When Lavon McDaniel reached the scene of an emergency in Alachua County, everyone knew the cavalry had arrived.
He would step out of the truck with his sunglasses on, even if it was raining, and a sense of calm would wash over.
Lavon McDaniel, retired Emergency Medical Service Lt. for Alachua County Fire Rescue, died suddenly in his sleep Jan. 14. He was 67.
His son, Logan McDaniel, 25, began his career as a paramedic with ACFR in honor of his father. Lavon gave him his firefighter pin and presented him with his paramedic certificate when he graduated from paramedic school, Logan said.
“He was by far the most reliable person I've ever known,” he said.
McDaniel was born Sept. 5, 1955, on his family’s farm in Waycross, Georgia. After attending college in Tennessee, he moved to Florida to pursue a career in medicine. He began as an Emergency Medical Technician for Levy County before becoming a paramedic for Alachua County.
There’s a piece of his father in everything, especially at the fire department, Logan said.
“If anybody's ever in an ambulance and they see how it's set up, that's because of him,” Logan said. “And a lot of medical protocol was written because of him.”
McDaniel was one of few ACFR “originals,” said James Bendel, 55. Before it was Alachua County Fire Rescue, it was simply Alachua County EMS, and Bendel said McDaniel was one of the first members of this ambulance service.
“We've had some giants in the industry who were tied to Alachua County, and Lavon was one of them,” he said.
Bendel was McDaniel’s friend and coworker during his time at ACFR. They met on Bendel’s second day at work. Though he was technically McDaniel’s supervisor, Bendel said McDaniel’s instincts led him through hard times.
“I didn't have to tell him what to do,” Bendel said. “He knew what to do.”
Throughout the years, McDaniel stayed loyal to the medical aspect of emergency services. Even when Alachua County EMS evolved into Alachua County Fire Rescue and some of his coworkers “switched sides” to become firefighters, he was always there for patient care, Bendel said.
“He was a patient advocate,” he said. “No matter what the call was, no matter if it was a homeless person or the richest person, everybody was treated the same.”
McDaniel was also a teacher, Bendel said. He volunteered to help hundreds of students in EMT and paramedic school and let them ride along during his shifts.
Even after he retired in 2012, McDaniel played a large role in the county’s emergency services, helping them decide what new equipment to buy and classes to take.
Though he was dedicated to his work, Bendel said, he was also dedicated to the people around him.
“He always spoke of his four children, his wife, and the importance of family and friendship,” Bendel said. “He treated everyone like he knew them his entire life.”
This respect for others extended beyond people.
Bendel has a daughter who played volleyball, so his family would often travel to watch her play. They also had a dog, a dachshund, named Koko. As Koko got older, she wouldn’t eat unless somebody was there with her.
When the Bendels would leave, McDaniel would go to their house and sit with Koko several times a day for hours, Bendel said.
“He was that loving and caring of a person that he would do that for his friends and family,” Bendel said. “That just speaks to his character.”
McDaniel had his own dog, a chihuahua named Bella, but he still took the time to make sure Koko was okay when Bendel and his family were gone.
Logan will always remember his giving spirit.
“He was super giving, very selfless,” Logan McDaniel said. “ He would take more time with others than he would himself.”
There are many who will miss the man who helped build ACFR. The man who would sleep facedown with his head in his hands so he wouldn’t mess up his hair. The man who always had an extra cup of coffee waiting for him. The man who loved golf, but most of all, loved people.
McDaniel is survived by his wife Beverly; his four children, Logan, Paul, Brandon and Carrie; his mother, Ernestine McDaniel; his father, William McDaniel; and his three grandchildren.
He will be cremated, and a ceremony will be held on Jan. 28 at Greenhouse Church.
Contact Aubrey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @aubreyyrosee.
Aubrey Bocalan is a third-year journalism major. She is also pursuing a double major in Art. When she isn't writing, she's probably watching TV with her dog, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Bocalan.