Though he lived in countries all over the world, including China, Thailand, Colombia, and New Zealand, Dave Lightle’s heart never left Tipp City. From his athletic achievements, Lightle broke records, even making the Guinness Book of World Records. Records are made to be broken, while humanitarian efforts are everlasting. With his death in August of 2016, Lightle left the earth to early, but through his heart, Lightle’s competitive spirit remains in Tipp City and will continue to inspire future generations.
A 1976 graduate of Tippecanoe High School, Lightle ran for both cross country and track, setting a number of records, including his time for 1600 meter (4:20), which stood for over thirty years until broken by Sam Wharton. Lightle was the cross country League, District, and Regional Champion in 1974. In his junior year, Lightle finished second at the State meet and placed sixth as a senior. With the track team he earned All-Ohio honors for three consecutive years. His running earned him a full four year scholarship to Dartmouth.
As a tribute to Lightle, the family has named the Tipp City Cross Country Invitational as the Dave Lightle Invitational. “It’s what he would have wanted. He loved Tipp City, the school and cross country,” Keri Mallett, said of her father.
In 1973, Lightle accomplished his goal of making the Guinness Book of World Records by making 31,547 consecutive jumps on a pogo stick. On a hot summer day, June 23, the feat was done in the parking lot of the Town & Country shopping center and took five hours to complete. “He would tell you that he could have kept on going, wasn’t tired at all, but the soles of his rubber shoes started to smoke. The fire department had to hose him off. He then started passing a football with some of the kids watching, and his foot slipped off because it was wet. Otherwise he would have gone longer,” said Mallett.
The record was broken by someone a couple of months later, but with a certificate of authenticity from Guinness, Lightle got all that he wanted. “He just wanted to be in the Guinness Book and thought the pogo stick was a record he could break. If there was a record for how many hundreds of bananas you could eat in five minutes he would have tried for that,” said Lightle’s brother, Mike.
After the record was broken, Lightle appeared on the Dayton based, children’s show ‘Clubhouse 22,’ in which he pogo jumped throughout the entire episode. It was watched by many children in Tipp City on that day.
While at Dartmouth, Lightle studied abroad in Russia for three months and Taiwan for six months. In Taiwan, he met Chen Ya, and they would be married for 37 happy years. Lightle worked for the Taiwanese government and wrote speeches for their President. He would later also work under Peter Hannaford and wrote speeches for President Ronald Reagan.
Lightle’s chief occupation was as a country image consultant, which provided him the opportunity to live in so many places. He also advised governments and manufacturers about international marketing. “Some people in Tipp thought that he was a spy for being out of the country so much,” his brother Matt said.
In addition, Lightle was chief executive and co-founder of the Dayton based ‘Wright Brothers, USA’ a marketer of Wright Brothers merchandise and intellectual property. Several years ago Lightle wrote the script for an animated cartoon based on the Wright Brothers, which is currently being pitched to production companies.
While in high school, Lightle also played basketball, was All-League, but he may best be remembered for a shot he made in the late nineties, long after graduation. At half time of the boys Varsity games, the member of the crowd with a program signed by the coach would be selected to take a shot from half court to win the 50-50 raffle. It was the last home game of the season, nobody had made the shot all year, so the winnings was up into the thousands. Always a strong competitor, Lightle was determined to win the 50-50. “He came to the gym early and bought all of the programs. Then went out to his car and searched through them all to find the one with the coach’s signature. He kept it and returned the rest to be sold,” Mike explained.
In front of a packed crowd, Lightle was selected to take the shot and since it had yet to be made, he was given the chance to instead try a three pointer. Lightle refused, as he wanted to shoot from half court. “People were booing. While lots of people loved Dave, some others thought he was arrogant,” Mike said. “He took the shot from half court and made it. The crowd erupted. Then when he was given the money, he refused it and wanted it given right back to the Tipp Athletic Foundation.”
Though too short, Lightle’s life was full. “I think he did more in his 58 years than I could ever do,” Mallett said.
Through the Dave Lightle Invitational, his accomplishments will live on, along with the memories he provided to so many others.