My Uncle Jack McDaniels was always a great guy…very pleasant and always ready with a joke of some other funny remark. All my life, I enjoyed being around him and my Aunt Bonnie. Uncle Jack went home to Heaven on July 14, 2012, and he has been greatly missed by his family ever since. As I was getting ready to write his birthday story, I wanted to capture his personality in a way that maybe many people did not know him, so I contacted his daughter-in-law, Deena for assistance. I like to think that my inquiry gave Deena and Michael a prime opportunity to remember his dad on his birthday, because what better way to remember a parent than happy memories discussed on their birthday.

If you have ever been a part of a family on the larger side of size, you know that when they all get together, especially when there are little children in the mix, it is not a quiet event. Michael remembered a large family gathering that was quite loud, as you can imagine. Suddenly, everything went still…how that many people would all get quiet at the same time is shocking enough in and of itself. Nevertheless, for a few moments all was quiet before someone finally spoke. Uncle Jack said, in relief, “Thank goodness, I thought I had gone deaf!” I can absolutely see my Uncle Jack saying just that, with a twinkle in his eye, because that is how he was. He always saw the humor in life.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Bonnie’s son, Michael married his wife, Deena in 2006, so Deena got to know Uncle Jack for a little over six years. Deena told me about her first real interaction with Uncle Jack. Michael, having grown up with his dad’s influence, made the joke that he found Deena by the side of the road. So, when Uncle Jack met Deena for the first time, he said “So, you must be the hitchhiker!!!” The nickname stuck, and she is the hitchhiker to this day. It was all part of his teasing nature.

One thing I didn’t know, but wished I did, is that Uncle Jack loved local history. It is something he shared with Michael and Deena. Conversations between the three of them often centered around Casper and Natrona County history. They all collect books on local history too. Uncle Jack would share his collection of books with us, and their love of history grew. Books on local history became popular gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and I’m sure they are extra special treasures, now that Uncle Jack is in Heaven, as are the wonderful conversations they had over the years. Today would have been Uncle Jack’s 81st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Jack. We all love and miss you very much.

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