The GWA community was saddened to learn of the passing of Daniel Gasteiger on June 1, 2017 due to pancreatic cancer. Some of you may not know but it was Daniel who first conceived of a blog for GWA. In honor of his life and influence among our members, we offer these memorial comments from those who knew him.
Daniel is one of a group of garden writers I met when social media started taking off . We all kept in touch via different platforms–Facebook, Twitter, and lately, Instagram. Knowing there were other people out there, just a few clicks away, people who did what I do and could lighten the load for a few minutes a day, made the living room computing less lonely.
At some point, maybe around the time of his cancer diagnosis, maybe earlier, puppy pictures became the main way we (being Daniel and his big circle of friends) would cheer each other up. Some people say “hugs,” others send kisses. So if he was having a down day, I’d send regards from my puppies. He would ALWAYS comment on my Instagram posts, PUPPY!
Daniel influenced me via his positive attitude, his work ethic, his kindness, his humanity, his bravery, his drive to keep living for as long as he possibly could – living, not existing. I could go on and on. But where he really touched me, and what I think I’ll take from my friendship with him is this: deep down, we just want someone to say “I see you there, and you’re alright. You’re doing it. Keep it up.” Daniel did that for me, and he did it for hundreds of other people. That’s how I’ll remember Daniel, and what I’ll do in his memory.
My last conversation with Daniel was about growing ginger in the garden. He gave me several tips on how to grow it, when to start it, what type of fertilizer to use (none) and more. And there were the many times he helped me in the Twitterverse. But that was just Daniel.
This is my favorite photo of Daniel. It was taken at MANTS a few years ago. We were walking down the aisle chatting together when I saw that the Perennial Plant Association booth, staffed by Janet Draper, had a pink flamingo “Baltimore” theme. As I love flamingo-kitsch, I insisted we stop and take photos with the bird accessories. I hammed it up in a fuzzy flamingo hat and huge glasses but Daniel was having none of it. I shoved a flamingo under his arm and insisted he at least let me take a picture of him with a flamingo. He wasn’t thrilled with the compromise but he let me do it. He was no lover of pink flamingos, but he was a good friend and a great human being. He will be missed greatly.
Before I ever met him, I posted a website question on the Business of Garden Writing FB page and he immediately offered to coach me over the phone. This from a man I’d never met. I’ll never forget that act of generosity; he must have spent an hour with me. He was an example to live by.
Daniel had feet planted firmly in two worlds. On the one hand, I interviewed him on GardenLine when his book on canning came out. Canning! A very old-timey way to save a garden harvest, right? And while he was growing and canning food, he was also urging me to join Garden Chat on Twitter, and encouraging us all to see blogging not just as a way to post articles “magazine style” but to make those brief mind-to-mind and heart-to-heart connections that digital media is so wonderfully capable of. We are still trying to meet his vision. Daniel’s passing leaves a large hole in our gardens.
I’ve been trying to think about when I met or how I got to know Daniel. I can’t remember that far back. I think it had to do with him joining GWA. I remember that I talked to him before I met him. And then we became friends on Face.
Daniel had a naivete about him when he knew what needed to be done and didn’t see any reason why it wasn’t. He is one of the primary reasons that I went to those early board meetings with a set of goals and objectives. If something was going to become possible we needed the whole group to get on board and work to where our future would lead. If something needs doing, it’s discussed, voted and moved on. That’s a whole different world away from where we started.
In the last six months, Daniel decided he was coming back to start the blog for GWA that he always wanted it to have. He decided he was going to run for the board to make his vision happen. He came to MANTS and we talked some more about when it was going to happen. He owned several URLS that we wanted to blend into the new, improved web site. He finally wanted to realize all of the ideas he’d been cooking for all of these last seven years.
Two weeks ago, we talked for the last time. He told me that it was impractical for him to run for the board. He wanted to remove his name from the ballot. He had really left us down when his plan had been to be posting one new vendor/sponsor/exhibitor blog a week since April. He was disappointed that when GWA had caught up to his thinking and was finally ready, willing and able to facilitate a lot of his ideas, he just didn’t have the strength to pull it off.
I could not be President now if Daniel had not helped define the road. GWA would not be with a new management company today were it not for Daniel. We needed to change and he never saw any reason why that wasn’t possible.
I first met Daniel when he was gathering material for the GWA blog. He wanted to interview me at a symposium. It was my first encounter with his acuity, his direct approach, his highly opinionated vision of hope for future change. We sat together on a bench he’d chosen, tucked away off to one side as throngs of people passed by. But Daniel was not distracted by the hubbub around us. He was a terrific interviewer. Not only for the questions he asked, but for the way he listened. You had his full attention. He turned that thousand-watt intellect on to you, and it allowed you to rise up and shine with the best you had to give.
Online, I knew him by the things he loved—including his dog Nutmeg, his shout outs, “PUPPY!” in response to other people’s dog pictures, and the astonishing number of things he managed to accomplish while in the throes of cancer treatment. He lived his life as when I met him—as if he’d chosen to tuck into a channel on a stream bank, off to the side of the main flow. But still, through his drive, his perspicacity, and his perseverance, he affected the course of the river running by.