David Gross, whose work in the field of telecommunications included almost 30 years of service at the former Medical College of Ohio, where his intimate knowledge of the vast communications network at its South Toledo campus helped to usher in a unified communications platform after the merger of MCO in the mid-2000s with the University of Toledo, died Sunday at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, after succumbing to a brief illness. He was 76 and a native of the area around New Philadelphia, who lived the latter half of his life in rural Cygnet.
Primed perhaps for an early life on the road, Mr. Gross’ first job was on a bicycle, at the age of 13, tossing the Coshocton Tribune onto the porches of sleeping houses in the foothills of Appalachian Ohio, where he grew up. After graduating from high school, amongst other odd jobs, including managing a service station and working in an ice cream factory, he made deliveries as a driver for 7-Up.
He enrolled briefly at the New Philadelphia branch of Kent State University, where he studied business, but left after an opportunity arose in the early 1970s to get into the growing telecommunications industry. In 1978, Mr. Gross would take to the road once more, where he landed a job as a roaming field service technician for GTE, then the largest independent telephone company in the United States, and he would ride it into the mid-1980s.
His work on that road, which at one point led him to Nebraska where he lived for a period in Lincoln, was work that inspired within him a curiosity for what else was out there. Around that time, he took a trip with his brother Steve to San Diego, where Mr. Gross had lined up an interview for a job there. For Mr. Gross, it would be as far as the road went. Back home, in a place where the heart is said to grow, in Ohio, where his local GTE office in Bowling Green was, he had already begun dating the woman with whom he’d raise three kids in a marriage that would last 37 years but have no end.
Following a yearlong romance, Mr. Gross in 1986 married the former Linda Reynolds in a Valentine’s wedding in which she wore pink. That same year, he went to work for MCO, which would, following the merger with UT, become known later as the University of Toledo Medical Center. It would prove for Mr. Gross, a man who had long been on the move, to be his final stop.
With shared responsibility for the supervising of all telecommunications systems on UTMC’s Health and Science Campus, including its 300-bed hospital, he was, by the time of his 2015 retirement, as much a presence on the floors there as the doctors with whom he walked them.
To those though who best knew Mr. Gross, his real living was made not from any job from which came a salary but from a labor of love that he learned from his father. He was, like his father before him, who had built by hand the childhood home in which Mr. Gross was in post-war America raised, an artist. That love’s labor began in December of 1990 when Mr. Gross, who was 43 years old and only just beginning to hit his stride, moved his wife and their young family into a ranch on an austere five acres of land in southern Wood County, which before their arrival the wild had begun to claim back. Fueled by a fondness for work done outdoors and by the industrious spirit instilled in him by his father, Mr. Gross, with his hands as his brush and his canvas the landscape around him, would over the course the next 30-plus years meticulously turn it into his living masterpiece. Such artistry is evident to anyone who visits this sylvan setting, where in a backyard that company often likens to being in a park, rings true the old adage that in some places the grass really does grow greener.
With nearly one hundred trees of striking variety—including aging Maples whose crowns Mr. Gross still kept neatly trimmed, even as he in age grew along with them—myriad gardens, patches of wild crawling with native grasses, and a pond, an acre around, as blue and unspoiled as bodies of water much wider, it became, his masterpiece, a central place for friends and family to gather on the long days of summer.
He often lamented, the older he became, the fact that he never started a business around landscaping, which he believed had been his calling. Despite whatever calls he may have missed from clients that could have been, or in spite of them perhaps, the call to sow the seeds of a place his family could call home was duly answered.
David Dean Gross was born to Charles and the former Wilma Stocker at Coshocton Hospital, the oldest of five children, on June 13, 1947, in a small town of the same name, in Ohio’s Amish Country. His father was a master craftsman who owned and operated Gross Body Shop in nearby Newcomerstown, where he and his wife, a homemaker and virtuoso behind a stove, whose chicken and dumplings were a favorite of everybody’s, raised their young family before moving later to New Philadelphia.
Mr. Gross was preceded in death by both.
He leaves his wife and three children, Jennifer (Matt) Reynolds of Wayne, Christopher Gross of Detroit, and Brittany (Landyn) Butler of Portage; and two grand children, Bryce Reynolds of Chicago, and Ryder Reynolds of Cygnet. Also surviving are two brothers, Richard (Rose Ann) Gross of Ashland, and Steven Gross of Dover; and two sisters, Deborah (Tom) Carr of Dover, and Linda (Jim Adams) of New Philadelphia.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, February 9, 2024 at Barndt Funeral Home in Wayne, where a funeral service will be held on the following morning at 11 a.m., with Pastor Doug McKinney officiating. Burial will be at Mt. Zion Cemetery near Wayne.
Memorial contributions may be given in his memory to missions at Christ’s Church in Bowling Green or to Operation Christmas Child.