September 6, 2008 in City

D. Lish’s founder, 64, dies after ATV accident

David Lish, who started popular Spokane burger joint in 1998, retired last spring
By The Spokesman-Review
FILE photo

David Lish, owner of D. Lish’s Hamburgers, posed for a photo at his North Division Street burger joint in 2004. Lish, 64, died last week.
(Full-size photo)

At a glance

ATV dangers

 ATV accidents have caused at least five deaths in the Inland Northwest this summer.

 With the number of ATV riders increasing each year – 149,100 ATV and off-road vehicle operators live in Washington, compared with 69,000 a decade ago – authorities stress the need for riders to seek out specialized training.

David Lish, the owner of popular D. Lish’s Hamburgers, died Sunday of head injuries suffered in an ATV accident in his driveway. He was 64.

The restaurants, one on North Division Street and another at River Park Square, will remain open and continue selling the quality burgers and fries Lish insisted upon while carving out a niche in the competitive fast-food industry, his wife said.

“Our customers should expect everything the same – except Dave’s big, smiling face won’t be there,” said Anne Marie Lish, who started the restaurants with her husband of 35 years.

Lish retired last spring, she said, and was enjoying his family – including grandchildren – and fishing, boating and camping.

Lish was an avid reader and library user. He was reading “Avalanche,” by Sandpoint-based humor writer Patrick McManus.

While building the business, Lish was a confident, funny and friendly presence at the food counter. He rang up orders, bagged fries and grilled hamburgers and onions that made his restaurant a success. In a 2004 newspaper story, he shared some of the secrets of that success, noting that his food was fresh, not frozen, whether it came from a Spokane Valley potato farmer or steer trimmings from his hometown of Ellensburg.

Lish was born Feb. 5, 1944. His family moved to California when he was 16. After his high school graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He returned to California 10 year later and worked as a deputy sheriff in Santa Barbara County.

Lish married Anne Marie Birkholm in 1973.

After 10 years of working for a contractor at Fairchild Air Force Base, Lish and business partner Curt Goller opened D. Lish’s Hamburgers in 1998. He and Anne Marie became sole owners the next year, and the restaurant gained a stream of regular customers.

“He loved what he was doing,” Anne Marie said. “I think it showed. We’re going to miss him.”

Contact John Stucke at (509) 459-5419 or

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email