Brother, uncle, friend to many, retired “cement head,” horse and sports enthusiast. Born Nov. 15, 1948, near Mount Carmel, Ont., died Oct. 28, 2012, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., of heart failure, aged 63.
Dan was never in much of a hurry except the day he was born. There was no time to get to the nearest hospital, in London, Ont., so he was born at home on his parents’ farm. He was second of eight children.
He always had a keen sense of humour and a quick wit. While a younger brother and sister were arguing over who would get the last banana, Dan was under the table eating the banana!
He lived his whole life in the Mount Carmel area, had a deep faith and was a lifelong member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. He valued friendship and was well known in the community for his kindness and zest for life.
Dan was a Detroit Red Wings and Tigers fan, and a walking encyclopedia of sports facts. His might have become a sports writer or broadcaster, but the realities of his large family led him into the family concrete construction business, McCann Redi-Mix Inc., as a partner and project manager. He retired in 2010.
Despite the physical demands and long hours of work, Dan knew how to relax, to celebrate family events and enjoy his spare time participating in baseball, hockey, golf, card games, community dinners and socializing with lifelong friends.
He met Marian later in life and they travelled extensively. Dan was proud to be a “cement head,” and when travelling with him, one was made aware of concrete projects everywhere – good ones and bad ones.
Standard-bred horses became a passion. He purchased his first racehorse, Uncle John, in 1973. It is easy to see why he loved harness racing: You wager on the outcome, then win or lose, celebrate after.
Family was a priority in Dan’s life. He treasured his 17 nieces and nephews. One said, “Everyone should have an Uncle Dan.” He was generous with gifts, but also his time. He attended their games, drove to practices and saw school plays. He began naming some of his racehorses after them. He went to the London 2012 Olympics to cheer his niece, who set a Canadian record in pentathlon.
With the racing industry facing challenges at home, Dan had his sights set on expanding to the United States. On his last trip he said, “I’m going to take New York by storm.”
That last trip was in late October. He was on his way to Vernon Downs in Vernon, N.Y., to accept an award for one of several horses he owned with Trevor Henry. It was a typical weekend for Dan – dinner and races at the Western Fair, with Marian and another couple; cross the border at Niagara Falls, a trip to the casino for the guys, and a few words of good night. He went to bed that night, fell asleep and was gone.
Dan left us with a few reminders about how to live: Laugh often, be kind and generous to others, do what makes you happy, treasure your family and friends and take the time to enjoy a beer once in a while.
John Gillespie is Dan’s brother-in-law.