MISSOULA — Our daughter Pamala Burke McDavid passed away of natural causes on July 31, 2020. It is with great sorrow that I write these words, which are less about my wife’s and my loss than the world’s. They are not meant as a notification of her passing; they are about a life that has left a large mark on a large number of people.
Pamala was one of the kindest and bravest people I ever knew. There was no limit on her generosity and her love of animals and people. I remember once in San Francisco when she took every cent she had in her purse and gave it to a homeless man digging food out of a garbage can. As a little girl she fought bullies on the schoolground in defense of smaller children. Nor would she accept bad conduct on a personal level. At age ten, in Little Yankee Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, she asked a famous Yankee pitcher who had chewing tobacco for brains to autograph her baseball.
“No more autographs,” he said.
“Ashamed of your penmanship?” she replied.
I think he’s still trying to figure out what she meant.
She was born August 5, 1964, in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was a newspaper reporter who made little money. I took a job in the War On Poverty and we moved to a hollow in the Cumberland Mountains where children lived in dirt-floor cabins and wore clothes made from Purina feed sacks and went barefoot in the snow. I think it was here that Pamala acquired her empathy for the poor and the downtrodden.
She graduated with honors from Wichita State University, and had many jobs, almost all of them associated with problem solving and public relations. She had abilities that seemed preternatural. She could look at a room and click a lens in her head and ten years later describe everything in the picture. She was often prescient, and could read people’s minds. In one instance she had a vision in which three men appeared. They also told her their names and gave her a message for me. The names meant nothing to her. The three men were deceased members of my family. The message saved our lives.
In her young life she was hurt in ways that would have destroyed others. But she forgave those who had done great evil to her, and to my mind became the standard for everything that is good in people.
She became my publicist, my problem-solver, my psychologist, and my film rep. She copy-edited my manuscripts and used dialogue herself that was like a cross between Shakespeare and Mickey Spillane. Every editor, novelist, journalist and Hollywood actor and director and producer with whom she worked or spoke had genuine affection for her.
Illness was sometimes her bane, but those who knew her never thought less of her, never doubted her honesty or honor, never doubted that perhaps the light in her face came from the thumbprint of God on her soul.
My first cousin was Andre Dubus. In one of his most famous stories, he states that God had a son, but never a daughter. I loved my cousin and his work, but I differ with him on this one. I think God has a lot of daughters, and Pamala is one of them. And my wife Pearl and Pamala’s siblings Alafair and Andree and Jim and Pamala’s son Parker McDavid and I have taken her in our hearts, and having done so have not closed a cover on a book but opened one, because now Pamala will always be with us and we with her and she will never die and the light she carried in her face will be a beacon for us and others unto eternity.