By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Those who knew him, coined him an icon, a cornerstone and, in some ways, the heart of Clovis education circles for the last 40 years.
Jim McDaniel, former assistant superintendent of Clovis Municipal Schools, died Sunday in Charleston, S.C., from a heart attack, friends said.
In his early 60s, his death came as a surprise to many.
From his beginnings as a teacher at Gattis Junior High, to his years as an assistant and then a principal in Clovis schools, McDaniel touched the lives of countless students and taught many of today’s professionals in the community.
“He was just a really neat guy,” said Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield. “He was so funny, he had a witty sense of humor and was very intelligent. He was a tremendous asset to our community and he was a tremendous asset to our school system.”
Brumfield said her family and the McDaniel family have been close for many years, sharing many moments with their daughters being best friends, “from the cradle.”
Sunday and Monday, she said, dozens of friends and former students posted condolences and memories on McDaniel’s Facebook page.
“What he did for the community and for the school system … he will greatly be missed,” she said.
A former student, Fred Van Soelen said McDaniel was his principal and he has maintained relationships with McDaniel’s family into adulthood.
“I could say a lot about him but it would take too long,” said Van Soelen, city commissioner and attorney.
“He was a great educator, a great man, a great family man. I know his family and all his friends are going to miss him greatly,” he said.
Last year, McDaniel retired from Clovis schools and relocated to Charleston, S.C., to be closer to his daughter and his grandchild.
“So many people in Clovis know Jim as a teacher and a principal. I’m just amazed at how many people have funny stories about Jim,” schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said.
“His reach has just been so broad in this community and we miss him.”
Seidenwurm said McDaniel was a colleague she relied on for counsel and wisdom. An avid reader with a photographic memory, sharp wit and a “big thinker,” she said she often leaned on him for guidance.
“At least once a week the whole time I worked with Jim, I would go in the office and close the door and say ‘I want to talk philosophy’,” she recalled.
“I could always count on Jim to tell me what I wouldn’t want to hear and what no one else would tell me. So when I had a difficult decision to make, I always went to Jim.”
Seidenwurm said McDaniel, a deeply rooted man who lived nearly his entire life in the community, was an icon in the educational community and a man with humility, a vast knowledge base and quick sense of humor.
“What I know is that he’s at peace and those of us who knew him well and loved him miss him, and wish he’d been around another 10 years to love on that grandbaby that he loved so much,” she said.
Information about services will be published when it becomes available.