Star Valley Cornerstone Passes Away

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Diane McDaniel, a woman who was instrumental in the incorporation of Star Valley, passed away June 9.

Before the town incorporated, she volunteered 10- and 12-hour days with the Diamond Star Water Coalition, circulating petitions and organizing files.

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Diane McDaniel

"She was my right-hand person during the water wars, from 1994 until we incorporated," said Star Valley Mayor Chuck Heron. "She had a tremendous grasp of how to work with people."

In 2005, she served as the interim town clerk.

"She was in here just the other day helping me with maps in Photoshop," said Sarah Luckie, family friend and Star Valley town clerk.

In 2006, when Star Valley needed an interim manager, McDaniel was appointed to the post.

"I was the only employee at the time and without her, I don't think I could have handled my job," Luckie said.

McDaniel currently served the town as a member of its Community Planning Team.

Her contributions to the Rim Country did not begin with Star Valley.

She was a nurse's aide at the Payson Hospital in 1968.

And over the years, many people were greeted by her cheerful smile when she worked as a teller at Citibank and Wells Fargo.

McDaniel was a woman with a soft spot for animals.

She would help Randy Ferry with birds and other wildlife that needed tending, when the Payson Zoo was in operation.

She was involved with wildlife rehabilitation through veterinarian Alan Hallman's office for more than 10 years.

She had a special compassion for baby bunnies. She would get up at all hours of the night to bottle-feed the little creatures, Hallman said.

She enjoyed camping and outdoor gatherings with family and friends.

Despite her love for animals, "She knew hunting was our passion and she would adjust partway and did not bad-mouth us because that was what we liked to do," family friend Ted Pettet said. "She taught us lessons, that we needed to be the same way -- even though someone doesn't agree or doesn't do something that we like to do, that does not make them a bad person.

"For most people, a story is black and white, but she was understanding and able to sort all that out."

Pettet worked with McDaniel when he was a Star Valley town councilor. He also worked beside her when she was a gaming commissioner for the Mazatzal Casino.

She worked behind the scenes to protect the tribe's assets and make certain the gaming compact was enforced.

"She was a good commission member and the tribe appreciated the work that she did," said Ivan Smith, chairman of the Tonto Apache Tribe.

When McDaniel took on a job, she made sure it was done right and followed it through to the end, according to the people who worked with her.

"Your mother always told you, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Well, that was Diane," said casino host Jan Chilton.

When Chilton ran for the House of Representatives in the mid-1990s, McDaniel was her secretary/treasurer.

"Every time I needed to go to a town during my campaign, Diane had already let people know I would arrive," she said. "And Diane was one of the best political wives ever.

"She was such a great support for her husband."

For 18 years, Ronnie McDaniel was Payson's justice of the peace.

In the 17 years Dorothy Little worked with Judge McDaniel, she said Diane made her feel like part of the family.

"I will remember Diane's happy, bubbly personality the most," Little said. "She could always put you in a good mood."

"Diane loved her family and she adored Ronnie," said family member, Jayne Peace Pyle.

"Diane and Ronnie were best friends and their family was the most important thing to them," said Lynne Wheeler, Diane's sister. The McDaniels were married 32 years.

A celebration of Diane McDaniel's life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Tonto Apache Recreation Center gym.

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