PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University sophomore Jennifer Mendez remembers the time when her father worked 12-hour days, five days a week providing for his family. Still, he found time over the past 20 years to serve as a voluntary coach of Othello youth sports teams on which his daughters and others played. In fact, he is still coaching.

As the result of his daughter’s successful letter of nomination, Daniel G. Mendez was named 2001 WSU Dad of the Year during the Nov. 3 Dad’s Weekend breakfast at WSU. A total of 24 dads were nominated for the honor. Other finalists included Bill Hyndman, Spokane, and Bill McConnell, Colville.

The Mendez family, migrant farm workers, moved to Othello from Texas when Daniel was six. Despite the hard life, he found time to see the brighter side and learn things that he would later pass on to his children. The hard times included the lost of the family’s third child and youngest daughter, Jessica, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1983.

“His strength was what helped my mother (Tina) and our family in the toughest time we would ever have,” Jennifer wrote. “My father has been there for us in anything and everything we do. Be it sports, music or school, he has worked hard to support us both financially and emotionally.”

For the past 26 years at Dewey’s Truck and Auto in Othello, he has gained a reputation as one of the best auto mechanics in the area.

When Jennifer’s older sister Veronica was a fifth grader and wanted to play softball, her dad formed a youth team for girls. He even named one of his teams the Cougars, in recognition of WSU’s mascot. Veronica is a 1999 WSU graduate in communications. When he couldn’t find a sponsor, he worked overtime to earn money to purchase uniforms and equipment, and to pay fees. He also attended coaching seminars to learn more about the sport, and gave team members an opportunity to travel to tournaments.

Jennifer, who is majoring in apparel merchandizing and interior design, said she wanted to see her dad recognized for all he has done in his life and in the community. “He is a great man,” she wrote. “When you meet my dad, you will see that he is a hard worker by the hardness in his hands, a caring person by the look in his eyes and a knowledgeable person by the way he speaks.”