Danny Strode was a man who believed in miracles, and who shared his vision of helping people broadly. He died Dec. 23, 2021, surrounded by his loved ones as he lost his fight to Covid.
Most recently of Rogersville, Missouri, Strode had roots in New Mexico and the Estancia Valley, where he owned Southwest Propane and Canon’s Southwest Septic Services, both based in Moriarty.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 7 at the Moriarty Civic Center, with a “Convoy of Hope” and fireworks to follow at dark. As of this writing, final details on the convoy are not available; contact 505-573-8270 for information on start and end points.
His friends and family describe him as “larger than life,” “someone who lived big,” “one of a kind,” “charismatic,” “humble,” “big-hearted,” and “someone who showed us how to live,” among other superlatives. One said he has never heard anyone speak a bad word of him. He was a man of strong faith who shared it readily with those around him.
He lived in both New Mexico and Missouri, dreaming of the Ozarks and hitting the beach with his family. He was planning for retirement to do just that.
Strode is survived by three children, his daughter Britanie Prather and her husband Mike, his daughter Tiffanie Shook and her husband Chad, and his son Levi Strode.
Ted Barela’s daughter and Strode’s daughter were friends when they were young, and the families became friends. “He always paid stuff forward,” Barela said, adding that his friend had “a raw genuineness about helping people” and said his humbleness meant that he was very open to people’s ideas, “and before you know it, stuff was blowing up.”
Strode was one of the planners of the “Bethel Bash,” a fundraiser for Bethel Community Storehouse that raised over $15,000 and a large amount of food donated to the pantry.
That was followed by an idea, or really more of a vision, that Strode had for an event called the Starlit Night. His idea was to fill the Moriarty Civic Center with 20 Christmas trees, fully decorated, and with mounds of presents beneath each, hand-picked for families that had been nominated.
Not about financial hardship per se, Strode wanted to help people who had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. In the first year of that event, after planning to help a dozen families, the group ended up helping all 20 families who had been nominated.
Volunteers came out of the woodwork, inspired by Strode, who would say, “I believe in miracles! This is how miracles happen,” according to Teri Morgan, one of those volunteers.
With no formal organization or structure, an event serving a full Christmas dinner featuring everything from home-cooked posole and desserts to turkey and all the fixings, elaborate decorations, live music, a visit from Santa, and more burst onto the Moriarty scene.
“He was good at finding people who had the talents that he needed,” Morgan said. “He got everybody, somehow, to use their talents toward the same goals. … We were part of the team, we were doing great things.”
“We had never seen anything like that before or after,” said Paula O’Neil, who worked for Strode starting 10 years ago, and has known him for about 15 years, working with him previously. “It was him, me and one truck,” she said. In that time Strode grew the business to six trucks and three plants.
As an employee, O’Neil said that her boss remembered to show appreciation and gratitude for the people working for him, often giving them bonuses, taking them on trips or out to eat—or cooking a full breakfast for the crew before work. “That happened often,” she said.
O’Neil said he was always looking for ways to help people, for example, delivering propane every year to some customers in need right before Christmas.
He would allow his employees to suggest “whoever was on their heart,” she said, and would then make a donation to help. “Most bosses don’t do that,” O’Neil said.
He brought out the best in people, including his employees, she said, and pushed them to do more than they thought they could. “Because he believed I could do it, I tried,” she said.
Another employee, Richard Roybal, agreed. He worked for Strode for close to four years. “He held me responsible to learn what I needed to learn,” he said. “He taught me a lot, took good care of us. He provided good equipment, taught us what we needed to know, encouraged us to spend time with family.”
Roybal said employees are “devastated to lose him,” adding, “He was always grateful for the hard work we did for him. We all loved him. … He always told us how proud of us he was, encouraged us to keep it up.”
He said Strode would tell him to “get some rest,” and “that’s how you knew you were going to work hard the next day.”
“He made us better people, better workers. He made us want to do better,” Roybal said. “He showed us how to live.”
In working with Strode on the Bethel Bash, Shelley Seale said he would send out text messages saying, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?”
He challenged Seale to raise donations of 10,000 pounds of food. “We got very close,” she said. “He challenged us all to try and get 20 presents apiece, I got 129 items.” She said Strode’s enthusiasm was contagious, “and it just kept going and going and going.”
The events created new friendships, some of which still endure, while the Starlit Night became Estancia Valley Hands of Hope, which organized as a non-profit. Part of Strode’s success was his marketing ability, the ability to “share the thrill” of helping others and spread the word.
Mike Anaya is related to Strode by marriage, and described him as a “kind, and gentle, and hardworking individual.” He said he always talked “in the same tone of voice,” never raising his voice.
Anaya said when he ran for office, Strode supported him even though they had different ideologies. “Nobody I knew of to this day spoke bad about Danny,” he said.
He said he was a man of action, not just dreaming big but putting in the work to achieve his vision.
Strode’s daughter Britanie Prather described her dad as “definitely one of a kind,” with a beautiful smile and a twinkle in his eyes. “His face showed his happiness,” she said.
He softened over the years, she said, adding that he was a wonderful provider who always had a passion for helping people. He enjoyed being connected to people, who found him open and relatable, she said.
Her dad grew up in the South Valley of Albuquerque and he and his brothers were “extremely ornery,” Prather said.
The family lived in different parts of New Mexico and Missouri, she said.
Prather said her dad would want people to know about him that his faith in God never changed. “He’d say, ‘Keep your faith, that’s what’s going to carry you through the hard times.’ That’s something my dad never wavered on.”
A funeral service was held in Ozark, Missouri on Dec. 30.
A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. at the Moriarty Civic Center, with a “Convoy of Hope,” one of the ways he helped build excitement about the Starlit Night, in his honor at dark, followed by fireworks.
To contribute or take part, contact Barela at 505-573-8270.