“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24)
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Hal “Virgil” Danforth, that Proverbs 18:24 friend, went to his Heavenly home on August 7, 2020, after battling cancer for more than three years. Virgil was born February 12, 1962, in Chula Vista, CA, to Ethel Anna Bilyeu Danforth and Daniel Deloss Danforth. Virgil was born with Cerebral Palsy that caused many challenges. However, his pure heart and strong faith in God was an inspiration to all who knew him—he overcame disadvantages and challenges that would have made most people bitter, yet he never complained and never held grudges. Virgil lived a happy life, making others smile because of his love for everybody that he met. There will be a Celebration of Life service at Strode Chapel, Stillwater, OK. on August 13th at 2:00 p.m. with interment following in Glenwood Cemetery. Pastor John Curtis will officiate.
As a child, Virgil’s formative years may not have been a typical home life for most children. Due to extenuating circumstances, this 5-year-old boy’s mother moved often, with her young family in tow, from CA to OR to OK to CA, only to start all over again. Eventually Virgil spent time in foster homes, a cerebral palsy center in Norman, and lived with a relative for a while in Stillwater. Virgil also lived with various friends that he had made in the Stillwater area. However, Virgil didn’t count these as obstacles, but as experiences that God provided, to build character in a little boy, God was already using for His purpose.
When Virgil was 11 years old, he met “Mama Nell”, Jerry, & Linda Shipley in Stillwater. The Shipley’s had a Taco Hut restaurant and Virgil came in asking if he could work. Mama Nell said “We can always use help, so we will put you to work for food”. They were so impressed with this hard working 11-year-old that not only did they give him food, they also thought this young man is well worth a paycheck, too. As the Shipley’s learned his history, it became apparent they needed Virgil as much as he needed them. One can say, he won a forever place with the Shipley’s and they forever won his heart! That was the start of a “God ordained” relationship with the Shipley Family that continued for the rest of Virgil’s life. Virgil said, “Mama Nell was the first person who cared about me. That might be a small thing to some people, but it was a big thing to me. It was the only food that I had all day.”
At one point, many of the secretaries in The Lawyers Building of Stillwater (and other friends) took up a collection to pay Virgil’s airfare back to CA, to reunite with his mother. Virgil said that he was working several odd jobs in CA in order to have money. According to Virgil, he wasn’t in CA very long before God told him to “go back to Oklahoma…” where Virgil would be comfortable with the friends he had made in the “Sooner State”…or in Virgil’s case “Cowboy Country”. So, Virgil continued to work odd jobs and saved enough money to buy a bus ticket to Stillwater. When he took the bus ride from CA back to Stillwater, he would try to work for food at each stop the bus made, as he didn’t have any extra money for food along the way.
Upon arriving in Stillwater, Virgil immediately made his first stop at The Lawyers Building, where Linda Shipley was the first person that he saw. Shortly after that, Virgil returned to work at the Shipleys’ restaurant, where he remained employed until the family sold the Taco Hut.
At that time, The Shipley Family offered Virgil a home with them and they took Virgil in as one of their own.
Virgil always wanted to work and wasn’t shy about asking people if he could work for them. In 1984, he got a job at OSU working in the cafeteria and later transferred to building maintenance in the janitorial department. He worked at OSU from 1984 until 2010, at which time he took disability retirement because of declining health. During Virgil’s OSU employment, he never missed a day of work. Most of that time, he walked to work (regardless of the weather and despite his physical handicaps).
During his tenure at OSU, Virgil was the recipient of several citations and awards from OSU, for his dependability and attitude. The first award he received was the “2003/2004 Dean Frank McFarland Award” for outstanding administrator. Soon after that, Virgil won the “Student Union Quality Service Award”. He also received “The Governor’s Commendation Award” for 25 years of dedicated service, from then Gov. Mary Fallin. Also presented to Virgil was a “Citation of Congratulations” from Sen. James Halligan, Rep. Lee Denney and Rep. Cory Williams for Virgil’s Outstanding Citizenship and Service to the State of Oklahoma. In addition to these honors, Oklahoma State University established “The Virgil Danforth Award” which is periodically awarded to recipients that meet outstanding citizenship qualifications, as originally exhibited by Virgil.
Due to the Shipley’s long standing membership at Eden Chapel Church, that soon became Virgil’s church family, too, where he enjoyed worship and fellowship for the rest of his life. There was a mutual love for each other between Virgil and his Eden Chapel Family. Due to Virgil’s poor eyesight, he was unable to read, yet he had an uncanny memory for scriptures and spiritual lessons that he learned. His spiritual understanding was wise beyond his years—he was often an inspiration to his church family in Sunday school classes and discussions.
Virgil is predeceased by his Mother, Ethel Danforth; and two brothers, Jerry Danforth and Wayne Prebehalla. He is also predeceased by his beloved dog, Annie.
He is survived by his Sister Dovie Danforth Ackerson of Arizona; and brother Mike Danforth of Glencoe, OK.
He was also predeceased by Linda Shipley, and is survived by Jerry Shipley and Family as well as his Eden Chapel Family. Virgil has friends too numerous to mention, so many who were “like family” to him. Along with the Shipley’s, these many friends became known as “The A-Team”, or as Pastor John Curtis would say “The Angel Team”! This gifted team of caregivers helped with Virgil’s physical care, medical appointments, hospital stays, end-of-life care, and they provided social outings for him.
We wish to thank all of the wonderful staff at Karman Legacy Hospice in Stillwater and the staff of Stillwater Group Homes. So many of you were involved with Virgil’s end-of-life care. You provided professional, compassionate care to Virgil, and you went above and beyond by surrounding him with your love and prayers.
If you wish to honor Virgil with a Memorial donation, we know that he would be pleased to have donations made in his memory to Eden Chapel Church, PO Box 441, Perkins, Oklahoma 74059, or Karman Legacy Hospice, 1311 S Western Road, Stillwater, OK 74074.
Condolences may be sent to the family and an online obituary may be viewed by visiting www.strodefh.com