by Nancy McDaniel
I’ll bet I wrote something with that title when I was a little girl. And I’ll bet it would have been pretty similar to what I’d like to say today about Daddy, or Johnny Mac, as you may have called him. Except now I think I have a few more insights about, though no less love for, this man, whom many of you called your friend. I also called him my friend. One of my favorite Father’s Day gifts to him was a plaque that said, “Happiness is having a father as a best friend.”
I can’t really talk to you about his days in the U.S. Army. I only know that he never talked about the bad times, the “war times,” to me. He just told me the fun stories about the beef tenderloin he saved as a quartermaster, champagne in the basement of the officers’ billet in Reims, France, and the wonderful pastries made by the giant Belgian baker. He never told me just how he won a Bronze Star, but I know that he (and I) were very proud that he did.
And I can’t really tell you much about when he was a child. All I know is that he was a triple threat in athletics in high school, lettering in three different sports. I never could figure out how he was big enough for football or tall enough for basketball. But maybe it was more due to the size of his heart and his intense desire. I never tired of hearing the story about how he nearly drowned in a football game when, as a center, he was tackled face down in a mud puddle. We laughed about the made-up headline, “Football Captain Drowns in Puddle.”
Father and Friend
So I’m going to tell you about John F. McDaniel as a father and a friend. Those of you who knew him well will understand what I say about him, I hope. Those of you who only know me may better understand me and why I am the way I am.
My father had a rare and wonderful gift that endeared him to most everyone who knew him, I suspect. He could make people smile and laugh. He had a marvelous sense of humor. One of his friends in Florida told me she realized he was really sick before his heart surgery long ago when he lost his sense of humor. But he got it back because that was the essence of his personality.
Generous and Loyal
He was a kind and generous man – generous of his time and his warmth. I felt this throughout all of my nearly 40 years with him. As fathers go, I just can’t imagine that there could be many better in the world. He was always nurturing, supportive, encouraging, yet challenging. He always aspired to excellence and instilled that same passion in me. He never did things halfway, nor would he accept that of me. Interestingly, after I wrote this eulogy, I found a letter that he sent me early in my college career in which he said, “Seeing as you have never done anything halfway . . .” so I guess it worked.
He was terrifically loyal: To his family, his co-workers, his company and his friends. In the same letter in 1968, he said, “There’s not much in life more important than good friends.” It’s so true, as illustrated by all of you here today.
Although it unfortunately seems rare today in a successful business person, he always had enough time for me when I was growing up. To talk with me, to work with me, to play with me. One of my fondest memories is of early summer evenings, when Daddy would throw softballs to me in the side yard and I would try to hit them with my bat. Once I even hit one across the street! Or remembering how crazy he was about our German Shepherd, Duke, and how heartbroken he was when we had to find a new home for him (I often wondered if Duke really went to a farm somewhere or if it was the same tall tale as the animal that “went off to the circus.”)
If it ever bothered Daddy that he didn’t have a son, I sure never knew it. Although he’d probably hate for me to say it, he may have been one of the original feminists; he taught me and made me believe that I could do anything that I wanted to and be whomever I wanted to be.
Daddy and I were both in the same profession: Advertising and marketing. I often wished that we had been closer in age so that I could have discussed business with him more than I did. He was a good marketing man; I could have learned a lot from him. After all, he was involved in launching the careers of Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett.
And he introduced me, as an awkward pre-teen, to (at the time) America’s heart-throb, Ricky Nelson, one of the most exciting days in my young life.
I remember when I was taking a marketing course in college and I was really excited about something I had learned in class that day. I called my dad on the phone and told him all about it and he said, “That’s great, Tootsie. But I’m afraid that’s not the way it works in the real world. One day, you’ll learn that.” And, as usual, he was right. I did.
My Father’s Daughter
More than anything, I wanted my dad to be as proud of me as I was of him. And, you know, I think he was.
The older I get, the more I realize how like my dad I am – many of the good things, I hope, as well as some of his idiosyncrasies: His compulsion for list making; his obsessive punctuality; his organization; his sense of humor.
The one main difference I can see is that I love salads, seafood and champagne. Daddy, on the other hand, said he couldn’t stand Brussels sprouts because they were growing all over England during the war. He hated shrimp because he had used them so much for fishing bait and he was “allergic” to crab meat. I believed all of this for a while; then I just teased him about it. I think the salad phobia had something to do with rabbits. And the champagne was to do with the stay in Reims during World War II.
My dad and I were always close. It was that special relationship that only a father and daughter can have. I was his princess; he was always my daddy. No boy or man I ever dated was ever good enough in his eyes, which used to drive me crazy, but I guess that’s a father’s prerogative.
A Good Marriage
We became even closer when my mother died, when I was just 16. And then when I was a senior girl in high school (and all of you who ever were or knew one, know that they seldom had dates, because all the senior boys were dating the younger girls, just as we had), Daddy started dating a wonderful woman named Virginia. One of the happiest days of my life was when he asked me if it was okay with me if he married her. Boy, was it ever okay! I always knew that my dad was smart, but that was the smartest move he ever made. She made the last 21 years of his life so very happy.
Someone recently asked me if I knew anyone who had a really good marriage. Without any hesitation, I said “Daddy and Ginny.” Very simply, they were partners. They shared everything and made each other very happy. They were happier doing things together than separately or with other friends. These past few years when Daddy battled so many miserable, difficult diseases and illnesses were made much less painful because of her.
He was a fighter, maybe because of his athletic competition when he was young. Or maybe it was because, as I heard him say to Ginny one day before his heart surgery (when he thought I wasn’t listening): “We still have a lot of things left to do.” He kept battling back – from a stroke, lung cancer surgery, and heart valve replacement surgery. I think maybe he finally just got tired of fighting. I will always understand and never blame him for that. We’ll all miss him terribly. But the legacy he left us was his sunny disposition, optimistic nature, generosity and his friendship to all of us.
We’ve all been enriched by his very presence in our lives. I feel honored to have called him my father. Goodbye, Daddy. We love you and we’ll miss you.
(Eulogy delivered on September 12, 1986)