The final days of Dave Duerson

Richard Dent and others carry the casket on Saturday. (Brian Cassella / Tribune)

They call it The City of Sun and Sea, the Venice of America.

Beautiful Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., is located on a barrier island surrounded by Miami, the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.

The peach and white Ocean One building on Collins Avenue is a place where snowbirds come to leave life's cares behind. The circular brick paver driveway leads to a magnificent three-story lobby covered in marble tile.

Guests pamper themselves at the spa, dine at the bistro or enjoy a private cabana on the white sand beach out back. The condos feature huge balconies with panoramic views.

It's the kind of place where men wear flip-flops and baseball caps and women sip from fancy glasses filled with fruit and paper parasols. If people have worries in Sunny Isles Beach, you're hard-pressed to see them.

This is where Dave Duerson chose to die.

Monday, Feb. 14: Duerson speaks with sons Chase, 27, Tregg, 25, Brock, 21, and daughter Taylor, 15, for the last time, on the phone. He wishes them a happy Valentine's Day and tells them he loves them.

Divorce can be difficult on kids. The unexpected death of a parent can be more so.

Duerson's children, who live in the Chicago area, never considered they would spend last week discussing wills and memorials. "It's an open sore for them at this point," said Alicia Duerson, Dave's wife for 25 years before their 2008 divorce.

Duerson wanted to be closer to his children. Taylor had visited her father in Florida recently. As part of his divorce, Duerson was required to carry a life insurance policy on himself with Taylor as the sole beneficiary. His attorney did not return calls to clarify whether the policy is void in the event of suicide.

"With this type of thing, it's hard for kids to understand," Alicia Duerson said. "Especially for my youngest."

Tuesday, Feb. 15, late evening: Security cameras film Duerson entering Ocean One and taking the elevator to the sixth floor to his two-bedroom unit. It is the last recording of Duerson coming home.

His friends thought Duerson had much to live for.

He recently was engaged to Antoinette Sykes, a public relations specialist in Washington. "Angel" is how he introduced her around Sunny Isles Beach. They were to be wed in the spring.

The couple sent out holiday cards with their picture from vacation.

"I had never seen him happier," said Ron Ben-David, general manager at Ocean One. He knew Duerson for about 2 1/2 years.

"He was very excited," Ben-David said. "He mentioned to me he had some good things on the horizon, something big with one of the big food distributors."

Duerson, who turned 50 in November, had a lot going on. He liked to ride motorcycles. He kept busy with his consulting firm, DD Favor, which specialized in turnaround strategies and start-ups for food companies. He had his weekly Internet radio show, "Double Time with Double D," on

One of his guests shortly before the Super Bowl was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. "He was in good spirits," Jackson said. "We were laughing and playing, talking about the Super Bowl choices."