David Newell Bazemore was a devoted husband, father, son, and brother; a caring optometrist; an accomplished athlete; a lover of nature; and an expert at goofing off and having fun. He loved God, his family, and his community. His bright light and warm, welcoming smile left us on March 15, 2023 after a decade-long fight with dementia.
David was born in Columbus, Georgia to Annie Merle Bazemore and Leo N. (Buddy) Bazemore, but spent most of his 70 years of life in his beloved Opelika, Alabama. As a child, he spent much of his days playing with his sisters Susan Bazemore Lazenby (Hugh) and Carol Bazemore White (Terry). He didn’t like sitting still and was always outdoors. Neighbors reported that when he had to mow the lawn of his family’s home, he would run behind the mower, bursting with energy and ready to get on to more interesting things. With his family, he attended First Baptist Church of Opelika, his church home for most of his life, and the place where he developed a deep love for God and for Jesus that was the focus of his life. In his teen years, he went to Opelika High School and lettered in four sports, annoying his friends with his prowess at every sport he tried. His favorite was basketball, which he continued playing as a college student at Auburn University. During his senior year of high school, his brother Steve Bazemore (Crystal) was born. Given their age difference, David saw Steve almost as a son, and spent time with Steve and his parents often, even while he was busy attending college. When his parents were older and developed dementia, David visited his parents every day, helping care for their bodies and spirits for years.
While living in Birmingham and attending optometry school at UAB, David met the love of his life, Joy Bazemore (nee Crawley). They bonded over their love of Jesus and their love of music, and they often sang together, the harmonic melding of their different yet beautiful voices providing a wonderful metaphor for their life together. Their daughters have fond childhood memories of their mom and dad singing together in their home, their mom playing the piano and their dad turning the pages. David was rarely happier than when he was singing with his “beautiful bride," with his daughters occasionally chiming in and disrupting the beauty of the music. As Joy cared for him during his years with dementia, his love for and devotion to her only deepened. They were married for almost 50 years, and their loving and committed relationship served as an example for countless couples.
David adored his daughters Grace Yukich, Shelley Spears (Shawn), Hillary White (Evan), and Heather Lee (Josh), with people often commenting on what a special love he had for “his girls.” He was at every performance and every sports match, cheering them on. He made them laugh with his puns and his pranks. He showed up when they needed a shoulder to cry on or a hug, even if it meant driving for hours to meet them where they were. He always supported and gently guided, never shaming them when they made mistakes. He encouraged them to pursue their interests and goals, even when their pursuits took them far away. He was the most loving and supportive and fun father anyone could imagine, and his daughters never doubted for a single second how very much they were loved by their dad.
David was a kid at heart and loved to play, ride his bike, spend time outside, make jokes, and do other things that kids love to do, and kids knew it. When the family took trips to the beach, he was the first one out in the water, body surfing on the waves and teaching his daughters how to time it just right to ride a wave all the way to the shore. His grandkids (Eleanor Yukich; Andre, Tyler, and Addie Spears; Wells, Emmy, and Sadie White; Bryant, Taylor, and Thomas Lee) loved playing with “the tickle monster,” and always knew they could count on “Pops” to play with them when other adults wanted to sit around and do boring things like talk. People around town knew that if they saw someone out riding their bike on a main road, there was a good chance it was “Dr. Bazemore,” enjoying the feel of the breeze on his face as he biked to work.
David had a strong work ethic, was committed to providing for his family, and viewed his job as an optometrist as an opportunity to serve the community. He started his career as an optometrist in the U.S. Navy. Throughout his career, he worked to ensure that people from all walks of life had quality eye care. His many patients loved him because he was a caring doctor and a good listener. He put even the most nervous patients at ease with his antics, joking with them to “look at his big ears” while he performed their eye exams. For years, he worked with the Lions Club to collect used eyeglasses for people in need, helping people in the U.S. and around the world have access to the gift of clear eyesight.
Throughout his life, but especially during his later years, David loved his evening walks. His favorite walks were ones where he could hold the hands of his wife or one of his daughters or grandkids, though he loved sharing walks with neighbors and friends as well. During these walks, he never missed the chance to comment on the beauty of nature. He would point out the blazing light of the sunset, the vibrant colors of the flowers in spring, or the warm hues of the changing leaves in fall. In an age when many of us are too distracted to notice the beauty around us, David’s loved ones remember him as fully present, helping others pay attention to the value in the places, things, and people that they might otherwise get overlooked.
David saw the value in everyone around him in part because of his deep and abiding faith in a God who loves and cares for all people. His faith in Jesus brought him great peace and joy, and that joy was evident in the friendly smile on his face as he greeted each person he encountered throughout his days. His ability to make people feel special and seen was a daily testament to God’s love and delight in each and every person. At the end of his life, when David had lost much of his ability to communicate, he still carried his worn copy of the New Testament with him everywhere in his pocket and hummed the tunes of favorite hymns, Jesus still his dearest companion. When we miss him, and we will miss him terribly, we will take comfort in the thought that David is with his Jesus now, and that the love he showed those around him is now being showered upon him a thousand-fold.
A visitation will be held at Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home in Opelika, AL on Friday, March 17, 5-7 p.m. A memorial service celebrating David’s life will be held on Saturday, March 18 at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Opelika, AL. He will be buried at Garden Hills Cemetery in Opelika, AL in a private graveside service.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Lions Club International https://www.lionsclubs.org/ or to Refreshing Waters Respite https://refreshingwatersrespite.org/, an organization dedicated to providing respite for people caring for those with long-term illnesses.