022. Photo courtesy of Don Howard

Days before Walls died, Oliver saw him at Business After Hours event at Mimi's Original Art Gallery.

"I walked up and saw him and he saw me and he smiled, and I smiled and shook his hand," Oliver said. "Things like that is what I remember. He was looking forward to seeing me and I was looking forward to seeing him." 

Denise de La Chapelle, local branch manager of Morgan Stanley and co-chair of the ambassador committee, said Walls made the chamber feel like a family. Every time that she would see him at an event, he would always give her a warm hug. The two were part of the Leadership Ormond Beach Class XVIII in 2022. 

"It's tough because he was the face of what you thought about, when you thought about the chamber, because he was that glue and the person that welcomed people in and got new members to join," de La Chapelle said. 

His impact on the chamber, she said, was robust. 

"I feel like his passion really drove the success of the chamber over the last few years because he was just so passionate about it and getting people to join and be part of that larger group," de La Chapelle said. "... We're going to, as ambassadors, continue on that mission to honor him going forward."

He made people feel like they belonged

Walls used to joke that Cotton made him go through eight interviews for the job. (It was probably closer to four, Cotton said.)

At first, Cotton worried that he would get bored of working for the chamber, a nonprofit that was offering him a smaller salary than what he made in Chicago. Walls, she said, assured her that he was only looking to get ingrained in the community.

"He was the boots on the ground for us," Cotton said.

Michell Moore of C.M. Custom Pools and Dave Walls at the Business After Hours event on Feb. 7. Walls died four days later from a heart attack. Photo courtesy of Stacy Wyborny

Walls was overqualified for his job at the chamber, Grindle said. But when he moved to Ormond, he wanted to meet people. 

"What better way to meet people than through the chamber," Grindle said. "... He was there for four years and was not planning on going anywhere. He was getting ready to retire at some point, but he promised Debbie that he would stay there as long as she was there."

Cotton and Walls worked alongside one another so much that some people called him her work husband. Cotton said Walls was like a brother to her.

He made people feel like they belonged, she said.

"Nobody was an outsider," Cotton said. "Everybody was part of the community and he made sure that everybody knew that."


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