David R. Bush

David R. Bush

October 31, 1951 ‐ January 12, 2022
David R. Bush
Birthplace: Kittery, Maine Resided In: North Ridgeville, Ohio

Dr. David Richard Bush Ph.D, 70, of North Ridgeville, Ohio died Wednesday, January 12th.  Born to the late Patricia Jean Bryer and William Robert Bush, October 31st, 1951, Dr. David Richard Bush graduated from Canton McKinley High School in 1969. He attended Miami University in 1973, graduating with a BA in Anthropology. He earned a Masters degree in 1974 from Kent State University. Dr. Bush went on to earn a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Case Western Reserve University in 1987.

Dr. Bush held many professorships, along with director and board positions at Case Western Reserve University, University of Pittsburgh, and lastly from 1998-2017, Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Center for Historic and Military Archaeology at Heidelberg University. Dr. Bush's ultimate professional legacy was his passion and dedication for field work and study of Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison. As founder and Chairman of The Friends and Descendants of Johnson Island Civil War Prison, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Johnson’s Island Prisoner of War Depot. Thru this he was able to get the land designated as a National Historical Landmark.  In 2011 he achieved a lifelong goal and authored “I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island, Life in a Civil War Prison”. In addition, he served his country as an Anthropologist in MIA-POW recovery for the U.S. Army in Vietnam.  Dr. Bush proudly recalled this service in SE Asia as a life changing event.

While at Heidelberg University, Dr. Bush mentored dozens of aspiring archaeologists and created the Johnson's Island Experiential Learning Program in Historical Archaeology, a program that allowed thousands of 5th - 12th grade students, teachers, and parents to experience history hands-on. Participants also gleaned insight into what life was like at a Civil War prison by listening to diaries and journals of the POWs. He led summer field schools, teacher workshops, and volunteer programs at Johnson's Island throughout his career.

David was preceded in death by his brothers, William Bush from Spring, Texas and Robert Bush, from Alexandra,Virginia . As a cherished life partner, David is survived by his loving partner, Sue Umbenhour of 29 years of Rocky River; his older brother Michael Bush (Kathy) from Lake Luzerne; his sons, Jacob Stuart Bush (Melody) of Stow, Adam Ross Bush (Erin) of Canal Fulton ;his grandchildren Jacob, Molly, and Easton.   David could be found playing tennis at Paramount Tennis Center in Westlake with both his life partner, Sue and tennis friends.  Most recently, an avid birdwatcher, feeder and photographer, David had several photos published and recognized. Aside from tennis, was fishing with his sons, Jake and Adam Bush, and maximizing his time with his grandchildren Molly, Jacob, and Easton, his daughter-in-laws, Mel and Erin.

Memorial services will be held May 21st from 10:30am till noon at Johnsons Island. 4005 E. Baycliffs Dr. Marblehead, Ohio 43440. Contact for the family is bushadmar@gmail.com.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made online to the Friends and Descendants of Johnson’s Island or mail donations to Friends and Descendants of Johnson's Island, Inc. 20545 Center Ridge Road, Suite 424, Rocky River, Ohio 44116

Guest Comments

Mina Abe
Tokyo, JAPAN

I was taught by Dr.Bush in Heidelberg College as an anthropology major back in 2001-2005. Especially can't forget the exciting, very educational and sweaty summer in Johnson's Island, where every morning he would pick me up at the college and drive with lunchpack and lots of water. I've been back in Japan since 2006 but as school year was starting, I thought of Heidelberg College (now called Heidelberg University) and Dr.Bush, and knew his passing. He was joyful and full of knowledge, and taught us so much. Thank you for every minute you spent with us. My prayer and thoughts will always be with you. Please rest in peace.

Nancy James
Cleveland, Ohio

As young person in high school/college, I worked with Dave in the '70's and '80's on a variety of archeological projects. Am pretty much stunned and shocked to learn of his early passing. He was always such a vibrant and energetic person. And just a great guy to be around. He was definitely an important important influence in my career as I moved through high school to college and then into my career. Rest well my old friend.

Bob Murray
Tiffin, Ohio

If there was a faculty meeting and Dave and I were missing, the Dean knew exactly where we were -- on the racquetball court. We played an incredible number of games and I lost an incredible number of games but it was wonderful being with him (even though he once hit me in the head and knocked me cold).
When some racial events occurred on campus, Dave and I combined our freshman classes and spend several hours brainstorming for answers. Dave always cared -- about his family, his friends and humankind in general.
My thoughts go to Sue and the rest of his family; Dave, we will miss you.

Henry Pabian
Wilton Manors

I knew Dave in High School. While we were not close friends, Dave was a good and decent guy. The world needs more people like Dave.
My condolences to his family.

John Nass, Jr.
Uniontown, PA

I first met Dave at an OAC meeting in 1977. The next year I was admitted as a member to the OAC and would always have a conversation with him at the fall meeting in Columbus, In 1981, I was hired by the OAC under the direction of Dave and G, Michael Pratt to help craft the first archaeological plan for Ohio using the RP3 model.

After I left Ohio for Pennsylvania, our paths diverged, but we did meet on a occasion in Ohio and then in Pennsylvania when he was employed at the University of Pittsburg. I always found Dave to by of good spirit and and dear colleague. Unfortunately, time has claimed many of the old Ohio gang and now Dave as well. He will be missed.

El Dorado Hills

I would like to send Dave's family my deepest condolences on his premature passing. I worked for Dave during his tenure as Regional Preservation Office at the Cleveland Museum of Natural history and for a while at Case. Dave was a great mentor to me and the life lessons he taught me have had an enormous impact on my life.
To this day every time I go by a corn field I'm reminded of our conversations while driving in his powder blue Bronco, and the hours we spent walking the fields of Northeastern Ohio looking for prehistoric sites.
He will be missed by all who were blessed to have had him a part of their lives.

Craig Lass
Berea, Ohio

I was blessed to know Dave since the ‘70’s. My lifelong passion for archeology began with my first project for him in 1976. Dave was a great mentor and consummate professional. Many wonderful memories of working with him on various projects in the ’70’s & ‘80’s. Grand sense of humor, wonderful storyteller. All around terrific guy. Sincere condolences to his family.

Paula K. Underwood
San Antonio Texas

I met Dr. Bush many years ago when he came to lecture when I was stationed in Virginia with the U.S.Army. I brought him a letter from my Great Great Grandfather who was a prisoner at Johnson’s Island. He had written it to his wife. I made a copy for him and he later published a quotation from it in the newsletter. I was so sorry to hear of his passing. My condolences to his life partner, sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

Andy Doman
Stow, OH

I really enjoyed getting to meet Dr. Bush and participating in the Johnson's Island archaeological digs every year with my high school students. It was an awesome program, and I have missed it ever since Dr. Bush retired and hoped it would return. Thank you Dr. Bush!

Nick DeGregorio
Pittsburgh, PA

Dave and I were kindred spirits through high school, always practicing football together in the offseason. Dave always worked to become better and drove me to become better just as he did for so many in their academic careers. The bond of friendship we shared is enduring. Dave was dedicated to his family, grinds, colleagues, and students. We will all miss him dearly.

Judy Davidson Rose
Shawnee, Kansas

I met Dave in kindergarten and was a classmate through high school. He was everyone's friend, a stellar student and gifted athlete (McKinley HS football). He had a perpetual smile and a genuine kindness about him always that left an indelible imprint on all who knew him. He was admired and respected by everyone. We all lost a good man and friend. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

Timothy E Montgomery

Met Dave when he pelted me with apples from his trees with Mike when I was the new kid in the neighborhood. He became a good friend until we parted ways for college. Rest in Peace Dave.

Pete Fleck

I just found out of the loss of my friend and fellow "digger" at Johnson's Island. I learned so much from him. I love the three school seasons I was honored to help him with teaching high school students about JI and finding artifacts. He shared his smarts and leadership skills to 1000's of students and JI enthusiasts. He is going to be missed by so many he knew and influenced. Rest in Peace!!

Pete Fleck

I just found out of the loss of my friend and fellow "digger" at Johnson's Island. I learned so much from him. I love the three school seasons I was honored to help him with teaching high school students about JI and finding artifacts. He shared his smarts and leadership skills to 1000's of students and JI enthusiasts. He is going to be missed by so many he knew and influenced. Rest in Peace!!

Kelly Johnson Erwin

I know so many people will always think of you & Johnson's Island together.

I can't imagine going back without it feeling like something is just missing. It won't make sense without you.

Thank you for letting me volunteer. I learned so much & had so much fun.

Esther Yoder Strahan
Bluffton, OH

Dave was a valued friend and colleague at Heidelberg. Some of us would get together on Friday afternoons, and we were always happy when he could join us. He had a wonderful appreciation of the ridiculous.

When our Rottweiler Bridget became jealous upon the birth of our child, Dave kindly took the dog "for a few weeks" while we figured out what to do. Fortunately, he and Bridget became good companions, and he decided to keep her. That was a huge relief, and I think both he and Bridget were pretty happy with the arrangement.

Thanks, Dave, for being a wonderful colleague and an exceptional teacher and mentor to so many students!


Mark Kollecker
Walton Hills, Ohio

Dave was a mentor, colleague and friend for 40 years. He hired me for my first full-time job as an archaeologist. My wife and I met when we worked for him at the University of Pittsburgh. I will always cherish my memories of fieldwork with Dave. My sincere sympathies to the families of Dave and Susan. You will surely live on in the memories of all whose lives you have touched. I will miss you.

Grayce schor
Placitas, New Mexico

Nothing shocks and hurts as much as an untimely passing. Finally wrapping my head around the fact that we won’t see you as we pass by end of January…you gave my dearest friend companionship, stimulation, and inspiration in many ways; playing tennis, sharing family, traveling, and with her love of art. She loved you dearly. For me it was your warmth and depth of knowlege as we debated metaphysics vs. anthropolgy! You will be sorely missed and we will all remember your bigger than life presence and smile.

Susan Carty
Tiffin OH

always smiling, that's how I'll remember him.

Barb Gundy
Venice, Florida

My sincerest sympathies to Dave's family. I will remember Dave fondly for his sense of humor, steadfastness, and dedication to archaeology. One of my best memories of Dave was when he, as my boss at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Cultural Resource Research, presented me with my hood at my PhD graduation. Dave's insights into CRM and historic archaeology helped guide my professional archaeological career and I am thankful for having known and worked with him.

Marcia George
Rossford, OH

Sometimes you meet someone who changes the trajectory of your life, and Dave was that person for me. I never imagined when taking a teacher's workshop some 28 years ago, that it would turn into subsequent graduate classes, a PhD and eventually teaching the introductory class in historical archaeology that introduced me to Dave and Johnson's Island so many years ago. Working with Dave in developing and improving programs for students, teachers and volunteers consequently led me to becoming a trustee for FDJI. Many life long friends and connections were forged while digging and screening on Johnson's Island.
Dave's passion and dedication for JI was unparalleled. His knowledge, curiosity and sharp wit made collaborating not only stimulating and challenging, but also rewarding and fun. Over the thousands of discoveries and memories, from enduring the elements erecting and dismantling the weather port, to uncovering each unique artifact, Dave's enthusiasm never wavered. He brought people together and inspired them to consider the past from multiple perspectives and encouraged them to be stewards of the earth.
I know Dave had further aspirations for the site, the collections, and the historical records, and we (FDJI) will continue to work to achieve them. I will forever be grateful for his mentorship, encouragement and support, and will always treasure his friendship. His is truly missed.
To Sue, Jake, Adam and their families, my sincerest, heartfelt condolences. May his memory be eternal.

Mary Puffenberger
Tiffin, OH

Dave was a person who touched many lives and brought people together whose paths may have never crossed if it hadn’t been for him.

I was his administrative assistant at Heidelberg University and through him was introduced to the world of Archaeology. I enjoyed the assignments he gave me and took on each one of them as a challenge because most times they were not within the realm of “normal” administrative assistant types of duties. However, that is what I loved most. The work he gave me was interesting and fun and his passion for it contagious. It was a nice respite from my other clerical duties required by the several other academic departments I worked for. I’m thankful to Dave that he let me be part of his team even if it was in such a small way.

Dave expected a high degree of excellence from his students (and from me). I imagine they/I may have grumbled a few times, but it was for naught, because as it was achieved, it was exhilarating. I think that is what Dave did for people. He lifted us up and opened our imagination and outlooks and by his example, passion, and hard work, enriched our lives.

I am deeply saddened at his passing; this world will miss him. I think this quote describes Dave’s accomplished life. “There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they are gone the light remains” – Unknown.

I offer my heartfelt sympathy to his family. May your memories bring you peace, comfort, and strength in the days ahead.

Dr. Jeff Reichwein
Fredericktown Ohio

Dear Family and Friends of Dave I share in your sorrow over his untimely passing. Dave, Mike Pratt, Wes Clarke, Larry Baker James Yingst and I were in the Anthropology program at Miami U in 1973 under Dr. Ron Speilbauer. Dave's lifelong professional career as an Ohio archaeologist was quite amazing. Expertise in both prehistoric and historic periods. Founding member of the Ohio Archaeological Council at the age of 24, and president for several years. Dave was a fellow action archaeologist who involved the public and students in his research, especially with Johnson's Island history . I enjoyed his sense of humor and he always held a commanding presence among our colleagues. My friend Dave your a top notch rock star in Ohio archaeology forevermore. Miss you Man!

Gene Damon
Findlay Ohio

Thank you Dave for the many lessons and opportunities you gave to my students and to me. We will all miss that voice and that laugh. What a deep discerning laugh.

Mike Woshner
Pittsburgh, PA

My sincere sympathies to Dave's family and all those who were close to him. I met Dave in the mid-1990s and he introduced me to archaeology and Johnson's Island. I worked with him, laughed with him, learned from him and his students during teachers' workshops for many years. I will miss him as will many others. I remember an old quote that reads, "When a man dies, a library burns down." That is certainly the case with Dave.

Dianna Schweinfurth
LaRue, OH

I want to send my sympathy to Sue, Jacob, Adam and all of Dave's family. I know his family was very important to him. I'm sure his passing doesn't seem quite real, it doesn't to me.
I feel sure Dave made an impression on anyone he met. He certainly did on me and I have always been glad I signed up for a summer class for educators one summer many years ago. Dave was so dedicated to his passion for history and archaeology that it was infectious. He was a great teacher and patient. Every summer thereafter I was at Johnson's Island, and many times brought my high school students. He was very good with the kids and they always wanted to go back. We helped raise money to "save the island" because of his enthusiasm. He often gave up evenings to stay at the university and open his artifacts lab to allow my students to learn more about preservation. Many of them wanted to continue in his field, a great tribute to his teaching.
I'll always remember the lunch circles at the dig, where we would get out our sack lunches and sit in a circle, just sharing the friendship and stories and Dave would always read to us from the diaries. I am so happy that we were able to get together this past November to start work on the next big project. It was great to see everyone again, and catch up with Dave. We sat outside on a surprisingly sunny day, in another circle, ate our sack lunches, just reminiscing and contemplating life.
I'll miss his wit, his wry funny smile, and his perspective on life. Lots of people will.

Amanda Manahan
Oberlin, OH

Dr. Bush was a friend and mentor to many. I'll always cherish my memories of working with him at JI as a student, and I'm so grateful for being able to reconnect with him these last few years. The history and archaeology world has lost a great person. My heart goes out to his family and those closest to him.

Annie Polk
Denver, CO

To Suzi, Jake and family, Adam and family, Chris, Gehry and all of his grandchildren-
In two years of such sadness and struggle, it seems altogether unfair to lose a loved one. I am heartbroken for all of you and I know that his passing leaves a very large hole in your lives. I feel lucky to be a part of his extended family and to have witnessed his intelligence, conviction, and calm presence. There are many memories of family trips and I was looking forward to many more. In the past few days, the memories of Dave that keep surfacing the most are when he held each of my children as newborns and how easily they fell asleep in his arms. They were clearly as calmed by him as he was by them. We will miss you so much.

Dyan Berk and MIke Stiler
Ojai, CA

Our deepest condolences to Dave’s life partner, Susan Umbenhour, and sons, Gehry, Chris, and families and Dave’s children, their spouses, and grandchildren.
We experienced the relaxed side of Dave during several vacations that we shared with Sue and Dave. We witnessed the deep bond and love between them, Dave’s love of nature, and, of course, tennis. We had such good times together at his brother’s cottage in Lovell, Maine, Prince Edward Island, and Mendicino, CA.
Sue and Dave were educators and we were always impressed with their deep caring, commitment, and support for each other’s work, to their students, and to Dave’s work at Johnson’s Island.
We weren’t family but we always felt like family with Sue and Dave. Remembering now the many after-dinner, in-depth discussions about politics, education, family, relationships, and navigation of life in general. Dave never failed to reveal his intelligence, kindness, and commitment, not to mention his sense of humor.
You will be missed.

Ronald Strah
New Albany

My prayers go out to Dave's family. He was a good friend and an incredible competitor on the tennis court. We all feared facing his crushing forehand shots. RIP Dave.

Tom Gable
Rocky River, Ohio

Well, it's true as can be that what you don't know about someone can fill a book. Dave was a smiling joyful face for many summer mornings at The Tennis Club in Avon Lake. Here's hoping we can play a set on the other side some day. Rest in peace .

Al Tonetti
Columbus, Ohio

For Dave's Family: Remembering David R. Bush, OAC founder and Past-President.
Written by Al Tonetti, colleague of Dave's. This will appear on the OAC's website.

Dave Bush was instrumental in the founding and development of the Ohio Archaeological Council (OAC). In 1975, he was one of two featured presenters at the organizing meeting of the OAC, representing the Ohio Department of Transportation. He served as President from 1979-1981. Soon thereafter he held positions with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Case Western Reserve University, and served as the Regional Archaeological Preservation Officer for the Northeast Ohio Region of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the agency through which we met. Dave was a strong supporter and advocate for the regional system, which due to federal budget cuts ended in 1981. He participated in many efforts to improve the work of the SHPO, the OAC, and Ohio’s archaeological community, including development of a state archaeological preservation plan, and wrote the first publication about historic preservation and archaeology in Ohio (Archaeological Preservation in Ohio, 1978, Ohio Historical Society). In the 1990s, Governor Voinovich appointed Dave to terms on the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board. Dave also ran his own cultural resource management firm, David R. Bush, Inc., conducting hundreds of archaeological investigations in Ohio before joining the faculty at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.

Dave and I had a few memorable experiences with his work at the site of Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison in Ottawa County, Ohio. Dave was the leading advocate for and primary author of the successful National Historic Landmark nomination for Johnson’s Island, assisted by former National Park Service chief historian Ed Bearss and me. He did not shy away from tough and controversial matters even when it seemed it would be for naught. Last fall, at my request, Dave agreed to present a summary of his work at Johnson’s Island at the OAC’s 2022 spring membership meeting, and an interview with me on his perspectives on the founding of the OAC, whose 50th anniversary we celebrate in 2025, and the future of Ohio archaeology. I am deeply saddened we did not have the time.

Sue Umbenhour
Rocky River, OH

A letter to David

When we were introduced, by Laurie and John Brown, in1992, I remember it, like it was yesterday, the smile you gave when we turned to meet. Our ability to laugh easily was there from the beginning as we gradually fell, deeply in love. We had an enormous respect for each other’s work, but we looked forward to our relationship, each weekend of laughter, play, and music. I’ll never forget dancing with you in Pittsburgh. When struggle came into our midst, we exchanged thoughts and tenderness. Our deep bond was a connective grief we shared about frustrations with humanity, and how certain peoples are treated inappropriately.

KNOW how grateful I am for our life together – being in the outdoors with you, our summers in Maine, skiing in the snow, TENNIS with our family & friends (together and apart), and your commitment to me, the simple gestures of feeding ourselves, and the birds. It seems like it is all wrapped in a beautiful package that doesn’t require paper. It is covered and COLORED by Molly, Satya, Jacob, Easton, Jules, Sybil and Kai. We are all missing you. These precious grandchildren are seeds we have planted for tomorrow, with hopefulness, seeds of empowerment. We had many failures but we kept going. I like to think about it, as Cornell West said, “learn how to die daily, try again, fail again, fail better. Don’t be smart, be wise.”

I feel your tenderness. With love, and an amazing 29 years. I am heartbroken your body has left us BUT HOPEFULLY Aretha is singing somewhere nearby.

Lovingly, Suzi

Susan Behm
New Philadelphipa

To the Family of David Bush. Our thoughts and prayers go out to each of you on the passing of your loving Family member, David. What a wonderful legacy he has left the world as a keeper of the history at Johnson Island, a Mate, Father, grandfather, brother, Uncle, Friend, and colleague to so many. Rest in Peace Dr. Bush.

Dennis Disbrow
North Ridgeville, Ohio

So sad to hear of his passing. I have such great memories of him from the Park Day events on Johnson’s Island, directing our efforts to clean up the island, installing the historical markers, and the guided tours of the site. He will be missed.

Janna Amole
Cuyahoga Falls

My sincerest condolences to the Bush family. A very accomplished life taken too soon. I am very sorry for your loss.

Jan Husband

Our sincerest condolences to the Bush family from the Husband family.
Dave had such a dry sense of humor, a kind spirit and a great laugh which we so enjoyed.
He was so knowledgeable in his work. It was always interesting to hear about Johnson’s Island and his digs. He brought history alive.
Dave and my sister had an endearing, loving relationship. They were soul mates. They had a lot of fun together.
We are heartbroken for her and everyone. He will surely be missed.

Linda Stine
Tiffin, OH

I met Dave at Heidelberg. I am honored to have known him and call him my friend. He was always so kind and giving. Dave, you will be greatly missed. My condolences to his family. My heart goes out to you all.

Casey Losey

I will always remember how Dr Bush would make my students feel important when they would go to Johnson’s Island to dig. He was one of a kind and definitely will be missed.

Elizabeth Pursley

Grateful for the times spent with Dave-family gatherings, vacations, and more. So many wonderful memories. Sending healing thoughts and energy to his family.

"What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose;
all that we deeply love becomes a part of us."-Helen Keller

Penny Rakoff & Eli Becker
Cleveland Heights, OH

We always enjoyed the company of David. We’re so sorry for your loss.

Gehry O.
Oakland, California

Dave you were present for me always and your kindness and calculated approach to life taught me so much. I found this quote by Aldo Leopold - who was a hunter, fisher, and conservationist that reminded me of you… ‘There are two things that interest me: the relation of people to each other, and the relation of people to land’. May you Rest In Peace brother.

Matt Lawson
Plano, TX

Uncle Dave was always whip smart and quick with a joke. I cherish the holidays spent in Canton and the summer trips to Maine. Those were great times. He’ll be sorely missed. Love to the family.

John and Juliane Workley
Hudson, Ohio

Our deepest sympathies to the Bush Family. David has left the world a legacy not only in his amazing work but also his amazing children and grandchildren. May the he rest in the peace of Our Lord.

Ed. Patrick Liberty Aviation Museum
Port Clinton

Thank you Dr. Bush for your many dedicated years preserving history on Johnson's Island and inspiring others in your work. We will continue to further your work and preserve the archives and collection from Johnson's Island. Our sincerest condolences from everyone at the Liberty Aviation Museum. I will also personally miss you very much my friend.

Jose D Chavez
San Jacinto, California

Condolences to the Bush family, David will surely always be with you and watching over you all. God bless

Paul and Sharon Kelsey
Zanesville, Ohio

We were happy to be introduced and spend time with him at several of gatherings with Adam's family including Adam's wedding.
Doctor you were a father/grandfather every child should have! Share all you stories and experiences with everyone in heaven.


Going to really miss you old man.