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

Sat., Sept. 6, 2008

David Lish, who started popular Spokane burger joint in 1998, retired last spring

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

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