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Daniel McCalla: Warrior for life, liberty and happiness


Obituary from the family of Daniel McCalla.


“Weeks ago, a being, the universe, my body, sent me an alert message in the form of chest pain…” 

So began a public post written by Daniel McCalla on October 25, 2021, two days before dying on the heart surgeon’s operating table at Emory University Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was 43 years old.

His death came as a shock to everyone since the doctors had estimated his prognosis of a successful surgery at between 90% and 95%. Why it took such a catastrophic turn, we do not yet know. What is certain is that we lost a good man.

Daniel McCalla was born on April 11, 1978, in Queens, New York. At the time, his father Jocelyn McCalla and his mother Fabienne Gauvin dreamed of living in a free and democratic Haiti. They projected their idealism onto their son and named him after the biblical hero Daniel, who tamed lions, never wavered in his beliefs and labored to complete the mission he was destined for… It bears saying that until the end of his life, Daniel took great pride in his Haitian heritage.

The first 10 years of his life were spent between Haiti and New York City before he settled in the United States, where he grew into an upstanding warrior for life, liberty and happiness.

Daniel loved life.  He loved his children — Isabel, Daniel Jacmel and Kailyn — and prided himself on being present for them.  He was protective of his sisters Leyla and Sabine. He loved having a good time with friends and family, loved playing football, loved a great party. He was open, kindhearted, charming and funny with a self-deprecating sense of humor. 

Daniel’s legendary exploits as a youth are many. They included thwarting all attempts by his father, during absences, to restrict Daniel’s use of the family car and the home to host friends. He loved to reminisce about how he would stage clandestine parties at the peach-colored house. These parties remained undiscovered because all traces of such gatherings disappeared before his parents returned home.   

Daniel’s friends are many. They hail from middle school in Queens, NY; high school in Maplewood, NJ; and the military service.  They all have ‘a Danny story’ and all agree that he was a charismatic figure. They looked up to him. In their eyes, he was the star.

“I’ve lived through 2 combat tours as a soldier and 6 as a civil servant,” Daniel said in his October 25 post.

His name did perhaps shield him from war’s worse threats.  Throughout the rest of his military career, his colleagues say he remained true to himself, always giving more than was expected of him, always brilliant at what he did, always impressive.

Generous, both in attitude and action, he gave freely to his friends and his family. They remember he was helpful and unwavering in his support.  RJ recalls that during a deployment, when RJ was unable to do so, Daniel took it upon himself to write to RJ’s wife in his best RJ voice to assure her that he was all right.

“I have never been more scared in my life.”

Although small, that 5% to 10% chance of surgical failure worried Daniel. If he survived, he said, he promised himself to pursue the happiness that he so dearly craved through his youth and military career for himself, his spouse, his children and his family. He had grown weary of physical conflicts and emotional war zones. He wanted everyone around him to be happy and vowed to do anything to ensure harmony.

“It ain’t my time yet, he said, I have more to do, more to give, I have something to live for.”

May Daniel’s death lead us all to a spiritual reawakening. Let us pick up where he left off; we have more to do, more to give, more things to live for. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Mourning and surviving Daniel are: his wife Kim; his children Isabel, Daniel Jacmel and Kaylin; his mother Fabienne, his father Jocelyn and his stepmother Michèle; his sisters Leyla and Sabine; his grandmother Maryse; his loving family members, relatives, friends, colleagues and Army brothers and sisters who will all, though bereaved, carry on his legacy.


November 27, 2021

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