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Rev. David Thomas Link, 85, of Notre Dame, IN, passed over to the Kingdom of God on Thursday evening, October 28, 2021. He remained steadfast in mind and spirit, with an endless desire to minister and share his gifts, until he was welcomed home.
David was born on August 24, 1936 in Sandusky, OH, to the late Frank and Amelia (Singler) Link. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 45 years, Barbara; infant daughter, Barbara Ann; sisters, Mary Jeanne Weyer and Dorothy Ann Burtch; brothers, Francis “Bud” and Lawrence Link; and beloved son-in-law, Michael C. Esparza.
David grew up in Sandusky, OH, on the banks of Lake Erie. On July 12, 1958, he married his childhood sweetheart and great love, the former Barbara Winterhalter, who preceded him in death on November 1, 2003. Their 45-year union was a lifelong testament to friendship, faith and devotion to those less fortunate - and an enduring inspiration to friends, colleagues and family alike. Together they brought a bounty of gifts to those lives they touched – David with his boundless and enduring optimism, Barbara with her gentle and humble grace.
David is lovingly remembered by his son, David C. (Susan) Link of Shorewood, MN; and his daughters, Mary Esparza of Austin, TX; Maureen (Mike) Favorite of South Bend, IN; Teran (Brian) Trauernicht of Baton Rouge, LA; and foreign exchange student who became like a daughter, Patricia Perez of Bogotá, Colombia. David is also survived by his fifteen grandchildren, David E. and MichaelDillon (Amanda) Link, and Kaytlin Richter, Elena (Martín) LaRocca, Mikey and Adriana Esparza, Jack (Samantha), Tommy, Helen and Will Favorite, Tyler, Megan and Ryan Trauernicht, and Emilio and Laura Obando; and two new great-grandchildren also recently graced his life, Mateo Joseph and Mia Lenore LaRocca. David is also survived by his dear brother, Frank A. (Susan) Link of Sandusky, OH.
There is no doubt he will also be fondly remembered by his wonderful extended family, his many colleagues throughout his varied careers, and the thousands of students he was so honored to teach and counsel over the years.
No remembrance will ever capture all of the accomplishments of David Thomas Link. He consistently chose to live a life of faith, peace and justice. From an early age, his heart for service was evident, and his adoring parents taught him to always strive to make the world a better place. In 1954, he graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Sandusky, Ohio where he met the love of his life, Barbara Winterhalter. Despite the distance in their relationship when David left to study at the University of Notre Dame, their love thrived. He diligently reminded her of his love by writing her a letter every single day they were apart. Upon graduation in 1958, he and Barbara married, and he began two more of his great loves: first by becoming a father and second by pursuing a law degree at Notre Dame.
Upon graduation from the Notre Dame Law School in 1961, David began his storied professional career: from service in the U.S. Naval Reserve; to working for the United States Department of Treasury under the Kennedy administration; to corporate tax partner at the law firm Winston and Strawn in Chicago. In 1970, he returned to teach at his alma mater, including a 24-year tenure as Dean of the Notre Dame Law School. Under his leadership, the school and faculty grew in national ranking and stature. He went on to be founding president and vice chancellor of the University of Notre Dame Australia, founding dean of the University of St. Thomas College of Law, and deputy vice chancellor and provost of the University of St. Augustine in Johannesburg, South Africa. He spent a lifetime dedicated to bettering the legal profession, including focusing on ethics, professional responsibility and creating a “different kind of lawyer” at the Notre Dame School Law School and later working for the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, focusing on his passion of law as a healing profession.
With all of these careers, adventures and influences, he is best known to many for his selfless service and dedication to peace initiatives, advocacy for human and civil rights and care for those less fortunate. This work included being part of the driving force for creating the South Bend Center for the Homeless, a frequent volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, guiding peace initiatives in the Middle East and Native American communities and being a tireless advocate and friend to the imprisoned.
After 45 years of marriage, Barbara left this world. Many speculated that David, as accomplished as he was, would be lost to a broken heart. Yet despite the tremendous void that was left in his life, David found a renewed purpose. With the encouragement of his mentor and friend Fr. Theodore Hesburgh and the gentle guidance of Barbara’s spirit, he entered the seminary and was ordained as a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Gary at the age of 71. He began ministering to the incarcerated at Indiana State Prison and Westville Prison, and found a community of people who benefited from his tremendous faith and fatherly compassion. He often described his newest vocation as moving “from success to significance” and preached the importance of a purpose-driven life. Above all, he was a loving servant and advocate to all that needed him. To quote a friend and colleague, “His defining identity was not tax attorney, law school dean, or even Catholic priest. His defining vocation, I suspect, was his heeding of the prophet Micah’s call ‘to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’”
Yet through all of his work, he was still the man who could tell a story or a joke like no other; fall out of a chair just to make his kids laugh; learn to do magic tricks to amaze his grandchildren; treat his entire clan to yearly trips to Cedar Point to ride his favorite roller coaster; share words of wisdom; and spin tales with the Old Geezers of the Law School. David touched many lives, too many to count, with his tremendous faith: faith in God’s grace; faith in beauty; faith in peace; faith in justice; and faith in everlasting love. He leaves a legacy of success and tremendous accomplishments. He also leaves a family that grew to 5 children, 15 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren to continue his legacy by telling his stories, sharing his faith, and seeing the beauty in the people who surround them. All of his accolades would never compare to the pride he had in his family and the love that he and Barbara created.
The loss of his life on this earth is a loss felt by all. But his memory will live through the lives that he touched, as we all are reminded to live our lives by seeing the best in everyone.
Dad, we watched as you walked hand in hand with mom through your marriage, and we watched you hold her hand as she left this earth. We now find peace in knowing you are hand in hand once again.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9:30am on Monday, November 8, 2021 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
Mass will be live streamed: https://campusministry.nd.edu/mass-worship/basilica-of-the-sacred-heart/funeral-live-stream/
Graveside services and burial will follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Notre Dame. Friends may visit with the family from 6:00-9:00pm on Sunday, November 7, 2021 at the St. Thomas More Chapel in the University of Notre Dame Law School, 1100 Eck Hall of Law, Notre Dame IN, where a rosary will be recited at 6:00pm. The family respectfully requests that masks be worn during the visitation.
Contributions in memory of David may be donated to Center for the Homeless, 813 S. Michigan St., South Bend, IN 46601; Dismas House of Indiana, 521 S. Saint Joseph Street, South Bend, IN 46601; or the University of Notre Dame Law School, 1100 Eck Hall of Law, Notre Dame, IN 46556.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com