Several hundred people packed the Ocean Shores Convention Center Saturday afternoon for a celebration of life ceremony for Jeff G. Daniel, the Ocean Shores City Councilman and top real estate broker who was killed Feb. 25 in a surf kayak drowning at the Ocean Shores jetty.
“Jeff loved living, playing and working at the beach. When not working or hanging out with his family, you would find Jeff kayak-surfing in the waves of Ocean Shores or racing cars on the dirt track at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, where he was a popular driver/owner,” said the tribute program for the event.
“It really sucks that we’re here, but here we are,” said longtime friend Pat Brunstad, the local builder who now is owner of Oyhut Bay. “We aren’t here to say goodbye but to make sure his legacy lives on.”
The celebration ended with a bonfire on the beach and a special beach art creation to honor Daniel from the local sand artist known as Justin the Circler.
With a Convention Center banquet room crowd that was standing-room only when Ericka Corban began with a musical performance honoring Jeff, many of his friends and colleagues went on to describe Daniel’s multi-faceted passions, talents and pursuits. He was born in Fort Lewis in 1968, and was raised in the Pierce County town of Orting, where he graduated in 1986 after being class president and started playing bass guitar. After high school, he joined the National Guard, and then played in several Tacoma-area alternative rock bands while also starting his own local music magazine, first called Pandemonium and then the Tacoma Voice and Tacoma Reporter.
In the late 1990s, Daniel also became heavily involved in the paint ball craze, joining a semi-pro team that won two world championships, then opening up a paint ball course with his family. He married his longtime love of his life, Jokay, and the couple had their son, Alexander Jeffery, in 1999.
In 2004, the Daniel family moved to Ocean Shores where Jeff earned his real estate license and then became a managing broker for John L. Scott Real Estate. He had been the top-selling broker since 2008.
Jeff also was remembered for his life of community service. In Ocean Shores, he was Parks Board Chair, Chamber of Commerce president, Planning Commission member and chair, as well as a youth soccer and baseball coach. He was voted by the other members of the City Council into the vacant Position 2 seat on the council in 2018, and intended to run for election to the position this year.
Fellow Councilman Eric Noble got to know Daniel through their service on the Planning Commission, and he asked Jeff to join the Chamber. “At the second Chamber meeting, he became president,” Noble said. After a number of other public meetings, he would often call Noble and ask, “Well how did that go?”
Several friends from the Tacoma area recalled how Daniel would plunge into whatever captivated him on the spur of the moment, while others noted the many ideas and plans he still had for Ocean Shores.
“To say that Jeff was a non-conformist is way too mild,” said Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler. “He embraced non-conformity and took it to an art form. He was the poster child for non-conformity. Nothing was done by halves.”
His passion for stock car racing turned him into a driver and owner, and brought home more trophies.
Veteran crew chief Roger Wilder teamed up with Daniel and his car, “Seaweed,” and ended up putting it back together after he wrecked it mid-season. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but he didn’t even know what a sparkplug was, yet he wanted a race car,” Wilder said. He earned the nickname “Demolition Daniel.”
“He was an absolutely wonderful guy … and those stinking damned cigars,” Wilder recalled of road trips they would take, where Wilder would do most of the driving and Jeff would do most of the sleeping.
Rick King owned a store in Tacoma that sold guitars, and then later a recording studio where Jeff would record a CD of original music. King told a story of Daniel’s young persistence that resulted in a magazine feature, an advertisement and a long friendship.
“Then he brought out these songs he’d been working on for years with his son Alex,” King said of the most recent recording sessions. “It was so fantastic to get back in touch with him and to work with him on his music, and to see the relationship with his son and how much he loved them.”
The CD was called Pt. Brown for the main boulevard in Ocean Shores and the avenue that the Daniel home is on.
Daniel’s real estate colleague at John L. Scott in Ocean Shores, Thorn Ward, noted how many people from all over the country began to call the office after news of Daniel’s death started to spread.
“I got to thinking, how did so many people know him? It has to do with the nature of what Jeff did,” Ward said. “Jeff was a real estate sales person and his job was to know people. We never knew that he knew so many people. But when you look at exactly what he did, it becomes much more understandable.
“What Jeff’s idea was that he would just talk to as many people as possible all day. He was successful because he helped other people realize their dreams.”
Chamber Executive Director Piper Leslie called Daniel her idol as someone who “you look up to, and you aspire to be like, and you appreciate, and you are kind of in awe of. And that was Jeff.” She noted the Jeff came to his first meeting and seemed a bit irritated. “He came into my office and said I want to do this, but I want to be the president. . . . Literally, a month later, Jeff was the president.”
“Jeff was like me and a horse of a different color. I appreciated that, and I loved that he loved me for being me and I loved him for being him, because so many people are so afraid to do that.”