Dave Jenks used his final moments in life to give thanks.
“It’s been a great life,” Jenks wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “What a journey! So many opportunities, so many blessings. I even got to be part of building the greatest real estate company in the world and to co-authoring a couple of best sellers.”
But Jenks’ Facebook post also included a startling revelation: After a struggle with both melanoma and COVID-19, Jenks — an icon in the real estate industry for decades — had initiated his final “do not resuscitate” order and would “be gone in minutes.”
Jenks ultimately died Tuesday. He was 79. And in the hours after his passing, real estate professionals across the country were speaking out about the ways that he touched their careers and their lives.
“He was like a father figure type,” Lori Ballen, who knew Jenks for years, told Inman Wednesday. “You always felt like you could trust him.”
Jenks began his real estate career in the 1980s with Century 21. But he was best known for his stint as a vice president at Keller Williams, which began in 1996. The company was still in its infancy at the time, and according to Jenks’ own website had only 2,100 agents. However, over the next decade, Jenks and the company’s leadership team grew Keller Williams into a behemoth with more than 72,000 agents.
Jenks ultimately left his top leadership post at Keller Williams in 2008, but his website notes that by then the company had become “the third largest real estate system in North America.”
Despite stepping away from his job as a Keller Williams vice president, Jenks remained a force in the industry. That was in part because of his books. In 2003, Jenks co-authored The Millionaire Real Estate Agent with Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The book went on to become a widely read guidebook for real estate hopefuls across the globe, and ultimately ended up on the New York Times bestseller list.
The trio soon published a follow up, titled The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, that also became a New York Times bestseller.
The books helped make Jenks a household name in the real estate industry, and over the ensuing years he put that recognition to work by mentoring and coaching up-and-coming agents. Jenks continued those efforts through this summer, even as he struggled with health issues.
Rebecca Wells, a Keller Williams agent in Florida, told Inman she attended one of Jenks’ video “Zoominars” just this June, and during the conference Jenks left a strong impression on her.
“He provided excellent notes and resources and he was really approachable and kind,” Wells recalled.
She went on to explain that during the session, Jenks discouraged note taking. Instead, he asked attendees to email him their three “aha” moments after the session. In return, he emailed his presentation and notes directly to the agents. And he even gave out his cellphone number to those who needed additional help.
“Nobody had ever done that before and I thought that was super innovative and kind,” Wells recalled of Jenks’ willingness to share his notes and assistance. “He was the real deal and really cared.”
Ballen spent even more time with Jenks over the years. She told Inman she joined Keller Williams in 2010 after having a “pretty major break” with her previous company. At the time, Jenks owned the Las Vegas market center where Ballen landed, and he quickly began helping her.
“Dave just scooped me up and made me his project,” Ballen recalled. “He became an instant mentor. He was that kind of guy who could just see when things were going one way or another.”
Jenks went on to help Ballen design a training course for other real estate professionals, and he remained a presence in her life even after leaving the Las Vegas office in 2013. Ballen ultimately described Jenks’ impact on her life as “very empowering and inspirational.”
“Someone called him the wizard early on and he kind of adopted that,” she added. “He was just so magical about his words and the way he could deliver advice and cause you to see things in a different way. He just had a gift about his messaging and his words.”
Social media was abuzz Wednesday with other industry members sharing similar anecdotes. Donna Pirkle Daniels was among them.
Today, Daniels owns Donna Daniels Realty, but she started her career at Keller Williams in 2006. On Wednesday, she posted on Facebook and later elaborated to Inman about getting to see Jenks in person at a Keller Williams conference.
“What really struck me is the fact that he would talk about things other than the real estate business,” She recalled. “His family and kids and life. That set the tone for how I would continue to do business.”
Daniels went on to say that after leaving the stage Jenks would wait around and talk to the agents who wanted to chat. And she added that “he was authentic.”
“He was a very successful man,” she said. “He knew this industry backwards and forwards, but more importantly he was just a person that anyone could identify with.”
Another of those influenced by Jenks was Marc King — who today has risen to become president of Keller Williams. In a statement Wednesday, King said Jenks’ influence on him goes far back.
“Twenty years ago, when I was starting at Keller Williams, Dave was one of my first instructors. I wanted to be like him and loved his passion then and it only continued through the years,” King said in the statement. “I think of Keller Williams as a Disneyland for real estate entrepreneurs. And for me, Dave will remain one of the greatest ambassadors of our culture, powerfully drawing agents to our brand.”
In addition to mentoring agents, for the past 12 years, Jenks served as the co-founder and chief creativity officer at FreeEnterpriseWarriors.com, which helps entrepreneurs map out their strategies.
Jenks was survived by his wife, Gina Waterfield, who wrote on Facebook Wednesday, “Dave passed this life bravely, and in my eyes, I saw a strong confident man exit [this world], with such dignity.”
Through all of his career moves, Jenks ultimately remained close to Gary Keller himself. And in his final Facebook post, Jenks revealed that recently while he spent time in a hospital intensive care unit, Keller had “connected with me everyday, several times a day.”
“He assumed I had a chance to make it and he was going to be sure I did,” Jenks wrote. “Beyond that he expressed his love for me! What a friend, colleague, and mentor.”
Keller sent out an all-hands email Wednesday to Keller Williams personnel, saying, “It’s with a profound sense of loss that I share with you that our dear friend Dave Jenks has passed away.” Keller went on to celebrate the many roles Jenks had at Keller Williams, and described him as “one of the greatest minds and thinkers of our generation” and “a masterful wordsmith.”
“His last words to me were ‘Love ya man!!!'” Keller continued. “He was truly one of a kind and changed the world through the life he lived.”
Read Gary Keller’s full letter here:
It’s with a profound sense of loss that I share with you that our dear friend Dave Jenks has passed away. He has been a truly beloved member of our KW Family for over 25 years and I know I speak for all of us when I say that we are deeply saddened by his passing.
I first met Dave in the ’90s when Mo Anderson, our current vice chairman of the board, asked him to join our KWRI team, and it has been a complete honor and privilege to partner and collaborate with him for all these years. An amazing teacher and coach, his impact on our company and the entire real estate industry cannot be understated.
Dave served in many capacities over the years. He was the original dean of Keller Williams University, where he helped us craft and deliver countless training courses.
Dave also helped us launch KW MAPS Coaching and co-authored three of our cornerstone books – The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, and SHIFT: How Top Real Estate Agents Tackle Tough Times. His words and ideas have touched millions.
I once told Mark Willis, our CEO at the time, that if anything ever happened to me that he should move Dave’s office right beside his and every day write down his biggest problems or challenges and slide them under Dave’s door.
I said that Dave was one of the greatest minds and thinkers of our generation and that he would always have a thought worth hearing on any subject that ever came up. I had a front-row seat to this for years as Dave and I authored many courses together. One, “The Remarkable Real Estate Sales Business Game” was the working thesis that later became “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent.”
I would sit at my desk, Dave would sit across from me, and Jay Papasan, our current vice president of strategic content, would be 10 feet away in the office next to us. In less than 100 days, the three of us wrote our first book together. We would then go on to write two more over the next few years. Not only were we passionate about what we were doing, but I can honestly say that we had the best time doing it and along the way we became partners and lifelong friends.
Dave Jenks (I would affectionately greet him with Hi-Jenks!) was also a masterful wordsmith. Our last texts late yesterday just a few hours before he passed were this:
Dave: “Here we go!!! Gitterdun!”
Me: “Your German is excellent Vonjenksinhiem!!”
Dave: “I always was a multilingual slang specialist!!!”
Me: “Yes you were! You always just slang around!”
Dave: “LOL! And don’t mention what I was slanging!!!”
His last words to me were “Love ya man!!!” He was truly one of a kind and changed the world through the life he lived. A father of three and a grandfather of nine, Dave loved his family dearly. He spoke lovingly of his wife Gina, and often shared that she was not only the love of his life, but his rock.
I love Dave. I will always love Dave. And I am thankful to have the honor to call him my friend.