Daniel Oehmig, died early Sunday morning, June 10, 2007, at Erlanger hospital. He was surrounded by exceptional love from family members, caregivers and medical personnel. His struggle against Parkinson’s disease and pneumonia was over. He would have been 86 years old on Oct. 3, 2007.
With his death, the passing of an era has occurred, one that the immediate family of William Gallupe Oehmig and Ruth Daniel Oehmig had started in 1914 with the birth of their first son, Von Daniel Oehmig, in Cincinnati, Oh. The following year the family moved to Chattanooga. Here the “band of brothers” would live and move and have their being over a span of 92 years.
Predeceasing Dan were his mother and father, along with his three brothers, Von Daniel, Lewis West and William Gallupe Jr., all of whom lived rich lives into, or beyond, their mid-80's.
The early, informal education of Dan Oehmig took place at the family home, 1416 Winding Way, in Riverview, and also along the banks of the Tennessee River, at Chattanooga Golf and County Club and in the surrounding pastures and woods — a foundation in outdoor living he would cherish the rest of his life.
He became a member of the body of Christ through baptism and confirmation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where he and his brothers would worship with his mother, Ruth, and his great-aunts, Bess and Gertrude Oehmig. The Episcopal blessing before meals — to be given “gay and grateful hearts, and to be ever-mindful of the needs of others” — was prayed by Dan Oehmig on high family occasions and it comprised the spiritual core of his good and long life.
His formal education began at The Bright School and continued into Baylor School, where Dan excelled at wrestling and football. In his senior year, Dan’s prowess and leadership led him to be named captain of the Baylor football and wrestling teams in 1938. From his success at Baylor, Dan would go on to play varsity football at the University of Virginia, where he was an integral part of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, better known in UVA parlance as the “Carr’s Hill Athletic Club” because of the exceptional student-athletes the “Deke” House claimed as members, including Dan’s older brother, golfing great, Lew Oehmig. Dan was a starting member of the celebrated 1941 team, a team which boasted All-American running back Bill Dudley. To this day, the 1941 Cavaliers recorded the best record of a UVA football team (10-1 ). Their only loss came to Yale in the last game of the season.
Taking up the call to defend his country against Nazi tyranny in Europe and Japanese totalitarianism in Asia, Dan dropped out of UVA to enlist in the U.S. Army. As a first lieutenant, he led his troops in combat throughout the atolls of the South Pacific. After the World War II armistice was signed, Dan returned to UVA to complete his BA degree, and then his LLD degree from the School of Law in 1949. He then entered the practice of law in Chattanooga in 1949.
On June 22, 1951, Daniel West Oehmig and Tilda Thomas, his lifelong companion and dearest love, were married at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd on Lookout Mountain. They would live on Lookout Mountain and be faithful members of Good Shepherd Church for the entirety of their life together.
Dan built a successful private law practice in Chattanooga during the 50's and into the mid-60's, where he served as legal counsel in the merger of First Flight Golf Company with the Arnold Palmer Golf Company, which was represented by Mark McCormick, Mr. Palmer’s agent and the founder of the business behemoth: International Management Group (IMG).
But the practice of law would be interrupted for Dan Oehmig when he decided to enter public service again — not as a soldier, but by aspiring to political office. He was narrowly elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1966 as a Republican, representing the Southeast Chattanooga district. Given his two-year record of service in the state House, Dan was elected by a wide margin to the Tennessee Senate, where he served for eight years, his last term as the minority leader.
Considering a run for the governorship of Tennessee in the early 1970s, Dan decided against doing so in light of the fallout from the Watergate scandal, which brought down the administration of President Richard M. Nixon and which cast a long shadow over the Republican Party.
Having been a “hands on” public servant for nearly a decade, Dan Oehmig’s law practice declined. Rather than resuscitate the practice which held waning interest to him, he made a career change — one made in light of his passion for farming and working in the great outdoors. He acquired a farm in Dayton, Tn., “Dayton View,” which began a lifelong passion of working in agriculture. Eventually the Dayton farming operation would morph into Double D Hog Producers, one of the largest independent pork producers in East Tennessee.
Perhaps the greatest kick Dan Oehmig would derive out of having a farm would be to share it with his friends and family. Dove and duck hunts and opening day barbecues would be too numerous to mention, but what will remain in memory for generations is the largeness of hospitality that Dan Oehmig showed with his cherished land along the Tennessee River.
Other special times in his life were playing competitive golf matches at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. Always paired with “Brother Lew,” the two would have spirited contests with memorable characters such as Jack Harkins, Tom Jenkins, Lit Spurlock and Ira Templeton, yet they always remained close friends. The regular Tuesday night poker game at Lookout Mountain Golf Club — with Dag Gray, Rich Moore, Carl Navarre and Lex Tarumianz as regulars — also was an engaging time for him.
Most of all, he always loved to have lunch with his brothers and family members in the Men’s Grill at CGCC, where much of the “lore” of the Oehmig family was passed along. Dan would always follow the lunch with a cigar.
Tilda and Dan enjoyed a wonderful social life, most of it of their own making. The 4th of July barbecue around the pool was a highlight of summer fun for countless friends and members of family. Their New Year’s Day party was the winter counterpart of the summer soiree, and many a memory was made watching the bowl games that were then condensed into a single day. They loved being a part of the Member-Guest at Memphis Country Club, in which Dan often played with Eugene Pigeon or Tommy Price. Dan and Price won the event in 1972. He also won the Lookout Mountain Swing Ding with “Brother Lew” in 1969. The Inn at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl., occupied a special place in the love and social life of Dan and Tilda Oehmig, an abiding connection with the beach that continued for decades and lasted through this spring of this year.
Another abiding interest of Dan Oehmig’s was computer technology, and the arrival of the Internet only deepened his fascination. He was a continual and avid learner of all sorts and conditions of PC-based software for the last 20 years of his life. The knowledge of any breakthrough technology, or operating system, was pursued with passion at a time most people his age feared anything that had to do with “the electronic age.”
He was a continual, lifelong learner. As a trustee of the West End Foundation, Dan helped to fund a nominee from the Chattanooga area for the Jefferson Scholars Program at the University of Virginia, and also to fund a major capital campaign gift to Baylor School to facilitate the move to co-education. A major gift from the West End Foundation to Habitat for Humanity for a new building helped to establish the local affiliate as one of the best in America.
Dan Oehmig also had a passion for collecting Case pocketknives and the artifacts of Native Americans. As an avid hunter, he made many a trip to duck hunt at Reelfoot Lake, to stay at Hutchcraft Lodge, and to eat at Boyette’s Restaurant. In recent years, at the invitation of his nephew, Billy Oehmig, Dan loved to hunt at Blue Creek Ranch in El Campo, Tx., a hallowed place where he participated in his last duck hunt with his brother, Von D. 0ehmig, in 2002. He loved the poetry of Robert W. Service, particularly “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” which he had committed to memory.
Among the long list of friends made over the span of his life, Dan Oehmig singled out the following people to be honorary pallbearers at his burial service: Jack Lupton, Scotty Probasco, Jim Strang, Tom Sutter, Joe Thatcher, Jim Kennedy, Ed Chapin, Bob Caldwell, Henry Bryan, Jim Kelly, Bill Healy, Dave Telford, Dag Gray, Ray Murphy, Tommy Lupton, Pat Brock, Henry Crumbliss, Bill Taff and Walter Forbes.
Mr. Oehmig is survived by his wife, Tilda Thomas; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Dr. William H. Thomas and Dickey Thomas; sisters-in-law, Mrs. Lewis West (Mary) Oehmig and Mrs. Von D. (Margaret) Oehmig; nephews and nieces, Randolph Daniel Oehmig, William Britton Oehmig, William Chenoweth Oehmig, Lewis West Oehmig Jr., Henry King Oehmig, Marion Oehmig Latimer, Donna Marie Oehmig and Ruth Daniel Oehmig, Anne Thomas Williams, of Virginia, and Susan Thomas Macleod, of New York. Many great-nieces and great-nephews on both sides of the clan also survive their beloved “Uncle Dan.”
The service for the burial of the dead will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain, with interment to follow in the Harriett Caldwell Memorial Garden.
A visitation will take place at 3 p.m. in the parish hall at Good Shepherd with the Rev. Dex Bender officiating and the Rev. H. King Oehmig assisting.
Memorial gifts can be made to the Lewis W. Oehmig Golf Endowment at Baylor School, 171 Baylor School Road., Chattanooga, TN 37405; or a charity of one’s choice.
Arrangements are by Wann Funeral Home.