Most people know David Deao as the owner of The Winery, a great little spot for buying wine and grabbing a made-from-scratch lunch.

But Deao’s successful business wasn’t top of mind for his wife, Ellen, this week, as she talked about the man she’d lost too soon to a sudden illness.

Instead, she spoke of his enthusiasm for life, of companionship, love and devotion.

Yes, Deao, 64, put in many hours at the shop he’d run since 1986, but when he wasn’t there, he was fully focused on family and friends, she said.

“He was ... one of those wonderful people who wouldn’t let a day go by without telling you how much you meant to him,” she said. “Above all else, he was a grandfather to be admired, he adored his grandkids and took them on adventures.”

The couple had 39 years together and raised four children — a daughter, Jamie Frederick, and three sons, Jeff, Kevin and Patrick. Deao’s adventures with his grandchildren were much anticipated, she said, and included places as varied as the Durham Museum, Bakers Candies and DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.

“They called them GD Adventures for granddad,” his wife said.

The trips often reflected Deao’s varied interests, including history, music, sports and collecting.

In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by seven grandchildren, two brothers, Larry and Jim, a sister, Carolyn Allen and brothers- and sisters-in-law.

Deao helped launch vinNebraska, an event that celebrates fine wines while raising money for charity. To date, according to the program’s website, the effort has raised more than $5 million in partnership with local charities. He also served on the board of the Ronald McDonald House.

At The Winery, he considered his customers his friends, Ellen Deao said. When people asked him what wine to buy, he’d respond: “The best wines are the ones you like.”

Tributes were quick and many on the shop’s Facebook page.

One customer recalled how helpful Deao was when the customer was younger and couldn’t afford many nice wines.

“Dave treated me like a king and made me feel welcome,” he posted. “Dave taught me so much about wine and how to treat people. Our world needs more Dave Deao’s.”

The shop reopened after the funeral Wednesday.

“He would have wanted it that way,” his wife said.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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