Pastors' Memoirs

Denzil Ray Daniel, 1923-2002

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   Denzil Ray Daniel was the fifth of seven children, born to Ashton and Sylvia Daniel in Saxon, W.Va, on February 20, 1923. His early education began in a one-room school where his father taught. He later graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College and attended Temple University. His military experience left an indelible mark on his life when he served in the U.S. Army during World War II in England, France, and Germany.

When he returned to West Virginia, Denzil married his best friend’s younger sister, Bethel June Milam, on November 2, 1946. In the early days of their marriage, Denzil worked as a coal miner, but after the birth of their first daughter, he attended a 1949 revival that changed his life. He rededicated himself to his faith and accepted the Lord’s call into the ministry. While a full-time student at West Virginia Wesleyan, he served five local churches and, together with another ministerial student, led numerous revivals in the area. He did not measure his ministry’s success in numbers, but in how individual’s lives were changed. Nevertheless, while both a pastor and full-time college student, for one year he led the West Virginia Methodist Conference in new church memberships. During one Sunday afternoon service, on a river bank, 186 people were baptized.

By his 1952 college graduation, the family had enlarged to three daughters and had begun the tradition of moving every few years. Denzil’s next appointment was to five churches on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There he also commuted to Temple University in Philadelphia for postgraduate studies. This was a time of personal struggle for Denzil and Bethel June as the two youngest daughters had been ill from birth. Their trust in God and search for healing eventually led them to University Hospital in Baltimore, Md., where successful treatment was begun.

In 1953, Denzil moved his family to Virginia. His pastoral career spanned four decades during which he served churches located "from the mountains to the sea," retiring in 1987 followed by 41/2 years of additional service as an interim pastor. Denzil was an affable man committed to visiting every member of each of his congregations. A great organizer and an inspiring leader, he drew out the best talents in people to serve the Lord. As a self-taught musician from Appalachia, he was especially fond of the banjo, guitar, and harmonica, and derived considerable pleasure from surprising folks with his talent, punctuating his uplifting and lively tunes with a hearty laugh.

While strongly committed to Christian service, Denzil recognized the importance of sustaining family relationships and set aside one night each week as "family night." Devoted to his family, he received strength from their affection and taught them much about love, forgiveness, and keeping a strong sense of humor.

His great love also extended to his World War II Army veterans and, although he knew the location of only one of the men 40 years after the war ended, he eventually found all but two of them. For 16 years he organized the annual reunion of the 680th Quartermaster Corps until his health declined.

Denzil was an avid researcher and historian, especially interested in genealogical, Methodist and Civil War history. In retirement, he remained actively involved in various projects including leading efforts for the historical preservation of "The Gables" at Blackstone and serving as church historian for Tabernacle United Methodist Church. His devotion to pursuing the Lord’s work was epitomized in his final days by continuing to encourage church expansion that would better meet the growing community’s needs.

Denzil died February 5, 2002. He is survived by his beloved wife, Bethel June; daughters, Sharon Stafford, Marsha Mirarchi, and Marvella McDill; three granddaughters; two grandsons; and one sister. He was a devoted husband of 55 years, a beloved father and grandfather, a faithful friend, and above all else, a humble servant of God. On March 6, 2002, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution No. 418 as an expression of respect for his memory, stating in part, ". . .that the General Assembly mourn the passing of a dedicated spiritual leader, the Rev. Denzil R. Daniel."

— Bethel June Daniel, wife;
daughters Sharon Stafford, Marsha Mirarchi, Marvella McDill

 

 

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