Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 27, 2020

From horror movies to happy ending

Zachary’s unusual journey (boxing Holyfield?) finally delivers him home


Like many native Chattanoogans who leave the city and then return years later, David Zachary has learned there’s no place like home.

He says this after having spent most of his adult life experiencing diverse corners of the world. From visiting Southeast Asia and Europe as a Marine to making low-rent horror films in California to working on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign in New Hampshire, Zachary has seen and lived in places that are very different his hometown.

His roots, however, are in Chattanooga, where he grew up playing football, running track and boxing.

As a boxer, Zachary won several Golden Gloves bouts and even made a valiant stand against a young Evander Holyfield, who went on to become world cruiserweight and heavyweight champion in the late 80s and early 90s.

“He didn’t knock me out, but he did win by decision,” Zachary says. “I went to the emergency room after the fight. The nurse asked me what kind of car I had been driving and if it had been totaled.”

A conversation with a friend in 1987 nudged Zachary toward California, where an older brother and sister of his were living. With the Marines behind him and no apparent prospects ahead of him in Chattanooga, Zachary was ripe for a change, he says.

“A friend persuaded me to buy a one-way ticket and expand my perspective,” Zachary recalls. “I had traveled quite a bit while in the military and, at the time, Chattanooga felt restrictive and didn’t have the range of possibilities I perceived I would have in Southern California.”

Zachary arrived in California with bags in hand and a little construction experience with Tennessee Valley Authority under his belt. After meeting a fellow ex-Marine while working for free on a Helen Reddy video, Zachary found himself in the employ B-movie veteran Charles Brand.

“I initially worked on the swing gang in the art department,” he recalls. “I would drive 5-ton trucks to prop houses across L.A., picking up furniture and hand props.”

As Zachary worked as a set dresser, prop maker, carpenter, painter, shopper and art department coordinator, he racked up credits on the kinds of films that kept video rental outlets in the 90s stocked with low-budget fare, including “Doctor Mordrid” (1992), “Prehysteria!” (1993), “Dollman vs. Demonic Toys” (1993) and more.

“They really cranked them out,” Zachary says of Full Moon Features, the company for which he worked.

Just as Zachary was poised to exit the film business, someone offered him a job on a commercial, opening the door to a three-year stint in advertising. Although the jobs were shorter and the pay was better, the work was not fulfilling, Zachary says.

Zachary’s decision to exit advertising came as he was working on a commercial for Target. After arriving on location early and finding a young man who had overdosed in an attempt to commit suicide, Zachary called 911 and then took time to speak with the police after they arrived. This slowed the production, to the open disgruntlement of its first assistant director.

When Zachary reflected on the incident, he realized he felt as though his work lacked substance. “I wasn’t contributing to the world in a significant way by helping to sell Nikes and Cokes,” he says.

As Zachary contemplated a shift in direction, he thought about his mother, who had taught second graders at Calvin Donaldson in Hamilton County. “Her selfless dedication made an impression on me as path of service, and I began to research alternative educational pedagogies,” he says.

In other words, Zachary decided to become a teacher. His research steered him to the Waldorf Institute of Southern California and a three-year program that prepared him to teach in the system’s holistic learning schools.

Zachary also stayed home with his two sons while his wife at the time worked to support their family.

After earning his credentials, Zachary taught the early grades at Waldorf schools for the next decade. He was living and teaching in San Diego when an injury on a film set triggered a series of life changes that culminated in a move to Claremont, California, where his brother was living. While there, Zachary earned a degree at a local college.

As Zachary attended classes, he befriended another older student who had worked in electoral politics. This friend subsequently hired him to work on a statewide health care initiative.

After serving as a field director on the initiative, Zachary performed a multitude of tasks in various regional and local campaigns, including canvassing, fundraising, phone banking and community organizing.

Zachary’s foray into political campaigns continued in 2016 when he worked as a Get Out the Vote coordinator for Sanders in New Hampshire. The job involved persuading Sanders’ supporters to allow volunteers from out of the state to stay in their homes. Zachary says he reserved more spaces than everyone else on his team.

“I also ate better than anyone since most of the people I met ended up inviting me to dinner,” he quips.

Zachary continued to work as a campaign organizer until an issue with his 88-year-old mother’s health brought him home.

“I had planned to stay until she was stable, not realizing that would be long journey,” he says. “At the same time, I had been thinking that I needed to be closer to my mother, and this solidified that thought into action.”

Once settled in, Zachary says he fell back in love with Chattanooga and the amenities that draw people to the city, including “the beautiful mountains, the verdant landscape and the outdoor activities.”

“I initially lived on the North Shore and biked quite a bit on the Riverwalk,” Zachary says. “I also became reacquainted with the city’s topography while hiking. California is pretty dry and tends to be more brown than green.”

Zachary also rediscovered the friendliness of the people of Chattanooga. However, it was a reunion with an old friend and former classmate at McCallie School that brought Zachary to the world of real estate.

“When I first returned, I met with Jay [Robinson] to catch up. After we had eaten breakfast, I received a text from him suggesting I stay in Chattanooga and work with him and his team,” Zachary recalls. “I saw it as an opportunity to help others realize their dreams.”

As the newest member of the Robinson Team of Keller Williams Downtown Realty, Zachary is looking forward to guiding residential buyers in Tennessee and Georgia in their search for a home. He says his ability to listen to others and to relate to people from all walks of life will help him in his new profession.

“I also love research and problem-solving, which I see as perfectly dovetailing with meeting the needs of clients,” he adds.

As Zachary embarks on a new career, his immediate goals include reconnecting with old friends, meeting new people and letting the city know he’s willing and able to help people meet their real estate needs.

“I’ll be striving to help as many people as possible to achieve their dreams of homeownership,” Zachary says. “And I’ll be grateful for their support in helping me to live a life of service.”