Dave was one of the first non-Irish, non-British singers that I heard. In the early to mid-60's I bought a couple of his albums, one devoted to blues and another called "Dave Van Ronk - Folksinger." I enjoyed his ragtime guitar immensely and regardless the genre of his songs, I appreciated his singing, particularly the commitment he showed to his songs.
I met him twice. The first time was in DC. I was in a group named The Flying Cloud at the time. We were playing a 5-week stint at The Dubliner on Capitol Hill and Dave was playing at a club a little further north. Brian Brooks and I dropped into the club to speak with the manager and they asked us to wait in Dave's dressing room. He came in after he finished his set. He certainly had given his "all" because I have hardly ever seen a person sweat so in all my life! We tried to make pleasant conversation with him but he was so wired that he could hardly speak. That was in 1976.
4 or 6 years later, Rosalie Sorrels brought Dave to The Eagle Tavern in Greenwich Village where I ran a folk club. We were had a "sing-around" format that night. Dave and Rosalie sat with me and Dave sang every Irish song that he had ever learned from his mother's family, from hanging out with the Clancys, wherever and whenever. He was a gentleman, very engaging and very pleasant company. I'm sorry to hear of his death.
My father died of colon cancer. I's no fun. My condolences to his family.
All the best,