To become a true Parkview Hillian, you have to be a true nature lover. A person who, from the moment they drive in, slows down to appreciate all the beauty that abounds in this place so many of us call home. The ponds, geese, deer, and the orchestra of birds that fill the mornings, the trails and streams, and lakes. This place really is Kalamazoo’s own little slice of heaven. But not all things that are beautiful and appreciated can be seen, so if you haven’t seen Danny First, then you are missing out on a true Parkview Hillian Legend!
I first met Danny last year down by Lake Hill ‘n Brook, and it seems as though whenever I do see him, that is where he is. He has a cart full of skimmer nets, rakes, and anything else he may need to keep the beach and kayak areas as clear as possible. He has a pretty little rowboat that he has painted blue and white, yet I haven’t seen him out enjoying it yet. He is always working on keeping things nice for all of us to enjoy.
Danny has lived here 20 years. His apartment is one of the prettiest outdoor spaces in the whole place, always surrounded with flowers and proudly displaying patriotic flags year round. I was always curious about the seal on his porch; I only noticed it in the winter. It must be resin or something not too heavy, and I think he puts a scarf around its neck during the holidays. The seal not only represents one of the cutest aquatic mammals on the planet, but represents one of the most respected branches of our military, the Navy Seals…and our Danny First was one of them.
To meet a Navy Seal is, to me, like meeting a real life hero. He served in Vietnam for 8 years, and survived to tell about it, not that memories of his time there are anything he’d want to spend too much time reflecting upon. He has spent a huge part of his life living with the repercussions of his military service, although I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t change a thing. He had three different academic scholarships available after he graduated from high school, and chose to go into the Navy. As a matter of fact, he worked in the White House, and President Nixon himself told him that he would be a perfect candidate for a new branch of service, called the Navy Seals. Out of 30 men opting for the title, only 3 made it, and yes, one of the 3 was our own Danny First. Although the first SEAL missions were in communist Cuba, Vietnam was the first war that they were in. Danny has survived the war in Vietnam, conquered alcoholism and has been sober 15 years, and is continuing a fight with pancreatic cancer and Huntington disease. He has ailments most people would call in sick to work for, and yet, our Danny, the Parkview Legend, still continues to give his time to our community.
When Danny moved here, this community was mostly retirees, and was very quiet. Now we have quite a diverse mixture of people, and things have changed. Phones are in everyone’s faces, and there seems to be a kind of avoidance to be too close to other people. Danny is a prime example of what a simple smile and hello can do. He has shared so many interesting facets of his life with me. I could spend a whole day listening and learning about what serving in our military entails, about ignoring physical pain and being productive, about resisting addictive substances, about being a 69-year old bad ass Navy Seal!
My advice to anyone is this: with age comes experience and wisdom. You never know what you may learn from someone, or give to someone when your lend an ear and a warm smile. In my opinion, Danny needs to be recognized by all and given a high five, a handshake (beware: he has a hell of a grip), or even a hug! He should be thanked for all he does to help keep our community beautiful, and more importantly, what he has done for our great country in his 30 years of service!
Take the time to get out and walk the trails here in Parkview Hills. Pack a picnic and relax at the beach with a good book and enjoy the sounds of nature, and, above all else, keep an eye out for Danny First! Say hi, say thank you, and feel like a privileged person for having met such an amazing man!
THANK YOU, DANNY!!
~ Jodi Mitchell Hartman