David C. Lacz, owner of Bartram & Brakenhoff Yacht Brokerage, died on May 4 in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Lacz was on a yacht delivery from Florida to Maine when he was involved in an incident in a bar after work. He was transported to a local hospital where he died of a head injury. He was 56 years old.
John and Diana Lacz, Mr. Lacz’s parents, and one of his sisters, Donna Slaughter, shared how he got his start in boating. His father often chartered a sailboat to create camaraderie among his employees.
“David got into it with them, he had a feeling from the water,” his mother said. “Later, he saw an ad for a doctor looking for help to take a boat to Bermuda. He didn’t have much experience but he talked his way into the job.”
He then worked in the charter industry in the Virgin Islands and got his captain’s license. About 25 years ago, yacht broker Jim Wetherald worked with Mr. Lacz when he was build captain on S/Y Jaska, a 52-foot Little Harbor.
“Dave was the captain and his owner had bought boats from me,” Wetherald said. “The owner met Dave in the Virgin Islands and signed him on to crew a transAtlantic with him. When they crossed, the original captain left and Dave took over.
“The owner loved him so much, they conspired to build a 63-foot,” Wetherald said. “Dave visited me to build and design it. It turned out to be one of the smartest and most comfortable of that size that we had built. The owner left it pretty much up to Dave because he had unique ideas, he had an instinct.
“Dave flew around the world while the boat was being built, he was a free-spirit and able to do these things up to the end,” Wetherald said. “His zest for life and high energy were contagious; he was a fun guy to be around. Clients loved him, he had girlfriends, some more serious than others. He had a huge sense of humor and was a storyteller; wherever you went, you were laughing.”
When the owner sold the boat, Capt. Lacz decided to be a broker, Wetherald said.
“Dave knocked on doors; he was young and persistent,” Wetherald said. “Bruce [Brakenhoff] was skeptical at first, but he continued for several months asking for work.”
“Bartram said, ‘You have no experience’,” Slaughter said. “David said, ‘I’ll go to the Miami boat show and show you.‘ And he was very successful in Miami in 1995.”
Mr. Lacz was hired that year as a broker and he purchased Bartram & Brakenhoff in Newport, R.I., in 1998. In 2000, he opened an office in Ft. Lauderdale.
“He introduced himself professionally as David and some friends called him Dave,” said executive assistant Judy Lovatt, who was hired by Mr. Lacz 10 years ago.
“He was the best person, so fun and he was never off that darn phone,” Lovatt said while seated at the conference table in Mr. Lacz’s office in Ft. Lauderdale. Photos of yachts and race crew and books line the walls where his computer desk faces out to the neighborhood and the client desk faces the large conference table.
Capt. Ken Bracewell remembered when he was first sitting in that office looking for work.
“He got me my first job on a yacht,” Capt. Bracewell said by phone from M/Y Evviva in New Zealand. “We first had a professional relationship, and then he became a friend. There are few people with a bigger heart; he was very charismatic.”
Mr. Lacz had a New Jersey accent and talked and moved fast.
“At first, it was hard for some to see past the New Jersey facade, but when you did, you found a loyal, kind man,” Capt. Bracewell said.
Patti Trusel, a longtime charter manager, first met Mr. Lacz at boat shows more than 10 years ago and later worked with him at Bartram and Brakenhoff as a brokerage assistant.
“I can’t say enough about him, he was wonderful, good with people,” Trusel said. “Even on difficult subjects like the listing price of their yacht, he maintained his humor. By the end of the conversation, without hurting their feelings, he had a client to a more realistic place.
“David loved every day, going to the office and being a part of the marine industry,” she said. “It was not just a job, not just to make money. He loved it. And there are not too many people like that.”
She said he had a great wit and used funny words such as bupkis.
“As in, ‘We’re not going to get bupkis,’ ” she said. “Even with all the stress of running a business, he always took the high side. I will always look to him as a good example.”
He loved the art of the deal, working with people and helping crew, she said.
“Captains came in all the time and he helped them find work,” she said. “He didn’t have to help them find a job, but he always helped and was always smiling. That’s how he should be remembered.”
A memorial service was held in mid-May at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Wyckoff, N.J. In lieu of flowers, his family suggested donations be made in his memory to his alma mater, Don Bosco Preparatory High School (donboscoprep.org). Friends and colleagues can contact Judy Lovatt at Bartram and Brakenhoff for future memorial gatherings.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.