I received news this morning of the death of Jim McDaniel, “Cousin Jim.” He was ninety-one. We weren’t cousins, but that is how Jim characterized our relationship. Jim and his wife, Pat, were married forty-eight years at the time of his death, May 29, 2013. Between them, they have eleven children: Jim’s five children, Pat’s three, and three of their own.
I am related to Pat by her marriage to my first cousin, Jack. According to Jim, that made us cousins. “Our cousin, Dennis,” he said whenever he introduced or spoke of me.
Friends from the day we met, Jim’s outgoing personality, bright smile, and hail-fellow-well-met handshake made friendship easy. Jim never met a stranger.
Jim was a marvelous storyteller. He loved to write. He wrote a novel and was at work on a memoir before his death.
Jim’s zest for life was infectious. As a young man, he worked for the Forest Service. He had a passion for the outdoors and loved camping, fishing, hunting, and hiking. The magnificent gardens he planted and lovingly tended year after year are a testimony of his appreciation of nature.
A counselor in the California Department of Rehabilitation for nearly forty years, Jim was named California State Counselor of the Year in 1987. Jim was a key supporter of alcoholism rehabilitation programs. For many years outstanding workers in that field were awarded the Jim McDaniel Award. He worked to ensure handicapped access to buildings and activities long before there were laws mandating ADA accommodation.
In his 70s at the time of his retirement, Jim formed a yard maintenance service offering tree maintenance, brush clearing, and snow shoveling. The business not only provided yard maintenance services, but also gave employment to anyone Jim knew who needed a job.
A lifelong member of the Grange, Jim believed the Grange makes a significant contribution in support of the ideals of American democracy. He worked tirelessly to ensure the Grange remains a viable voice. He resurrected inactive granges, started three new granges, and served as master of five. Serving ten years as State Deputy, Jim was awarded the California State Grange’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Jim was a devoted family man and loyal friend above all else. One need only stop by the McDaniel home at any time of the day or night to observe the stream of family and friends who come offering a simple “hello” or who stay for whatever period of time is needed for whatever reason. Jim and Pat generously offer their home and time whenever there is need. In a loving and supportive family, there are no questions asked. All are welcomed.
Jim’s passing brought to mind Auden’s words in memory of Yeats. I find the words equally appropriate for Jim McDaniel:
Earth, receive and honoured guest:
Jim McDaniel’s laid to rest.
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