David William Florence Jr., a business visionary who left an indelible mark in the field of direct mail marketing, died February 13, 2023, in Rye, N.Y. He was 92. His quiet compassion, mentoring, and civic-minded giving made a human impact that was as lengthy as the database lists he pioneered.
Born in Houston, Texas, on November 30, 1930, Dave grew up in Texas until the age of 8, when his father’s work took the family to New York, and they settled in Scarsdale.
Dave went on to graduate from Scarsdale High School and attended Dartmouth College on an R.O.T.C. scholarship. After Dartmouth, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, damaging his hearing during Camp Lejeune combat drills. Under the G.I. bill, he graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s in Business Administration.
After he and Michelle Myers were married at Christ’s Church in Rye in May of 1958, they lived briefly in San Francisco, Manhattan, and Port Chester, N.Y., before settling in Rye to raise a family.
Mr. Florence began his career in earnest with IBM as a salesman in their Data Processing Division, also working for the Royal McBee Corp. He entered direct marketing by opening the New York office for National Business Lists, then broke off to start his own List Management Inc. in 1967. Two years later, he founded Direct Marketing Inc. (later Direct Media Inc.), which became an industry leader in list management brokerage, and by 1971, launched the first public mailing-list database. In this capacity, he served as a former director of the Advertising Mail Marketing Association and of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), as well as a trustee of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation.
In 1987, he received the Direct Marketing Club of New York Silver Apple Award and in 1993 he received the DMA List Leader of the Year Award. In October 2004, his career in the field was capped by induction in the DMA Hall of Fame, along with such posthumous honorees as Benjamin Franklin.
While industrious and intently focused on innovation and with his characteristically droll sense of humor (he was once reported to have shown up early for work in chino pants and a pajama top), he was long praised as a humane, easygoing executive who championed efforts to promote and mentor a large number of women in top company ranks.
Without seeking fanfare or personal credit, he took a dedicated interest in providing opportunities for inner-city children, giving his time to host many through the Fresh Air Fund. He was a trustee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City and active in supporting many local and national charities. On an informal basis, he and his wife Michelle took in numerous single mothers.
Alongside his marketing career, he helped his wife operate Don Travel in the early 1970s, an outgrowth of their lifelong love of adventure and global exploration, that included taking their young children along on cruises aboard the Queen Elizabeth II, among many others.
“Our father was kind and caring, and showed up at every school function, piano recital, or football game,” said his children.
He had a lifelong passion for Traditional New Orleans Jazz and a strong affinity for the culture of the city, to the point of maintaining an apartment in the French Quarter.
Dave was a founder and active member of the Westchester-Fairfield Jazz Society, responsible for planning local events and producing music festivals.