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Longtime Washougal schools supporter dies at 73

Roger Daniels, described as ‘honest, passionate, gracious in all areas of his life,’ died April 24

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Roger Daniels (right) holds a "Washougal: Vote Yes!" sign with his neighbor, Bryan Seekins, in 2023. Daniels, a longtime Washougal education supporter and co-founder of the Washougal Education Association, died Monday, April 24, 2023, one day before Washougal voters approved the Washougal School District's two replacement levies. (Contributed photo courtesy of Washougal Citizens for Schools)

Roger Daniels, a longtime Washougal education supporter who played extensive roles in many aspects of civic life in Clark County, has died.

Daniels, 72, died Monday, April 24, after suffering what his daughter described in a Facebook post as a “significant stroke.”

“Roger was able to succeed in so many different areas because of his strong work ethic and genuine care for people,” said former Washougal School District employee Rene Carroll, who knew Daniels for more than 30 years. “He was honest, passionate and gracious in all areas of his life. You could always count on him for help or advice. Roger’s most unquestionable strength was the passion he brought for everything he did — passion for his work, Washougal, fishing, history and his family.”

Daniels’ life was “something that fishermen would call a ‘big fish story,’” according to Washougal High School teacher Jim Reed. “But the only problem is that Roger actually lived that big fish story,” Reed said. “I have talked with a couple of mutual friends, and we have all said that he lived seven or eight lives in the one that he was given. Roger’s impact was quite a remarkable journey. He was a complete advocate for Washougal and the Vancouver area. To me, Roger Daniels was the unofficial mayor of Washougal — he knew everybody.”

Daniels, a 1968 Washougal High graduate, worked for Clark College for 27 years as an athletic director, director of admissions and director of student programs. During his tenure as athletic director from 1983 to 1995, the Penguins captured 28 Northwest Athletic Conference Western Region titles, six NWACC championships and had seven Coach of the Year awards.

Daniels was “instrumental” in bringing the NWAC administrative office to Clark College in 1994, according to a news release. He was inducted into the NWAC Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Clark College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

After leaving Clark College, Daniels dedicated most of his time to local civic affairs, influencing the birth and/or development of a variety of organizations and initiatives.

“Roger was one of the most active members of our community that I have ever met,” Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner Larry Keister said.

In 1999, Daniels led an effort to encourage voters to approve a $51 million building bond for the Washougal School District, the district’s first successful bond campaign in almost 20 years. The bond raised funds to extensively remodel Washougal High School and Gause, Hathaway and Cape Horn-Skye elementary schools, and build Canyon Creek Middle School.

Daniels co-chaired the passage of a $9.5 million school maintenance levy in 2000, and co-founded the Washougal Schools Foundation (WSF), a nonprofit organization that supports programs to enhance the learning process for students in the WSD by funding programs that would otherwise not be available to the students and teachers, in 2001.

Daniels also volunteered as an announcer for the WSF’s annual Stride for Fun Run and Washougal High soccer and basketball games, and served on WSD’s vocational advisory committee, “using his expertise to promote quality professional and technical programs at Washougal High,” according to the district. He also donated to the WSD’s family community resource centers to provide families with meals and gifts around the holidays.

“Roger’s support of Washougal schools was transformational,” Carroll said. “Most notably was his work as a founding member of the Washougal Schools Foundation, which raises and distributes funds to educators. He was also a valued member of several Washougal School District community committees and bond and levy campaigns through the years. As a proud Washougal graduate and with daughters in the school system, he worked hard to enhance education for all children.”

Daniels advocated for Washougal voters to approve the WSD’s replacement levies earlier this month.

“Roger sat in this room at our very last board meeting, and he was sure our community would come together (and pass) our current levies,” Washougal School Board member Angela Hancock said during a board meeting on Tuesday, April 25. “He was willing to jump in and advocate and help where he could. His last written words to me regarding our levies were, ‘We’ll get ’er done. I truly believe that.’”

Voters approved both levies one day after Daniels died.

“I have to think that he is smiling down knowing that both levies passed after he was sign-waving a couple days prior to his passing,” Reed said.

Daniels served as a Clark County Fire District commissioner and helped create the East County Fire and Rescue district. In 2006, he chaired the Washington State Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Advisory Committee, which influenced the creation of Captain William Clark Park along the Washougal waterfront.

Daniels also led a fight to stop Riverwalk on the Columbia, a private group that campaigned to use public funds for an elaborate development at the Port of Camas-Washougal; secured funding to construct the Danielson Soccer Fields in Washougal; and played key booster roles for the St. Thomas Montessori School and the Fort Vancouver Regional Library.

He was named as the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in 2001.

“Roger had a thirst for knowledge and deep interest in local history,” Carroll said. “Because of that, our community has him to thank for Captain William Clark Park and the documented history surrounding the Cottonwood Beach area and early explorers of the Columbia River, including the Lewis and Clark expedition and Englishman explorer (William Robert) Broughton. He loved giving talks to organizations and at history gatherings. We all know so much more about the area’s history thanks to Roger’s work.”

Daniels also dabbled in local politics, serving as the campaign manager for former Port commissioners Bill Ward and Mark Lampton.

“He would take the time to personally interview potential candidates for any office before he would support their campaign,” said Port commissioner Larry Keister. “He wanted to know that every elected official was going to best represent our community. Roger interviewed me several times before he supported my campaign. He became a trusted advisor, and (he) had no problem meeting with me if he felt I was heading in the wrong direction.”

Later in life, Daniels enjoyed a lucrative real estate career, recording more than 425 sales in the 17 years and becoming “one of the top producers in his company,” according to Zillow.com.

“Roger found his true calling when he entered the world of real estate,” Carroll said. “It was the perfect profession for him, combining his enthusiasm for this area and his helpful nature. His customers new to the area got more than a home — they received an extensive orientation and welcome into our community, and, as always, a history lesson.”

“He loved history, especially the history of the area,” Keister added. “When Roger had a real estate client that wanted to move to this area, he took them around like a tour guide. He ‘sold the community’ by showing them all the beauty, connections to nature, history, and pride our community offers.”

Daniels attended Clark College and the University of Washington, where he was a member of the Huskies’ crew team and earned an internship to work with Congressman Mike McCormack in Washington, D.C. He also served in the United States Marines as a member of the Marine Security Guard at the American Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the American Consulate in Hong Kong.

Daniels was “an avid fisherman and boater,” according to Carroll.

“His generosity shone through hosting many guests on one of his boats on the Columbia River to fish or sightsee, and always providing a captivating history lesson,” she said.

Daniels is survived by daughters Katie Beaty and Kerri Daniels, with whom he shared with his ex-wife, Kim Daniels; and two grandchildren. They are planning a celebration of life event, to be held at the Washougal High auditorium at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 25. Attendees are encouraged to wear Clark College, Washougal, Marine Corps, or UW Huskies gear, according to the WSD. Daniels’ family members are asking mourners to consider a donation to the Washougal Schools Foundation in lieu of flowers or cards.

“If nothing else, he was a relationship-builder — he showed that he cared about other people, what their needs were, and how he could help somebody else,” Reed said. “He’s somebody who I looked at as a server, especially to those around him and his community which he cared so deeply about. Roger is going to be sorely missed. He’s going to be an irreplaceable part of our community in which he supported until the end.”