Ocean Shores City Councilman Jeff Daniel — one of the area’s leading real estate salesmen and a popular race car driver/car owner at Grays Harbor Raceway — was killed in a surfing accident off the North Jetty on Monday afternoon.
Ocean Shores Police reported Daniel, 50, was pulled from the surf unconscious and appeared to be surfing with a strap-in paddle board, that friends said was a new piece of equipment. Daniel had been featured previously in Washington Coast Magazine for paddle surfing at Damon Point.
A statement from Ocean Shores Police Sgt. David McManus said Police and Fire Department medics were dispatched to a report of a possible drowning at the jetty at 3:04 p.m. on Monday. “The caller reported a man on a surfboard was unconscious in the water, and bystanders were pulling him out. Bystanders immediately began administering CPR, and Ocean Shores Police officers took over when they arrived on scene. Paramedics provided advanced life support and transported Mr. Daniel to Community Hospital, but he was pronounced dead there,” McManus said. “… He was a very popular person in the city, and will be sorely missed.”
Daniel, a real estate managing broker for John L. Scott, also has been an Ocean Shores Planning Commission member and is the past Chamber of Commerce president. Daniel had been an Ocean Shores resident since 2005, and also served as Parks Board Chair (2007), Ocean Shores Little League baseball and soccer coach (2007-08), and he was known as top-producing real estate broker in Ocean Shores since 2008.
“I believe that Ocean Shores is a beach town, not a retirement community, and I believe that this town has a long way to go before we can realize our full potential,” Daniel said in remarks when he was chosen to fill the City Council vacancy last August caused by the departure of Holly Plackett.
News of Daniel’s death spread through the City Council meeting Monday night as the remaining six members began to hear of the tragedy during the regular meeting when Daniel was noticeably absent.
Council member Eric Noble, who manages the WorldMark Mariner Village resort near the North Jetty, was working when he saw the emergency vehicles and police depart the beach just before 3:30 p.m. He noted that Daniel’s truck was still parked at the jetty when he was taken by medics to Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen.
“He just got a brand new kayak and was out testing it out,” Noble said.
Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler lauded Daniel for being “passionate about his community. Jeff felt he need to pay back for the success he had achieved.”
“Without pretensions or self-interest, Jeff shared his expertise to protect the environment, and his hard-won insights to improve the community. He spoke passionately about the ideas he believed in on the City Council, and stood up for what he thought was right,” Dingler said.
Grays Harbor County Coroner Robert G. Kegel said an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to determine the cause and manner of death.
Noble noted how Daniel always give generously to local causes with resources as well as time and support. “I don’t think people have an idea how much he did for this city,” Noble said.
In addition to his career in real estate, Daniel was well known at Grays Harbor Speedway with his car “Seaweed,” which he drove in local parades as well.
He also wrote songs, played guitar in a band, and authored a book about overcoming his upbringing in a family that indoctrinated him into the John Birch Society. The book, “Hate or be Hated, How I Survived Right-Wing Extremism,” documented the rise of far-right hate groups in the United States.
Council member Bob Peterson said he talked to Daniel earlier on Monday just to joke around with each other, and had recently finished the book.
“I was just developing a solid friendship at this point,” Peterson said of getting to know Daniel since he joined the City Council and worked with Peterson’s wife Cathey on the Planning Commission. “He was winner, simply because he had come through such a rough back-life that you would never, ever guess it. “
Before a career in real estate, Daniel also worked in publishing, marketing and advertising in the Tacoma area.
He is survived by his wife, JoKay Daniel, and son Alex.
Daniel discussed his passion for surfing in the story he authored for Washington Coast Magazine in 2017: “My personal choices for recreation … are playing in the cool waves off our coast and inside of Grays Harbor in a surf kayak or on a wave ski. Having bad knees and a gift for a complete lack of balance, ‘butt surfing,’ as I call it, is a blast and a way to find peace of mind and thrills that the Pacific Ocean constantly delivers year-round.”
As a race car driver/owner, Daniel once told the North Coast News that it all started as fan when the Daniel family would go the races in Elma on Saturday nights in the summers:
“I was one of those guys in the stands saying I could do a better job, and my kid one time said, ‘Then do it.’ So I did.”
“I really enjoy the stress release I get from racing,” Daniel added, providing insight into what drove him to such pursuits. “Once you hit the track, all the problems, worries and concerns go away. It’s kind of like surfing, but on an entire different, serious level. All I want to do on that track is go faster and pass the car in front of me without dying. It’s a lot of fun even if I’m filthy when I get home.”
Daniel also was one of the leading promoters for the Ocean Shores area through social media and in his business.
“Ocean Shores is truly a wonderful community where everyone lends a hand or can get involved in civic and community activities quite easily,” he wrote.
As a source for this newspaper editor, Daniel never ducked hard questions and always provided straight answers. We had a set a time Tuesday for happy hour at the Shilo to talk about future ideas and traded small talk about learning new guitar licks. Few people knew he recorded his own CD, “Point Brown, I Don’t Want to Be.”
Chamber Director Piper Leslie, who worked closely with Daniel during his tenure as Chamber president, added these comments to her Facebook page:
“My heart is broken today for a light that was burned out way to soon but I’m grateful for the lifetime of memories I’ll always cherish. Rest well my friend, you will forever be missed but NEVER forgotten.”