Life Story / Obituary
Daniel D. Witcher was a man with a great mind, an appetite for life and an incredibly admirable work ethic. He was a multi-talented man and, in addition to his career successes, was capable of playing several musical instruments exceptionally well, spoke three languages fluently, and built an extensive photographic record of his many travels. Dan didn’t just do things - he did them extremely well. Dan squeezed a lot out of life and was a great example to all who knew him.
As America was winding down its first 25 years of the 20th Century, events were taking place that would shape our way of life for years to come. Ford Motor Company held true to its promise of “a car in every garage” and produced its one-millionth automobile, and Parker Brothers came out with a new game called Monopoly, never dreaming it would become one of the world’s most popular games. However, for Julius and Myrtice (Daniel) Witcher of Macon, Georgia, none of these things were first and foremost on their minds. What was central to them was the impending birth of their third child. On May 17, 1924, son Daniel made his arrival, much to the delight of his parents and his two older siblings, Martha and Stanley.
Growing up, Dan was raised in a pretty straight-laced home where he learned to be well mannered and respectable. Julius earned a living working for the Georgia Southern Railroad while Myrtice raised their children. Sadly, Julius died when Dan was only fifteen. Like many young boys, Dan participated in Boy Scouts and attended a public military school, Lanier High School, where he was active playing basketball and tennis. One of the most influential figures in Dan’s life, of whom he often spoke, was his high school Spanish teacher, who opened his eyes to the world and its many diverse cultures.
In the Witcher family, there were many generations of military men, and Dan proudly followed in those footsteps by joining the U.S. Navy in 1943, after graduating from high school. He was stationed in Bermuda and Corpus Christi, Texas, where he served as an Aerographer’s Mate 1st Class Petty Officer (E-6). His duties included collecting weather data that assisted in the Allied Forces plan of attacks. After his honorable discharge in 1946, Dan returned to Georgia and began pursuing his life goal of a career in international business. He enrolled at Mercer University in Macon but later transferred to Thunderbird - The American Graduate School of International Management. In 1950, Dan earned his degree in Foreign Trade, graduating as part of the third class of students at Thunderbird.
Following graduation, Dan was employed by the Sterling Drug Co. as a management trainee in the U.S. and later in Mexico. He moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as a sales supervisor and then moved into the position of Regional Director with the headquarters in Sao Paulo. Dan was named Sales Manager of the Brazilian subsidiary of Mead Johnson & Co in 1956, and manager of the company in 1958. He joined Upjohn International Inc. in 1960 as the Area Manager of Latin America South, and in 1964, transferred to Kalamazoo, Michigan, as Manager and VP of the Latin American Division. Dan was appointed VP, Far East Division in 1967, and became Group VP, Upjohn International in 1970, including responsibilities for Latin America and the Far East. In September 1972, Dan was promoted to President, Upjohn International and in December 1973, was elected VP of the Upjohn Co. His title was changed in May 1979, to VP and General Manager for the International Division of The Upjohn Co and President and General Manager, Upjohn International Inc. In February 1982, Dan assumed additional responsibility when he was named Chairman of Upjohn HealthCare Services. He was promoted to Corporate VP for Worldwide Human Health Businesses in 1985, to Senior VP in July 1986, and was elected to the Board of Directors of The Upjohn Co. in December 1986. Dan was named Senior VP and Assistant to the President for The Upjohn Co. in January 1988. After a prestigious 29-year career as one of the primary builders of The Upjohn Company, Dan retired in 1989. In May 1973, Dan received the Jonas Mayer American Business Enlightenment Award from Thunderbird, and in October 1981, he was appointed to the school’s Board of Trustees. Dan served as Chairman of the International Section of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association in1981-82 and 1985-86, and was listed in Marquis’ “Who’s Who in America”.
In addition to his career honors, Dan was also a dedicated father. In 1946, Dan married and the couple had their first child, daughter Bethann, in Georgia before moving to Brazil. It was there that they completed their family with three sons: Daniel Jr., Joseph Wright and Benjamin Gray. One of the things his children remembered about their father’s travels was that he always brought home great presents for each of them. Dan enjoyed golf, and he taught the game to his children, and shared many hours playing with them and his wife. Like his father, Dan raised his children with a stern hand, teaching them respect and good values that would guide them through life.
In the early 1980s, Dan’s marriage ended in divorce. He then met Betty Middaugh and they were happily married on October 30, 1982. Betty brought more than just her love into Dan’s life. She had two sons, Brian and Mark, from a previous marriage, and Dan unconditionally welcomed them as part of their family. The couple loved to travel together and Dan was sure to bring Betty on his business trips. Amazingly, Dan made 47 trips to Japan in his lifetime. After retiring, Dan and Betty began to focus their travels on visits to places where Dan could research his family genealogy. One of his proudest achievements was being able to prove lineage to a man named Russell Jones, who served in the American Revolution, thus making Dan a certified Son of the American Revolution.
Dan spoke fluent Portuguese and Spanish and also particularly excelled in the English language. He was a stickler for grammar and it was extremely hard for Dan not to correct someone who used a word incorrectly. Once when Dan had surgery and was unable to speak because of a throat tube, Betty asked him, “Are you feeling bad?” It only took a moment for Dan to find paper and pen and write “badly”, correcting her improper use of grammar!
Music was a very important part of Dan’s life. At a young age, he learned to play the violin and later took up the harmonica and concertina. Although he loved playing American Folk and country music, Dan often amazed people with his incredible ability to play any melody requested on his harmonica. He was proud to have passed on his love of music to his children and grandchildren. Dan enjoyed and became quite expert in photography, and he built quite a collection of photos from his vast travels around the world. He also acquired an unusual and extensive collection of South American riding stirrups and later in life, he developed a passion for and began collecting Primitive and Folk art.
Dan loved to spend time with family and friends. Although he was a man of high career achievement and status, Dan remained truly humble. He believed that all people were valuable, showing no favoritism and accepting everyone as equals. True to his character, Dan lived up to his southern gentleman charm, but it was his kind heart that made him the man people were proud to know. Dan will be lovingly remembered for his strength of mind, his quick, yet dry wit, his internationalism, and his deep commitment to his loved-ones.
Daniel D. Witcher, age 80 of Portage, MI, died on Saturday, March 12, 2005. Members of Daniel’s family include his wife, Betty Witcher; his children: Dr. Bethann Witcher Cottrell and Rev. William Cottrell of Atlanta, Georgia, Daniel Jr. and Sharon Witcher of Doyles Town, Pennsylvania, J. Wright Witcher and Leslie Erickson of Bernardville, New Jersey, Benjamin and Robin Witcher of Bridgewater, Massachusetts; his step-son, Brian and Carol Bolhuis of Vicksburg; his brother-in-law, Allen and Patty Middaugh of Three Rivers; his sister-in-law, Vicki and James Worthington of Vicksburg; 19 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren; his nieces: Angela Middaugh, Heather and Michael Kamerman; and great-nieces, Megan and Alyssa Kamerman.
Learn more about Dan, view his Life Story film, and visit with his family and friends on Wednesday, March 16, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the RDMG Life Story Funeral Home, Portage Chapel. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, at the Westminster Presbyterian Church (West on Helen Street off of Portage Road and to the end). Please visit Dan’s memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you may archive a favorite memory, order flowers or make a memorial contribution to the Alzheimer’s Association – North/West Michigan Chapter.