“John Daniel 'Dan' McKenzie, one of Milton’s and Santa Rosa County’s most well-known and respected residents, successful businessmen, dear friend, devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, died peacefully with a smile on his face and his arms raised to the heavens Monday, June 22, 2009 after a lingering illness.”
Those were the words used respectfully on these pages to notify the public of a sad event eight years ago: the demise of a towering giant who earned his reputation from his relationship with others.
And that was a lot more than just the 43 years in which he owned and managed McKenzie Motors in Milton, a downtown business that remains successful under the stewardship of his daughter Lisa.
Dan‘s love and respect for his adopted community were evident in almost everything he did throughout his life. And although he was not a native son, he fit the bill so close no one ever knew. Dan was the kind of guy who appreciated people and their contribution to their careers. Many people will remember the quarter of a newspaper page each week saluting and calling recognition to a senior citizen.
Before his death, Dan was considered the dean of the local automobile business, backed by 43 years in the car dealership business as far back as 1955. Whether it be Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, GMC or Buick, at one time in his 43 years Dan had a hand in their sales and service in Milton. He loved his business, and often said that anyone who loved their employment would never have to work a day in their lives!
Dan was born Nov. 24, 1923, to parents Richard and Essie McKenzie; he was the youngest of seven in Pineapple, Alabama. Dan was business oriented and socially active even as a child, getting to know everyone in the community. He often told the story of how he thought he had conned an old lady out of a quarter, only to find out the old lady (his aunt) told him that she gave him the money just to get him out of her hair.
Dan practically grew up with a beautiful young girl in Pineapple named Mary L. Till. They attended the same school and later dated. They were thinking about getting married, but he had to go off to war (World War II). They were eventually married on Jan. 7, 1945. It was a milestone occasion following his stint in the military that took him to both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. The wedding took place in Pineapple, but the couple honeymooned in the Admiral Semmes Hotel in Mobile, Alabama.
Sometime after the wedding, Dan began to develop asthma. And as time went by the disease became quite severe and required acute medical care as far away as Pensacola. So the journey began, which, he said, would eventually lead to his permanent asthma cure.
He loved to tell his story of “Milton Magic,” which led him to settle here. When he started to Pensacola from Pineapple, it was necessary to make a pit stop in Milton on the way. In Milton, Dan said, his asthma disappeared. But when he went on his way, asthma returned. After it became evident that the Milton environment was his utopia, he decided to relocate.
And that is the story-book ending of how he and his family came to Milton to live.
Dan and Mary lived a simple life at first when they came to Milton; but as circumstances improved, so did their lifestyle.
They had five daughters: Janet, Linda, Lisa, Dana and Diane.
And today, the McKenzie name is as strong as ever.