Samuel McDaniell: World traveler loved Florida home, family

Former executive director of Orlando Housing Authority died New Year's Eve after a life of family, travel and

It was 1927 and Florida native Samuel McDaniell was a dreamy-eyed third grader, listening in awe at the radio transmission of aviator Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic.

The historic flight propelled McDaniell to join the Air Force when he grew up, launching a 30-year-long career that took him and his family around the world.

With each trip, McDaniell — who jokingly referred to himself as their "fearless leader" — planned excursions for the family in his free time.

In the summers, the family packed into a car and set off across America, singing songs and making stops at historical sites.

"That's how we grew up," said son Bo McDaniell of Las Vegas. "It was a wonderful way to grow up."

To the McDaniell children, adjusting to a new home with a new set of friends every two to four years was made easier by their father's venturesome spirit.

"He would make it fun when we went to a new base," said daughter Scottie McDaniell of Orlando. "Daddy made everything like an adventure."

After a life of traveling the world with his family, Samuel McDaniell died on New Year's Eve at the age of 96.

Born in Gainesville, the University of Florida graduate attended flight school and was then chosen as an instructor for pilots in the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Air Force.

His military career then took him to the South Pacific and he flew bombing missions over Japan.

Along the way, he met the love of his life in Florida and had two children.

"They were inseparable," Bo McDaniell said of his parents."They were a team. You couldn't go from one to the other to play one against another."

In 1951, McDaniell would serve for a year in Korea. After the war, he was stationed in numerous places with the Air Force, including Florida, Massachusetts, Alabama, England and more.

But the world-traveler's favorite place was his home in Florida.

"He would kneel down on the floor as soon as he landed — each time — and kiss the ground," said his daughter.

McDaniell retired as a colonel in the Air Force but was still too restless to enjoy leisure time.

He became the executive director of the Orlando Housing Authority for 24 years, ending his leadership in 1994.

During his time in that role, then-Mayor Carl Langford gave him a key to the city.

McDaniell's children said they recently found numerous other accolades they were never told about, while clearing their father's possessions, such as the military's Bronze Star and Air Medal.

Long after the childhood adventures, the McDaniell family remained close-knit, still traveling together when they could.

"He gave very freely with his time," his daughter recalled.

After his retirement from the housing authority, McDaniell enjoyed yearly road trips to California with his wife. He drove out there until the age of 90, said his son.

The couple would stop along the way to visit friends, sip on cocktails and lounge by a pool.

"For them, it was just about the journey — slowly enjoying the journey," his son said.

He is survived by his two children; his wife of 68 years, Elizabeth McDaniell of Orlando; two grandchildren; five nephews.

His vigil will be held Saturday at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando.

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