For nearly a half century, owners brought worn-out loafers and beat-up oxfords to Dave's Shoe Repair in St. Louis Park for the cobbler to breathe new life into their tired footwear.
It wasn't Dave who put on new heels, sewed on new soles or shined the leather. It was Louis Belille, who quietly practiced his craft of reviving old shoes in his shop on the 4400 block of Excelsior Boulevard.
"Everybody thought his name was Dave and they'd say, 'Hi Dave,'" said his daughter Joyce Orstadius, of Fridley. "He was artistic, and was proud of his quality craftsmanship, of making shoes look beautiful again."
Belille died of undetermined causes March 11 at his home in Minneapolis. He was 74.
He fixed shoes for celebrities such as television personality Mel Jass and KMSP TV news anchor Robyne Robinson. Former Minnesota Vikings Coach Mike Tice stopped in, as did his fishing pal Roger Awsumb, who played railroad engineer Casey Jones on the show "Lunch With Casey," which aired on WTCN TV (now KARE). But most of his customers were non-celebrities who valued his high standards and the personal care he gave to each pair of shoes, said his son Kevin, of Brooklyn Park.
"His work was always top-notch and he was even able to customize special requests," wrote one well-wisher on his online guest book at www.startribune.com/obituaries. "When I carelessly addressed him as Dave, he would gently reply, 'My name is Louis.' He was a sweet man."
Belille's foray into shoe repair started while he attended Vocational High School in Minneapolis. He was a talented artist and had dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer, but had to help support his family. He went into the shoe repair business, working nights and weekends, and after high school took classes at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, said his ex-wife, Carol Malenofski.
In 1962, he bought Dave's Shoe Repair, and kept the name. He worked six days a week and ran the shop up until the day he died. The shop's future is undetermined, family members said.
Belille was a longtime member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis. His hobbies were bowling and fishing near his birthplace of Hayward, Wis.
In addition to his ex-wife, son and daughter, Belille is survived by three brothers, Matthew of Ramsey, Clarence of Minneapolis and Melvin of Hayward; five sisters, Evelyn Barabash of Montgomery, Minn., Sharon Daugherty and Margaret Belille, both of Columbia Heights; and Mary Olson and Betty LaPointe, both of Minneapolis; 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.