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Tribute to Dud Daniel ...

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A good friend passed away last week.

His name was Dud Daniel.

Steve Fowler, who I grew up with in Tucson, wrote the following tribute to Dud.

Steve and I both attended the University of Arizona and joined Phi Psi at the same time which deepened our friendship (truth to be told, I thought he was a little crazy in high school).

This is Steve’s story about Dud.

Thirty-five years ago this month I became aware of a young fraternity colony that had organized at the University of Arizona.  My best friend, Tom Oxnam, was being rushed by a small group of idealistic young men who were working to reestablish an official presence on campus for a men’s fraternal organization called Phi Kappa Psi.  Tom shared that “Phi Psi” was originally chartered at Arizona in 1947, but lost it’s charter and university recognition in 1962; after the Chapter’s members exercised poor judgment in their behavior. Phi Kappa Psi’s leadership team at the Fraternity’s National Headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, led by Executive Director Ralph D. Daniel, was working with the new colony in their quest to become the Arizona Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi.  My friend Tom became a member of the colony that spring and I visited the group frequently in a fraternity house they shared with another fraternity.  I yearned for the bonds I saw in that small body of 16 young men and pledged the colony in August 1976.

Over the months I’d heard about a fellow that was a legend at both Arizona Alpha, and throughout the fraternity world.  They called him, “Dud” and once I began my pledge education I found that “Dud” and Ralph D. Daniel were one in the same.  Chapter history taught that Dud was Arizona Alpha’s very first President.  Older than his peers, Dud entered the Army Air Corps in 1942 at 17 years old and was a very mature 22 year-old veteran when Arizona Alpha was chartered on September 20, 1947; while the rest of his Chapter brothers were much younger than Dud. Years later Bill Wallace AZA ‘47, Dud, and I enjoyed a number of lunch engagements where Bill shared how Dud worked hard to keep a measure of decorum in the Chapter house, with some resistance from his younger Chapter brothers.  Dud was a soft-spoken gentleman that earned the respect of his peers using his natural diplomatic skills, engaging in polite humor to dissipate tension, and standing firm on his principles.  It was clear from Bill’s recollections, and those of others I encountered over the years who knew Dud as a young man, that he has always been a gentle, proper, decent, and honorable man who consistently exemplified the ideals of Phi Kappa Psi.

On March 24, 1977 I was blessed with the opportunity to meet the man I would come to know as “Mr. Phi Psi” and soon embrace as one of my dearest friends.  Two days later Arizona Alpha was rechartered and no one was more pleased than our Chapter’s beloved Dud Daniel.  Two years later Dudley retired from his position as the Fraternity’s Executive Director and, that same week, I was hired as the Fraternity’s Chapter Consultant.  Mr. Phi Psi’s immediate return to Tucson offered me the opportunity to spend several days with him as I sought his guidance and insight, in assisting me as I transitioned to my job in Indianapolis, Indiana at Phi Psis new National Headquarters, Heritage Hall.

Our 30-year friendship appropriately began in one of Dud’s favorite places – a fine dining room in a 5 Star restaurant.  Dudley had a penchant for fine food.  He enjoyed a high degree of personal service at restaurants he frequented because servers enjoyed his kindness and pleasant conversation.  He took the time to learn the names of many servers he saw regularly, and made it a point to know something personal about each of them.

Dining with Dudley was always a fun and interesting experience.  Unlike so many, Dud didn’t charge into a restaurant, devour his meal, and depart in relative haste.  Dud would approach a restaurant and comment on things like the flowers and the architecture.  He’d greet patrons exiting and inquire about their meal.  As was his nature, he seemed to always have a pleasant comment and would genuflect with a deferential, albeit subtle, nod.  When entering, he wouldn’t rush to the hostess, but rather took his time and studied photos, art, and other decorations in the entry.  He would taste his food and offer an approving hum.  He’d savor that first taste, then follow up with “yummy” and similarly fun comments.  I almost always waited until he’d tasted his food and savored it in his characteristic dramatic way, allowing me the opportunity to savor the moment of Dud enjoying his first bite.

He knew I loved Grand Marnier Soufflés and we’d have them whenever they were on the menu.  One evening, after we’d finished our main course and the tasty desserts arrived, I watched with anticipation as Brother Daniel began his ritual, but was horrified to see Dud immediately disgorge a mouthful of soufflé back into the bowl on the table. He was so embarrassed, but it gave us the opportunity to laugh for many years.  You see, the chef erred and filled the batter with salt, instead of the sugar normally used in the recipe.

Dudley embraced medical reports which indicated having a glass or two of wine was good for the heart.  Dud made me a believer.  A man with a history of heart problems, I don’t believe Dud ever suffered another heart attack after he began drinking wine regularly.  As with that first taste of his food, he made a production out of tasting the fruit of the vine.  He’d swirl the glass with flair, lift it to his mouth, and savor the smell while his nose was buried deep into the glass.  He’d then take a sip, hum with satisfaction, and smack his lips together with approval.

He was a little embarrassed at a game I played with restaurant staff, but never asked me to stop.  In spite of his embarrassment, I really believe Dud enjoyed the game.  You see, Dud’s distinguished appearance and age, combined with his ever present tie and jacket, gave me the idea to ask the host or hostess for a quiet table as quickly as possible; because “Senator Daniel” had important business and a very busy schedule.  When the servers approached I’d always defer to Dud by saying, “After you Senator.”  When he’d order I’d say, “Nice choice Senator.”  We seldom waited long for a table.

Our dinners lasted hours, as we both enjoyed making the most of our time. We talked and talked and talked – about everything. We really enjoyed each other’s company. I recall, on at least two occasions at different restaurants, after the restaurant staff parked the “Senator” and me in a quiet corner of the restaurant for the evening, they forgot about us and turned out the lights to go home. Once when that happened, the staff exited the back door and we found ourselves locked inside a darkened restaurant with no way out. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I seem to recall banging loudly on the front door and having someone return from parking lot to let us out of our upscale prison. Dud joked that we didn’t have to worry about starving.

Knowing he was retired, I picked up the bill most of the time.  On occasion I’d submit to his playful demands and let him pay.  That, too, was a visual and auditory treat.  A flair for the dramatic, Dud would approach the waiter’s little black book like a panther cautiously approaching its prey.  He’d slowly open the book, then suddenly shriek in horror, albeit quietly, and toss the thing in the air a few inches.  Dud had a way of having fun doing ordinary things.  In fact, “fun” was one of his favorite words.

He reflected on many occasions how much “fun” we had together, especially in those years before I married Tracey.  While he was very happy for me in my relationship with Tracey, it saddened him to know our “fun” would diminish.  I really didn’t think it would.  Tracey loved Dudley and we had wonderful times together.  However, I clearly recall asking him why, when I announced to him that I was getting married, he was both happy and sad.  He shared that things would be different; that I would become busy with Tracey, married life, kids, etc… and we’d see less of each other.  He shared it was inevitable that my life’s path would skew away from his.  In my naivety I thought him wrong.  Dud, however, was correct.

In the early days of our marriage Tracey and I spent a lot of time with Dudley.  We’d travel to his home in Prescott, Arizona.  He’d share stories of his time in Prescott as a boy when his family fled the scorching summer heat in Phoenix.  In those days they did not have air conditioning and his father, a licensed Indian Agent, would take his family to the mile high city of Prescott to pass the summer months.  Trips to Prescott were always a pleasure.  He’d figuratively roll out the cardinal red carpet and welcome us to his home.  He had a couple of very nice upright display cases tastefully filled with mementos.  Among his keepsakes was a small bottle with three small gold nuggets.

In the 1980’s I managed a gold mining operation in the Yukon Territory of Canada for a season.  While there, I purchased the deed to a small mining claim and recovered three small gold nuggets.  That winter I flew to Arizona and presented Dud with the deed to the claim and the small bottle of gold.  Typical of Dudley, he found occasion in his own special way of honoring the Fraternity by naming the three nuggets: Phi, Kappa, and Psi.  I would watch as he showed them to visitors in his home and share the nugget’s names.  He got a real kick out of that.

His home was always immaculate.  I stayed in his Tucson residence on a few occasions and found it necessary to part with my slovenly ways.  The last thing I wanted was to make Dud uncomfortable.  Tracey and I were discussing his Prescott home recently and we recalled an invited peek to see his closet.  One section, starched pressed white monogrammed shirts.  One section pressed slacks.  One section suits and sport coats.  The hangers were all precisely positioned equidistant from one another.  Toiletries on the shelf were positioned with care, labels out, and nothing was out of place.  Such was Dud’s entire home.

He loved showing people things, giving tours, and treating guests to wonderful stories.  When I worked at Heritage Hall I had one of my first experiences seeing Dudley give a tour.  Heritage Hall was an office building, a residence for Chapter Consultant Lou Hoffman and myself, as well as the Fraternity’s museum.  We’d often joke with visitors and offer them “our 25 cent tour.”  We’d take visitors through the building in 10 or 15 minutes.  But not Dudley.  Tour Operator Daniel only offered a $100 tour and he did it for free.  He’d take his time and explain everything the visitors were seeing and hearing.  He’d offer historical perspective, contemporary information, and everything in between.

I mentioned he loved stories.  One of my greatest regrets is not capturing his stories of Phi Psi history when I was the Fraternity Historian.  He set the stage, garnered his listener’s interest, offered careful detail, and made the whole experience fun fun fun.

Dud also loved every opportunity to engage in a play on words.  Dud wouldn’t go shopping.  He would say, “I’m going shoplifting.”  Of course, Dud would never actually transgress in that manner.  He didn’t wash his hands, he washed his “patties”.  His favorite holiday dish was a Crowned Rack of Lamb.  I suspect he liked that dish as much for the opportunity to butcher the name as anything.  He’d say, “Brother Fowler, I’ve decided to enjoy a Crowned Lack of Ram this Thanksgiving.” Egg Benedict Arnold anyone?

He referred his mother as “my little mother” and his affectionate nickname for her was “Honey Bunch.” I met “Honey Bunch at the Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City on the occasion of my first GAC in 1978.  About 8 or 10 members of the new Chapter journeyed to the GAC.  Dud rounded us up and proudly presented us to “Honey Bunch” in her hotel room.  While we were there, once famous actor and Phi Psi Brother Charles “Buddy” Rogers made an appearance.  I’m not sure who was more delighted – Dud or his mother.  Buddy’s wife was the famous silent screen star Mary Pickford.  Dud’s mother was a young woman when Mary and Buddy were enjoying immense success and popularity.  Dud had arranged to have Buddy pop in, knowing it would thrill his mother.

As I recall “Honey Bunch” passed away in the mid-1980’s.  Dud made certain she was well attended, as she was bedridden for the last several years.  Dudley made arrangements to have two natural sisters, who were also Catholic nuns, care for his mother.  Dud and I would stop in and visit with his “little mother” and the sisters on occasion.  Tracey also enjoyed visiting with the three ladies.  It was always fun, because Dud made it fun.

One day Dud announced that he needed my services in Mexico.  He wanted to purchase some copper chargers (plates) across the border and he was too much of a gentleman to ask for a discount.  They were far too expensive in Tucson’s retail stores and the street vendors in Mexico had very high starting prices.  I was enlisted to assist him as his negotiator and to engage in what he called “rum running” for the sisters.  The nuns enjoyed an after dinner “nip” and Dud wanted to present them with gifts of their favorite liqueurs available at very low prices in Nogales, Sonora.

Dud was kind and giving to so many people and, if you weren’t there to see it, you wouldn’t know of his deeds.  He was quiet that way.  He went out of his way to be kind to my “little grandmother.”  He showered my wife and me with gifts; and when our children were born he continued his gifting.

I also enjoyed doing for him.  Like a little boy who just found out that he’d be getting a pony for Christmas, Dud’s face lit up when I offered him my license plates.  License plates?  As an undergraduate I had personalized plates that read, “Phi Psi.”  When I began working for the Fraternity and parked my vehicle in my parent’s garage the plates didn’t see the light of day.  I thought he’d appreciate and enjoy them more than I ever would.  As far as I know, Dud kept those license plates for the last 32 years of his life.  Each time I’d see his car, he’d be certain to point out the plates.

Those license plates were affixed to his Mustang for many years.  Dudley would love to take road trips in the Mustang, but as you might guess, he didn’t drive on the highway.  True to form, Dudley drove the car on the back roads and old state highways whenever he drove between cities.  He was certainly a “stop and smell the roses” kind of guy.  He’d take his time, absorb the sights, and enjoy his long drives in a way few of us ever do.  On one such trip he brought his older brother Charles.  It was then, having a nice lunch at the famed Arizona Inn, that I realised many of Dud’s mannerisms were hardwired into his DNA.  Charles and Dud had much in common.

He was a funny guy and many hundreds, if not thousands, of us have imitated Dudley from time to time.  None better than Dud’s dear friend and Phi Psi Brother, John V. Ciccarelli.  In his younger days “Chic” was the best Dud impersonator I ever witnessed.  To this day, he loves to tell Dud stories and use what we call Dudisms in his affectionate impersonations.  I especially like how “Chic” imitates Dud getting off the phone with his, “so loooon…gah.”

Dud was a man of contrasts.  He was popular, personable, and very well known.  He was outgoing and enjoyed people.  Then there was the private side that few Phi Psi’s experienced.  In the late 70’s and early 80’s Dud had a lady friend with whom he shared a love for fine dining, the arts, and community involvement.  Few people knew of his relationship with Margaret.  I was privileged to join with them on a few occasions for dinner and once for an invitation-only event at the Tucson Museum of Art.  Margaret was from a pioneer Tucson family and knew everyone who was anyone in Tucson.  Dud truly enjoyed his time with Margaret.  One night I accidentally happened upon Dud and Margaret in a romantic embrace.  I felt terrible for my intrusion, as it fully embarrassed Dudley.  He valued his privacy and my accidental appearance at just the wrong time underscored, for me, his desire for privacy.  We never spoke with one another about what happened.  I’m certain he preferred it that way.

Dud loved ceremony, the old hotels, outmoded methods of travel, and other things that reminded him of his youth and earlier less complicated times.  He loved to dress properly and believed if he wore a tie he could fit in anywhere.  If he was overdressed he’d simply remove the tie and/or his jacket.  I’ll never forget his glee when I became a member of our fraternity within a fraternity, the Order of the SC.  Dud carried out certain duties in the ceremony that focused his attention on me.  He was so happy and proud.  Unfortunately, I only attended one more Grand Arch Council; San Francisco in 1992.  Shortly after that convention, I made a mistake that altered my Phi Psi path; and I needed Dud more than ever.

Dudley was more than a friend and brother; he was my mentor.  As such, he never lectured or chastised me.  His approach was always encouraging and positive.  He stood by me and forgave me, even when I was wrong.  Many years ago I crossed a line.  I responded to a brother, with whom I took issue, in a public and inappropriate manner.  I believed that brother conducted himself in a way that was damaging to the Fraternity.  In the end, I justified actions I deemed out-of-line by engaging in my own sophomoric response.  Once I realized what I’d done, I found myself very embarrassed and I withdrew from what was then very active involvement on the national level.  I told Dud I realized the error of my ways; and noted my actions were contrary to the ideals of Phi Kappa Psi.  He reminded me of his Amici speech and how important it is to conduct ourselves in a manner that will always lift others and reflect well on Phi Kappa Psi.  He understood why I felt a need to withdraw, but also encouraged me to return to active involvement.  He stood by me and tried to help assuage my angst.  He held my pain in confidence for the rest of his life.

During that time, my children began to become a larger part of my life and focus.  As with others, Tracey and I became very busy as we shared our time with our kids.  I had stopped attending GAC’s and, true to his predictions when I shared with him that I was engaged, my time with Dudley diminished.  In his last few years, to my regret, I only saw Dud about once a year.

I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a large part of Dud’s final Sunday on earth at his bedside.  Tracey and I drove to Prescott from Las Vegas Saturday evening.  When we arrived at the Veterans Administration Hospital’s Hospice Ward on Sunday morning we were greeted by Founder Letterman’s Great Grandson, Gordon Letterman and former Phi Psi President John Ciccarelli.  Dudley was not in any pain, but surprisingly alert and clearly happy to see us.  The five of us surrounded his bed and shared fond memories with our dear friend.

Then the time came to tell Dudley so long for the final time.  After sharing some pleasantries, he thanked me for being a friend to him, for coming to see him, and for helping to make his life “fun” and memorable. I slipped him the grip, then leaned down and uttered three familiar Greek words into his right ear. His face lit up and he responded in a very firm clear voice with the traditional words; words I expected. Never before has that response meant so much to me. I withdrew from his still powerful grip and turned quickly to leave, with a firm visual imprint of a beaming smiling Ralph D. Daniel in my mind’s eye.

I turned and left quickly because I didn’t want him to see that my eyes were rapidly filling with tears. As I walked into the hallway I saw that Tracey, too, was hurting after her own heartfelt goodbye, final hug, and parting kiss with a man who has been her friend for nearly 30 years. As I cast my eyes upon Tracey’s wet red eyes, a huge knot formed in my throat and remained there for hours.

Brother Robert “Bob” Marchesani, aware of my love for Dud, was kind enough to call me Friday morning and share the news that Dudley had gone on to Chapter Eternal earlier in the morning.  I failed to find an appropriate response to the news Bob shared.  My words failed me.  The sense of loss was both profound and immediate.  I don’t know what will happen to this tribute to my friend, but it was important and therapeutic for me to reflect on the man we fondly refer to as “Dud,” so I remained up all night thinking about Dud and drafting these words.

He is gone.  A man who left a huge mark on my life and upon the lives of many thousands.  Many, if not most, of my dearest friends came into my life as a result of the actions of Mr. Phi Psi.  Dud’s friends are scattered across the world.  Many have passed on.  Of them, many were Phi Psis, some were not.  Dud cherished his ties with Greeks everywhere.  He was well traveled, well respected, and very well liked.  He was a true gentleman who loved Phi Kappa Psi and gave his life to her.  I believe his dedication and loving devotion to Phi Kappa Psi provided him the health and opportunity to enjoy a long, full, and satisfying life.  Gordon Letterman said it so well when he recently described Dud’s life as “charmed.”

I began this tribute to dear Dudley by recalling how my path toward a relationship with Dud began 35 years ago.  Now it is over.  I only have fond memories of a man who touched my life in many wonderful positive ways.  I became a caring, thoughtful, gentleman because of the positive influences of a man who offered to share his journey with me.  In that I will be eternally grateful.  He was one of a kind.  A very special wonderful person.  Above all, he was My Brother, My Friend, My Mentor.

God Bless you Mr. Phi Psi.

Steve…


Comments

  • Marc A. Dumas

    Thank you for that moving response. He has shown me, in every way, what it means to be a Member of Our Strong Band.

    As Dudley goes to meet the Almighty Archon, we know that he is in the best place, with all of his Brothers, asking Tom Campbell what he was thinking when he created our Ritual, and laughing and joking with Dab, Sion Bass Smith and all the others.

    In the Bond,

    Marc A. S. Dumas…
    Illinois Zeta (DePaul) 1993
    Badge #3

    Reply
  • Lou Hoffman

    Marc,

    I appreciate you taking the time to post a comment.

    I thought Steve did a wonderful job in his tribute in showing Dud’s zest for life.

    I don’t know another person who touched as many lives.

    Reply
  • Bob Marchesani

    Steven Fowler has beautifully captured Dud Daniel’s spirit and personality in his essay. Like Steve, I was blessed over the years to enjoy many opportunities to spend time with Dud, and Steve’s descriptions Dud ring so true. I hope Steve’s essay will be reprinted in the THE SHIELD of Phi Kappa Psi and elsewhere, and become part of the record of a life well-lived and a man much loved. God bless, Mr. Phi Psi Ralph D. Daniel.

    Reply
  • Lou Hoffman

    Well said Bob.

    I don’t know what the HQ has planned but agree with you that Steve’s tribute is SHIELD worthy.

    Reply
  • Joyce (Letterman) May

    Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute. I spoke with Dr. Gordon Letterman several times while he lived in the Glen Echo area, and have lost track of him and Alma. If someone could please let me know how to reach them I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you

    Reply
  • Lynn Camp

    I just wonder if this was my cousin. His mom was Ann and Father was Art Paul Fowler Jr. He had a sister who passed at a young age named Anna Marie. Does anyone know if this was him. He was called Danny by his mom and Dad.

    Reply

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