Tribute to Dan
by Phil Pantella
Daniel Frederick Pantella was born in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, the youngest of four children, to Michael and Petrunella (née Symak) Pantella. Along with his sister Madeline and two brothers, Eugene and Philip, he was raised in the hamlet of Dana, population 50 if you included a number of nearby farms in its greater metropolitan area. Like his siblings before him he was fortunate to have his loving mother as his teacher from grades 1 to 5 and his patient father for grades 6 to 9. Later, Dan attended Bruno High School for grades 10 to 12, where he excelled in scholastics, sports and leadership. He played on the local fastball team and on the Bruno Thunderbirds men’s hockey team, was a centennial youth traveller to Newfoundland in grade 11, and was president of the school Student Society in grade 12.
Dan was blessed with a brilliant mind and a formidable memory which helped him win major scholarships toward his university endeavours. He was awarded a Bachelor of Commerce degree with Great Distinction from the University of Saskatchewan in 1974 while still finding time for intramural hockey and fastball. He also served on the College of Commerce student executive. Dan then relocated to Vancouver to complete a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of British Columbia in 1975, accomplishing the two year program in one year.
Although academically brilliant, Dan was not your typical book-bound scholar and always found plenty of time for other shenanigans. This started at a young age and I recall Dan being in grade 4 or 5 and deliberately answering all the questions wrong on a test to earn a mark of 0. That was totally unbelievable because his grades were generally two 0’s with a 1 in front. Dinner at home that night was more than a little tense, with both his teacher/mother and principal/father at the table. When asked what happened, Dan calmly replied that he wanted to know what it felt like to fail an exam. Somehow, he managed to avoid severe punishment but several strong suggestions about expected performance kept him from ever deliberately failing a test again. Strong suggestions in our house were understood to be taken more like rules.
In 1974, before moving to Vancouver, Dan married his soul mate Myrna Mueller, who would be his lifelong partner. It was during their stay at the University in Vancouver and the experience of a more temperate winter than they were used to in Saskatchewan that Dan and Myrna decided that one day they would work and live there. It was a long and circuitous path before they achieved that goal.
Early in Dan’s career, he and Myrna chose to mix some travel in with work time. After 4 years in the Gulf Oil marketing department, an attempt to transfer him to Regina resulted in their taking a six week European vacation. On their return Dan and Myrna relocated to London, Ontario where Dan was a branch manager for Rentway, leasing big rigs to transport companies. Two years later he and Myrna were off again on a one year round the world trip through Hawaii, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Egypt, and Europe. Despite being seasoned travellers, Dan and Myrna have never been overly concerned with a schedule. I have it on good authority that while in Europe the trip from Koblenz to Trier along the Mosel River, a distance of only some 300 kilometers, took them 5 days. I have no doubt that the scenery and numerous roadside terrace restaurants provided some distraction, not to mention the plethora of wine stubes along the road.
On their return to Canada, as fate would have it, Regina beckoned again with a management consulting opportunity at Deloitte, Haskins and Sells. Dan finally surrendered to his apparent destiny and relocated to Regina. During their time in Regina, Dan and Myrna were blessed with the births of their two sons Robert in February 1985 and Tyler in December 1987. The boys brought a new focus to life and were also a great joy to both sets of grandparents who were within easy driving distance. They all enjoyed great times around the games or card table with Myrna’s parents and many adventures at the cabin with Dan’s parents.
After 6 years with Deloitte, Dan spent 2 more with the Bank of Montreal as a manager of commercial accounts. But a possible transfer to Ontario had Dan and Myrna thinking again about their dream of moving to the west coast. In 1990 the dream opportunity finally presented itself and Dan joined the B.C. provincial government in Victoria where he remained in several different positions and job titles for the rest of his career.
Dan and Myrna enjoyed their life on the island immensely and I am sure their boys have many fond memories of camping and many other adventures. Dan and Myrna also became hockey parents for several years and with the boys in different age groups they were both kept busy. There were also the cubscout activities in which they were active parent volunteers.
His work was not without challenges either. Many years ago BC was experiencing several short lived minority governments led by different political parties. During that time, Dan once quipped that he was thinking of installing a mini bar frig in his office because he was spending so much time hiding under his desk. His view was “If they can’t find me they can’t fire me.” I understand that during his last year at work his tactic had reversed completely as he kept trying to be fired. So much so that regular staff meetings soon became opened with a clear statement that Dan would not be fired that week.
With his retirement in 2012, Dan managed to pull another fast one on his older brother. Although he was 2 years younger he managed to retire a half year earlier than me and this afforded him more time to pursue his passions. He would golf when he liked the weather conditions, he played many board games with his family (usually winning), and he and Myrna travelled – to Hawaii, Palm Springs, Cuba, Mexico, and to the family cabin in Saskatchewan. He made the vacation trip to Saskatchewan last summer cruising in his retirement toy, a red convertible Mustang. He and Phil spent almost a week together rebuilding the deck after a simple resurface job turned into a down-to-the-foundation reconstruction. He and Myrna completed the railing together, installed horizontally and later, typical of Dan’s wry humor, he told me that we could probably rent it out for any future remakes of the movie “Gunfight at the OK Corral”
When I visited him in hospital two weeks before his passing, I was struck by a couple of brief observations. First, during a rousing game of scrabble against Myrna, Dan remained as competitive as ever, refusing to accept Robert’s helpful suggestions for any word that would not give him at least 25 points. And then his lifelong connection to Myrna was clear when he stirred from a shallow slumber and said to her “Hey Cutie, how ya doin?”
A good friend of Dan’s emailed earlier this week that Dan would be remembered for his brilliant mind, his nonstop smile and his hearty laugh. We will all certainly miss him.