Daniels Day celebrates family, honors Suzanne Tate and James Melvin

Published 8:54 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

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Since Aug. 19, 1934, the Daniels family has gathered at the Bethany Church of Wanchese.

The Sunday afternoon gathering is always around that same time and this year was held Aug. 20.

The gathering is called Daniels Day.

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This year, M. Roy Daniels III, who presides at the program, suggested changing the 2023 name to the Suzanne Tate and James Melvin Day. Both were honored guests at the event.

In 1985, the first two books in Suzanne Tate’s Nature Series were published: Crabby and Nabby and Billy Bluefish. James Melvin illustrated the books. Over the years, the publishing pair went forward to complete 33 more books in the Nature Series. A History Series was published. Teaching guides were developed along with activities and coloring books.

Roy Daniels read the stories to his children and now his grandchildren.

Earl Willis said “thanks for the gift.”

“I grew up on these books,” commented musician Bob Furr, who shared the same birthday as Tate’s husband. A dinner at Kelly’s was constantly interrupted by folks seeking Suzanne Tate’s autograph on books. “She was a celebrity,” realized Furr.

Retired Dare County first grade school teacher Judith Fearing told about using Crabby and Nabby in her classroom. She read the books to her students. Then, she brought a bushel of crabs to the classroom and taught her students how to pick those crabs. “It all started because of these books.”

When Sammy Shrimp was published, she brought shrimp to the classroom and taught the students how to head a shrimp. “I appreciate your dedication,” said Fearing to the publishing pair.

Bethany Church pastor Susie Fitch-Slater shared that she had read Crabby and Nabby to her children. And, when she cooked crabs, her son became hysterical and accused her of murdering Crabby and Nabby.

In the midst of audience comments, Ken Mann was able to show interviews with Tate and Melvin. The video was from Mann’s show “My Heart Will Always Be in Carolina,” featured on PBS.

Tess Judge was invited to the front of the sanctuary. She was carrying two framed documents.

She said that teachers “share your books in North Carolina, around this country and around the world. The books are about relationships and building character … What a wonderful partnership.”

Judge announced that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had bestowed the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on Suzanne Tate and James Melvin. At the announcement, the crowd was surprised and delightful applause filled the room.

During the program, the Captain’s Friends played “Reunion Music.” Will Field sang “Old Country Church.” Connie Bateman delivered “Lighthouse.” Bob Furr sang “I Believe” and Field returned with “Rock of Ages Left for Me.” Bateman sang an uplifting “Lord, Give us America.” The program concluded with a benediction, “The Blessing Song” with Furr.

This group of music makers along with others has created an acoustic bluegrass CD with a nautical theme. Titled “Captain’s Log, Friends, Faith and Songs of the Sea,” it is available at Village Hardware and Charis Coffee Company in Manteo. Proceeds from the sale go to Dare Challenge. The group has already sent Dare Challenge $2,500.

At the start of the program, Roy Daniels noted family members who had passed: Irving Aldridge, Paul Daniels, Lily “Doll” Daniels Gray, Danny Daniels, Hazel “Hugging Hazel” Meekins Hare and Jack Pardue.

The youngest person attending this Daniels Day was third-grader Harlyn Elizabeth Daniels, 8, from Elizabeth City.

The two oldest attending are Alvah Ward and Suzanne Tate, who are both 92 years young.

The family’s scholarship was awarded to Kathryn Durand.