Searcy man devotes life to pleasing God

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published June 30, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 28, 2013 at 10:48 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Thomas McDaniel has seen a lot during his 91 years and has worked in several different capacities. He grew up in White County and served in World War II. After the war, McDaniel worked at a local mill before getting hired by the International Shoe Co. McDaniel later worked 26 years as a mail carrier, a job he said he enjoyed “very much.”

— In Thomas McDaniel’s 91 years, it’s safe to say he’s seen a lot. He is a World War II veteran, lived through the Great Depression and has spent his life being the best person he can be.

Growing up in White County, he saw hardships while his parents worked hard for everything his family needed, McDaniel said.

“My dad had to work for whatever we got,” McDaniel said. “You learn a lot when you grow up like that, but back then, we didn’t realize it was hard.”

Growing up during the Great Depression showed McDaniel how to appreciate the things he has been given in life.

“You learn the value of things,” McDaniel said.

Although he’s lived in the Searcy area almost all of his life, he did live out of the country during the years he served in the military.

“The military got me in 1942,” McDaniel said. “I was in the 88th Infantry Division of the Army.”

During World War II, McDaniel said, he spent time in Italy, just north of Naples.

“The conflict with Japan ended just before we had to fight,” McDaniel said. “I was discharged in February of 1946.”

He met his future wife in December 1945 while he was on a furlough to spend time with his family over Christmas.

“One of the men [from Searcy] wanted to date my wife’s sister, and he wanted to talk to my wife at J.C. Penney to find out where her sister was,” McDaniel said. “I looked her up after I was discharged.”

Tina Mae and McDaniel were married on March 9, 1947.

They both turned 24 the year they were married; the couple spent 58 years together before Tina Mae died in November 2005.

Returning to Searcy after the war, McDaniel said, he spent time working at a local mill, then worked at the International Shoe Co., which came to the area in 1947.

“The shoe company came in, and I worked there for nine years,” McDaniel said.

He worked his way up to the position of foreman before he was fired for accidentally letting a shoe leave the factory without showing it to the superintendent of the plant.

“I was in the packing department, and I let this shoe be shipped without it being shown to the superintendent,” McDaniel said.

Being let go from the shoe factory opened up another opportunity for McDaniel.

While being fired isn’t the most ideal of situations, McDaniel said, he didn’t let it get him down.

“My wife told me I should go down to the Postal Service and look for a job,” McDaniel said.

Even though he didn’t have a “dream job” as a child, McDaniel said he gives thanks to God that he spent 26 years as a city letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

“I enjoyed that job very much,” McDaniel said. “I loved being out and among people. I like being around people.

“If I wouldn’t have been fired, I never would have worked for the Postal Service.”

His time with the Postal Service was spent mostly on foot because when he got his job, McDaniel said, the service hadn’t developed its vehicles to carry mail yet.

“I spent probably about five hours walking a day,” McDaniel said. “It was a lot of walking.” McDaniel hung up his mail-carrier bag for the last time on Feb. 2, 1985, when he retired.

At 91, McDaniel said, he is in good health, and until last year, he did all of his own lawn care.

He said he wishes he could travel more, but McDaniel said he will get an opportunity to do some traveling in August.

“I’m going with my son to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial,” McDaniel said.

He spends a lot of his time at the White County Aging Program at the Lightle Center in Searcy.

“On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I play dominoes at [the Lightle Center],” McDaniel said.

Church also plays a prominent role in McDaniel’s life.

“I’m still involved with church,” McDaniel said. “I’m still singing in the worship group. I was teaching Sunday School up until a year or so ago.”

Although he’s never been a pastor, McDaniel said, he has been privileged to teach Sunday School and serve his church as a deacon. He is a member of the Floyd Assembly of God in Searcy.

He’s been able to use his servitude to a higher power at the White County Aging Program, he said.

“I lead prayer there every morning and lead a Bible study on Wednesday mornings,” McDaniel said.

Even though leading prayer and a Bible study takes up time he could spend doing other things, McDaniel said it isn’t a problem to do these things.

“The Lord does the work — we’re just his servants,” McDaniel said. “I try to let the Lord work through me.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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