David Michael Cardwell, age 74, of Hot Springs, AR, passed away on October 4, 2023. He lived a remarkable and fulfilling life, leaving an indelible mark on everyone he met.
David was a true renaissance man, boasting a remarkable array of talents and interests. He was a gifted musician, an accomplished engineer, an airplane pilot, a sailor, a ham radio operator, and an avid seeker of philosophical and metaphysical knowledge. His curiosity knew no bounds, and he embraced an astonishing variety of hobbies with unwavering passion. His ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and make them feel like an old friend was a testament to his warm and welcoming spirit. He was not just a beloved father, brother, son, and friend, but a cherished mentor and inspiration to many.
Born in 1949 to Ralph and Maggie Cardwell in Hickory, NC, David’s early years were steeped in the love of music. He grew up in a family of musicians, where the sounds of banjos, guitars, and fiddles filled the air. These early memories sparked a lifelong passion for music, and by the age of three, David was already captivated by the enchanting world of melodies. His childhood was filled with music circles, where bluegrass, gospel, and popular tunes played late into the night, followed by heartfelt prayers before bedtime.
In 1957, David’s family moved to Houston, TX, where they started an upholstery business. From a young age, David learned the value of hard work in the family upholstery shop. He picked up many hobbies and at his mother’s urging, he even dabbled in ballet classes, and he once shared the dance floor with a young Farrah Fawcett! Music continued to be a central part of his life when he picked up the silver flute in the James S. Hogg Jr. High Band. His love for learning new instruments blossomed when he traded his English rider bicycle for a Silvertone Electric guitar from Sears & Roebuck. Around the same time, David’s fascination with electronics began to take root as he started building electronic kits in 1961. His very first creations were walkie-talkies, which he later modified to craft a homemade wireless guitar link.
In 1967, David enlisted in the US Navy to serve during the Vietnam War effort. While stationed stateside, he worked as an Electronics Technician Petty Officer and part-time Yeoman, solidifying his passion for electronics. After his discharge, David embarked on a remarkable journey, hitchhiking across the country from Texas to Vancouver Island. He continued his travels along the Alaskan Highway, serenading cabins, churches, and open valleys with his flute wherever the spirit moved him.
Following his adventurous pursuits, David embarked on a diverse career path that showcased his multifaceted talents. He first ventured into the skies as a pilot and flight instructor, honing his skills for aviation. Subsequently, he pursued higher education, earning his engineering degree, and continued his passion for avionics as a field engineer working across several southwestern states before eventually finding his way to Little Rock, AR. In 1987, he accepted a position at UAMS in the NMR Spectroscopy Laboratory, where he supported imaging research and clinical functional brain imaging by building RF coils and contributing to NMR/MRI RF techniques.
David’s dedication to this work led to numerous publications and even a patent for a portable MRI stereotactic system. His work allowed him to explore the world, attending research conferences both domestically and abroad, with favorite destinations including Hawaii and Kyoto, Japan. Even after his retirement in 2013, David continued to follow MRI research with fervor.
In Little Rock, David further nurtured his love for music by becoming part of various musical communities. In 1986, he joined the “Whiff ‘N Sip” weekly jam session, where he expanded his musical horizons, playing flute, guitar, percussion, and singing across different genres. In 1988, he became a member of a newly formed “Irish” session, delving into traditional tunes and rediscovering his love for reading music. This experience led him to join the Little Rock Flute Choir in 1993, where he played flute and guitar for twelve years. In 2003, David joined the UALR Community Orchestra, playing piccolo and flute and enjoying a diverse repertoire of classics and contemporary tunes. Throughout this period, David’s musical spirit soared as he also engaged in several other musical ventures, including Rackensack Folklore Society, drumming at the UALR Wesley Foundation, and even hosting KABF community radio shows.
Upon retirement, David returned to his wanderlust lifestyle, towing a small RV trailer and exploring the country. With encouragement from his late travel partner, Shanny Obermiller, he moved to Hot Springs, AR, in 2017, settling on a beautiful plot of land down Triplecreek Lane. There, he immersed himself in the joys of building, hiking, and reveling in the beauty of the Natural State. Always eager to make new connections and share stories, he found kindred spirits in Hot Springs through music, the local community radio station, KUHS, community theatre and dance, and The Star Portal to name a few.
David was not only an exceptional musician and engineer but also an amazing playmate and father to his two children, Erik and Sky. Throughout their childhoods, David exposed Erik and Sky to the wonders of music, art, culture, and adventure. Their shared love for music created a bond that will forever live on. Their cross-country road trips were legendary, with unforgettable adventures that took them to the Appalachian Mountains, the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Coast Highways, and countless places in between and beyond.
David is preceded in death by his parents and his uncle, Paul Peterson. He is survived by his children, Erik Cardwell and Sky Cardwell; his granddaughter, Ava Cardwell; his sister and brother-in-law, Sherry and Ronnie Kelm; his nieces and nephews, Chris Kelm (Kate), Nicole Wylie (Keir); his great-nieces and nephew, Brielle, Elise, Celia, and Felix Wylie; his cousins, Judy Mallory, Dena Gambrell, and Jim and Carole Fletcher; his aunts, Peggy Peterson and Evon Ingleburger-Peterson; his children’s mothers, Regina Spence and Lindy Fair; as well as numerous other cherished family members and countless friends.
David’s life was a symphony of experiences, a tapestry woven with threads of music, exploration, and boundless curiosity. He will be deeply missed but forever remembered in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing him.
For those in the central Arkansas area, we invite you to join us in celebrating his life on Wednesday, October 11th at 11:00 am at The Star Portal (208 Gum Springs Rd, Mountain Pine, AR). For those unable to attend in person, we will also be streaming and recording the service, allowing us to come together in spirit here: https://psu.zoom.us/j/98235390472.