Chicago Icon Dave Feldman Remembered by Friends, Colleagues

Longtime Chicago Sun-Times Turf writer Dave Feldman was remembered by friends, colleagues and even some of his fellow Broken Down Horseplayers during memorial services in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon. Feldman died from heart failure on Monday night -- six days before the Kentucky Derby and decades after he began answering a "How you doin?" greeting from people with "I'm dyin!"

As friends told stories of Feldman's career in racing, which ranged from track announcer to owner, trainer, breeder, television and radio commentator, and head of the Chicago Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Chicago icon lay at rest in a coffin covered with dozens of Derby-red roses and two horses shoes, one saying simply "good luck." The services were held at Chicago's Piser Original Weinstein Chapel and interment followed at Westlawn Cemetery Mausoleum. Feldman is survived by his wife, Fern. The couple had no children.

Feldman was born on Chicago's West Side and started attending Arlington Park at the age of 12. Shortly thereafter he was running bets to the track from the Chicago Herald Examiner, and by 16 he was selling his handicapping services to newspapers. He became Turf editor of the Herald-American in 1939, moved to the Chicago Daily News in 1969 and, when that paper folded in 1978, to the Sun-Times. He was recognized everywhere he went at Chicago tracks and was most popular with everyday fans, a group he identified with as founder of the Broken Down Horseplayers, or BDH, an abbreviation he carried on his license plate.

Sun-Times sports editor Bill Adee recalled the many "Feldmanisms" he learned working with the flamboyant, sometimes gruff man, whose book, "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda," tells the story of his life. "Don't bet in the mud; you'll only get dirty...Don't bet every day on every race or you're an idiot, got it?" Adee also spoke of Feldman's big heart, and the high esteem in which the writer was held by his fellow Sun-Times employees. Feldman, known as the "King" in Chicago racing circles, received a standing ovation whenever he arrived or left the newsroom in his later years.

Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois, who with Adee served as one of the pallbearers, recalled Feldman's love of the sport and the people in it. "If you loved horses, Dave loved you," Duchossois said. "It didn't matter if you were a groom, a jockey, a trainer, a parking attendant, a fan, or the richest guy in the world. If you loved horses, Dave loved you."

Dr. Michael A. Ruchim, Feldman's personal physician who also became one of his best friends, spoke of Feldman's birthday parties, which in recent years he enjoyed so much he began celebrating every six months. "He was convinced he was going to die for years," Ruchim said.

Ruchim said Feldman spoke seriously about quitting his job at the newspaper several years ago when he said he could get six months of severance pay from Adee. "I said to him, 'How could you quit? This is what you live for.' Dave said to me, 'Doc, I got a month to live, maybe two. Don't you get it? Six months pay. It's a good deal."

Another friend remembered Feldman this way: "He was the greatest and he never ceased to say so."