Daniel C. Daniels, a towering man who co-owned a Howard County restaurant known far and wide for its engine-revving clientele and 365-day-a-year outdoor bar service, died of cancer Thursday.
Today, hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts are expected to roll by his eponymous eatery, Daniels Restaurant, on U.S. 1 in Elkridge to honor the 59-year-old Vietnam veteran who was known for his charitable work.
The Ellicott City father of five could be an intimidating fellow, his son Benjamin Daniels said yesterday. Despite the rough-and-tumble reputation of some of the bikers who frequented Daniels, the proprietor had no patience for profanity.
"If they do it once, I'll warn them. They do it twice, and they're out the door," he told a Sun reporter in 2003.
Benjamin Daniels said his 6-foot-5-inch father could be a strict disciplinarian, but his love for children was so strong that he continued to coach Little League long after his children outgrew their uniforms.
Mr. Daniels was born in Washington and grew up and graduated from high school in Catonsville. He enlisted at 17 and served three years in the Army, including two years in Vietnam, according to his son.
Mr. Daniels' combat experience left him shaken, according to his son. His nightmares became so intense that his wife warned their children not to wake their sleeping father, or if they did, shake him gently.
"Riding his bike helped," Benjamin Daniels said. "It's liberating, and it's easy not to think when you're riding your bike."
Later, Mr. Daniels, who had his pilot's license, became a flight instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, his family said. He married his wife, Barbara, in 1972, according to Benjamin Daniels.
Legend has it, as reported in The Sun four years ago, that Daniels Restaurant used to be the home of a farmer who would sit on his front porch with his neighbors, drinking moonshine. The 3.2-acre property eventually became a restaurant and bar and was taken over by the Daniels family 32 years ago.
Even as Howard County became more suburban, the roar of a Harley-Davidson at Daniels remained. Under Mr. Daniels' ownership and operating under a special grandfather clause, the bar opened at 7 a.m. and closed usually sometime before 2 a.m., depending on the crowds. Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's - Daniels would welcome customers without fail.
"It's the only outdoor bar open every day in the state," Benjamin Daniels said.
The business remains a family enterprise, once co-owned by Daniels' mother, who passed away recently, and now run in part by two of Mr. Daniels' sons.
Benjamin Daniels said his father also worked tirelessly for good causes. He was a chairman for Hands Across America, co-chairman of the Motorcycle Operation Santa Claus and organized toy runs for needy children at Christmastime. Disabled children at the Therapeutic Riding Academy in Lisbon had their horses fed by the 40 bales of hay donated by Mr. Daniels every winter, his family said.
After a motorcycle-led procession past Daniels Restaurant, services will be held at 10 a.m. today at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, 5976 Old Washington Road in Elkridge.
In addition to his wife and son, survivors include two other sons, Daniel Daniels and David Daniels, both of Elkridge; two daughters, Molly McCaffery of North Carolina and Theresa Daniels of Catonsville; and a grandson.