William Robert McDaniel, long-time math teacher at Righetti High School, passed away peacefully in his sleep on October 4, 2018 at the home he shared in Santa Maria, California with the love of his life, Phyllis Arlene McDaniel.
Bill was born on November 5, 1936 on a farm near Concordia, Kansas before the family moved into town. Growing up during the Great Depression and World War II had a lasting effect on Bill. He appreciated life.
Bill graduated from Concordia High School in 1954 and attended Fort Hays State University where he graduated after three years with a degree in Industrial Arts (minor in Mathematics). Bill then decided to become a teacher, and he and Phyllis Lefort were married on June 1, 1957.
Bill began his teaching career in northeast Kansas (at Morrill and Hiawatha High Schools). In 1958, son Kim Robert McDaniel was born in a blizzard, and in 1960 the young family decided to move back to Concordia where Bill began teaching math and “shop.” Daughter Kristi Lyn McDaniel was born in 1962. Upon receiving grants to continue his education during two subsequent summers, Bill and family left Kansas to explore Utah State in Logan, Utah and Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California.
Bill then received a National Science Foundation grant to attend Penn State College from 1965-66 to earn his Master's Degree in Math. This was an exciting time at Penn State because Joe Paterno had just become the head football coach and would go on to build his football dynasty there. Bill often told of playing handball with the “ultra-competitive” Paterno (and getting beat).
After receiving his Master's Degree from Penn State, the McDaniels decided to move to California where Bill became a math teacher at the then-new Righetti High School in Orcutt, California. Bill was much-loved by students and faculty at Righetti High and was the Department Head of 12 math teachers for 19 years. He also became enamored by computers and software early-on and managed to obtain $1.3 million in grants for computers for the three local public high schools. Bill also taught math and computers at Allan Hancock Junior College before retiring from teaching in 1996. Bill half-jokingly considered his “biggest blunder” to have occurred in 1977 when he passed up a job and stock offered by “some redheaded kid who looked like a teenager.” That kid was Bill Gates and the stock was in then-tiny Microsoft long before it went public. Oh well.
After moving to California, the McDaniels spent much of their long summers camping and traveling to and from Kansas to be with family there. Camping and trout fishing brought Bill and the family great joy, and enabled them to get to know much of the United States and Western Canada.
Bill regularly enjoyed playing golf until his back wouldn't permit and was a member of the Elks Club. Bill was also a life-long master woodworker and eventually a luthier. He single-handedly built a large addition to the family house in Orcutt and thereafter crafted guitars and built armoires, rocking chairs, tables, and benches for his children and grandchildren. And when it came to family weddings he went all out, building a large roller-coaster model out of toothpicks for daughter Kristi's wedding to favorite son-in-law David Bright and, just this past May, a wedding arch for grandson Dylan's wedding in Palm Springs to Melanie Miller.
In addition to woodworking, Bill was constantly creating art. He began with paintings, then wall-rug designs, then various objects made from papier mache, polymer clay, and pewter which were displayed in the Town Center Art Gallery and the Valley Art Gallery in Orcutt. Bill also volunteered and helped many others at those galleries.
Bill is survived by Phyllis, his wife of 61 years, son Kim (and wife Katy), daughter Kristi Bright (and husband Dave Bright), his grandchildren Dylan, Hannah and Carley McDaniel, his sister Phyllis Gridley and her family located in Wichita, Kansas and Idaho, and his sister-in-law Donna Lefort and her family located in Salina, Kansas, and various nieces and nephews.
Bill was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather (he rarely missed the many high school and college sporting events in which his grandchildren participated). During the last 20-plus years (in particular) Bill saw the world only through rose-colored glasses. He provided a great example to all he encountered, consistently proclaiming that everything and every occurrence was “wonderful!”
In this spirit, his family asks that all who knew Bill seek to see the world and others in this same light. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the non-profit Valley Art Gallery located at 125 West Clark, Suite 101, Orcutt, CA 93455, (805) 937-2278.
Condolences can be sent to 705 Arora Way, Santa Maria, CA 93458.