Daniels Day: 87th anniversary event steeped in history and music

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Daniels Day Family Reunion celebrated its 87th Anniversary on August 22 at Bethany United Methodist Church in Wanchese.

The event is steeped in family history, music and a scholarship presentation. The church itself lends the event a historic setting.

Daniels Day Family Reunion started in 1934 by Josephus Daniels, then ambassador to Mexico and publisher of the News & Observer and Melvin R. Daniels Sr., Dare County’s longtime Register of Deeds.

M. Roy Daniels III presided over this year’s celebration. Melvin Roy Daniels V, at 4, was the youngest person in attendance.

Roy Daniels told the story of Ezekiel Rollins Daniels. He died a year after the first family reunion. He ran a fleet of boats, delivering fish and returning with lumber and hardware for his hardware store. He had a grocery store. He was faithful to Bethany United Methodist Church. Toward the end of the year, he’d ask “how’s the church doing.” Each year Zeke would make sure the church met its budget.

The Daniels family has called Roanoke Island its home since 1736.

Daniels Day starts in the Bethany sanctuary, which was finished in 1905. Through the years, Daniels Day attendees have seen added stunning stained glass windows, pew cushions, beautiful chandeliers and new education buildings. The most recent addition includes a new kitchen and social hall, where the Daniels Day family gathered for food and fellowship after the service.

The program for the service included this “The flowers today are given in memory of the loved ones of the Daniels family and each family present today. May their memory inspire us each and every day . . .” Those who have passed since the last Daniels Day were recognized: William C. “Billy” Gray, Marvin Stokley, Janice Doughty Midgett, Marc Basnight, Russell Twiford, and Shirley Daniels Webber.

Those gathered sang the Family Hymn, “Faith of our Fathers.”

Then, musicians at Bethany United Methodist Church enlivened the gathering with “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “A Closer Walk with Thee,” “Lighthouse” and amazing “Train” music provided by violinist Sue Waters.

Dare County commissioner Danny Couch from Buxton was this year’s guest speaker.

Summing up the summer season, Couch said “it’s been a real struggle” to take care of the county’s visitors.

However, property sales and the resultant land transfer tax revenue allowed the county to initiate projects. He mentioned the $17.9 million for the new Dare College of The Albemarle campus; a dredge under construction and the NC 12 Task Force looking long-range at that highway.

This year’s family reunion was scheduled to honor Suzanne Tate and James Melvin. However, due to a fall, Tate couldn’t attend. In planned remarks, Tess Judge said of Suzanne Tate “what a gift that we’ve had in Dare County.”

In 1987, the Daniels family started a scholarship for post-secondary education. This year’s recipient is Amber Mann, who graduated from Wanchese Christian Academy with a 3.97 grade point average. She was a page in the North Carolina House and Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. She will attend Chowan University.

This year, Capt. Moon Tillett and Alvah Ward competed for the oldest attendee.

Ken Mann and Paula Mann were recognized and presented with a 1919 calendar.

Rev. Susie Fitch-Slater, pastor at Bethany United Methodist Church, delivered the invocation and benediction. She reflected on the day’s service: “None of our stories are finished. God is not done with his people.”

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