FALMOUTH — For those who didn't know Dave Ebels or never saw a commercial for Ebels Hardware, the first thing they likely would notice would be his size and booming, deep voice.
To many, Dave would have been considered a giant, and at 6'10", it would be hard to argue. While the physical attributes were there, for those who knew Dave, he was a gentle giant who above all loved his family and God.
So when news started to come out Wednesday about a family emergency for the Ebels family, it sent shock waves throughout the Falmouth community.
Both Dave and Paul Ebels were sick. So sick that they needed to be airlifted to a Grand Rapids hospital. Dave never made the trip. Before he could leave, Dave passed away due to complications related to COVID-19.
Now the Falmouth community and the countless people who knew Dave are trying to make sense of the 6'10" hole the giant of a man left.
Dave wore his faith and love of God on his sleeve, so it should be no surprise that he was very involved with the community and his church, the Prosper Christian Reformed Church. He served on the church's board of elders and deacons and was the current president, according to fellow board member Mike Yount.
With so many looking for solace, Yount and the board members decided to come up with a statement about Dave. Yount took input from all the board members and then wrote those thoughts down.
While Dave was a physical giant, the statement said he also was a spiritual giant.
"It did not matter where he was or who you were, you would walk away from any time spent with Dave knowing there was 'something more' to him; and that something more was his faith in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," Yount wrote. "Dave could talk with anyone about anything (especially if it were firearm-related), but he never wavered in an opportunity to share the Grace of God."
Yount also wrote that Dave's death will more than leave a nearly 7-foot void within the church and community. The loss of his wisdom and passion to serve and love all those he encountered also will be mourned.
When asked about the impact Dave's loss was having on the community and region, Yount said he wasn't sure he was qualified to put words to that. He said Dave was big in stature, but so was his personality. Although he had a large frame and booming voice, he was friendly and inviting. Beyond that, Yount said he was sincere.
"He spoke his mind, but he spoke with grace as well. That is the legacy he wanted to leave," Yount said. "He knew his faith in the Lord and Savior and he wanted that to rub off on people."
Prosper CRC Pastor Dirk Koetje said in one word he could describe the feelings of the Falmouth community after news of Dave's death started spreading Wednesday — devastation.
A piece of Falmouth died with Dave this week, Koetje said.
"We are all feeling it," he said.
If, however, there is a silver lining in Dave's passing it is how the community is coming together to support the family and one another. Whether it is friendly text messages between the basketball coaches in McBain and Northern Michigan Christian, where Dave was a student, or neighboring churches lending a hand, Koetje said people are supporting each other.
"There is a reason this is a story that Dave passed away. Dave's personality and his warmth is the reason. It was who Dave was as a person," Koetje said.
Steve Ebels, the eldest of the Ebels brothers, told the Cadillac News on Friday that the experience is reminiscent of their father Harold's death.
"All of us kids were pretty young. And we were faced with kind of the same situation. And we just really were thankful at that time for the support that our community showed us," Steve said, adding that he hopes Paul and Dave's wives and children will feel the same support.
"We appreciated the support of our community and our area and our church," Steve said. "The faith that a lot of people in this area have, the spiritual faith and the foundation that they share with us strengthens us. And that was the case all those years ago back in the 1980s. All of us kids went through it, and we hope it's the same now."
Steve acknowledged that COVID-19 is sweeping through Wexford, Missaukee and Roscommon counties.
"It just makes you wonder what's going on," Steve said.
Although the community is reeling from Dave's passing, it also is gearing up for a fight. Dave may have lost his fight with COVID-19, but Paul is still fighting. As a result, you have a community that is grieving the loss of Dave and worried about Paul.
On Friday morning, a prayer service was held at the hardware store. While he is very ill, Paul is considered stable. Koetje said Paul is still very sick and on a ventilator but is in good care in Grand Rapids.
"The last we heard is that he is stable. What I hear now is no news is good news," Koetje said of Paul.