It is with great sadness that the family of Van Ferman McDaniel shares the news of his passing. Van left his earthly home surrounded by his family in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Van was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and uncle. He was a trusted and valued member of our community, serving Lewis County in various capacities for most of his 92 years. Van was born Dec. 23, 1928, in Onalaska, Wash., to James Carter (J.C.) and Blondel (Dixon) McDaniel, who moved to the area and established McDaniel Telephone in 1924.
Van graduated from Mossyrock High School in 1949, and married his sweetheart, Janet Padrick, on July 29, 1954, in Centralia, Wash. The lovebirds spent their entire married life in Salkum, with the exception of the years 1954 to 1956, while Van was in service to our country with the United States Army and stationed in Germany.
Van was a man of many talents, wearing many hats throughout his lifetime. He was well-known during his tenure with McDaniel Telephone, and had fond childhood memories of his mother operating the switchboard from their living room while keeping their home running smoothly. Van became president of the organization when his brother, Bill, became too ill to go on, maintaining leadership of the company until their merge with TDS in 1994.
Van was also one of the first EMTs in our state to have graduated from the required course, and was responsible for bringing ambulance service to the area in 1976. He was a founding member of the Lewis County EMS Council, and flew rescue missions into Mt. St. Helens as part of an attachment of the U.S. Army Air Cavalry, following the 1980 eruption. He was described as “the gold standard” in his field, serving as one of the first Chiefs with Lewis County Fire District #8, starting in 1961, before moving into a Commissioner’s role lasting six years following his 1986 retirement.
In 1996, at his daughters Vanda and Viki’s requests, he planned and built Rocky Top Arena in Salkum. Rocky Top was originally built as a space for his daughters to ride their horses, but as it often happened with Van, the place grew to epic proportions. Today Rocky Top breeds, raises, and trains quality barrel racing Quarter Horses on their property, in addition to hosting events from shows to barrel racing competitions in its sprawling, covered property.
Van’s greatest joy in life was family, first, then his community. He enjoyed spending time with his loved ones, and his best friend on four paws, Callie. Later in life he took Janet all around the world on cruises and by land. His grandson, Conner, and nephew, Duran, carry on his legacy in Fire Safety; Conner Chess is a Lieutenant with Duvall Fire Department in King County, and Duran McDaniel is the current Chief with District #8 in Salkum.
He was preceded in death by his parents, J.C. and Blondel; brothers, Jim in 1992, and Bill in 1999; sister-in-law, Betty in 2010; and his son, Phillip in 2018.
Van is survived by his wife of 66 years, Janet; his two daughters, Vanda Chess and Viki Friedrich; sons-in-law, Scott and Dale; daughter-in-law Cathy; three grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life for Van will be held at Rocky Top Arena later this year, COVID permitting. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts may be made to Assured Hospice or Lewis County Animal Shelter. A special thanks to Assured Hospice for their assistance and guidance in Van’s final days on earth.