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Daniel  Davila

Obituary for Daniel Davila

November 1, 1928 - August 9, 2020
San Antonio, Texas | Age 91


Daniel Davila was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and brother. He was also the embodiment of a true leader, serving in the San Antonio Fire Department for 37 years. After retirement, Daniel and his wife Gloria traveled, spent time with family, drinking coffee over his crossword puzzle, praying the rosary, and taking his daily walk. He passed away at home with his family, on August 9, 2020. He was 91.

Publicly, Daniel is best known as the chief architect and founder of the SAFD's Arson Bureau, paving the way for the modern Arson Investigator. He joined the SAFD in 1955, after working several years for the National Shirt Shop. He quickly climbed the proverbial ladder, being promoted to Fire Engineer (1960), Lieutenant (1963), and Captain (1967). In 1966, he became the first firefighter and highest-ranking officer to graduate from the San Antonio Police Academy. He set the precedent that continues to this day. In 1970, he was assigned to take over the SAFD's Arson Bureau, serving as the bureau's Captain until his retirement in 1992.

Daniel was the only investigator when he joined the Arson Bureau, often working 72-hour weeks. To improve the Bureau, he applied for grants and took every course available, including with the FBI and ATF. He ensured future investigators received the same training. Over the next 22 years, Davila grew the Arson Bureau to 13 investigators. Because of the bureau's success, he was asked to teach at places such as Texas A&M University School of Fire Science and The Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon.

While he improved the bureau's administration, he was at his core an in-the-field man. One incident is the stuff of department legend. In 1971, while driving on patrol with another investigator, a service station manager flagged him down, pointing to two men who just robbed his store. Davila, unarmed, pursued one of them. Catching up to one robber, Davila pointed his finger at the man as if it were a gun and shouted: "Stop or I'll shoot!" The robber stopped and tossed his gun. Davila arrested the man. The SAPD, impressed with Davila's hand-gun arrest, commended him in a letter for his "excellent use of police tactics."

Born in San Antonio in 1928 on the Feast of All Saints (November 1) to his parents, Manuel and Domitila Davila. He attended St. Philip's Church with his mother and four siblings, where he was an altar server and attended the school. Before graduating from St. Philip's school, Mother Thomas Joseph—his teacher and a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word—encouraged him to take a scholarship examination to attend Central Catholic. With some encouragement, he took the test and received the scholarship. Though he attended Central for his first three years, he withdrew after his father died to support his family. He graduated from Burbank High School. It's a credit to Mother Thomas Joseph, and women religious in general, that Daniel remembered and appreciated her encouragement even towards the end of his life.

Daniel married his wife, Gloria, in 1950 and spent the next 58 years raising five children and spoiling their grandchildren and great-grandchild. They did everything together and he was happiest when in her presence.

Despite the demands of his job, Daniel made sure to spend every moment he could with his wife and children, taking summer vacations, and reserving Friday nights with his family at one of their many favorite restaurants.

If you met Daniel, you'd probably remember his go-to greeting: "Hey guy! How's it going?" And he meant it. He was genuinely interested to hear how you were doing. This generosity of attention and time that he gave to his family and colleagues earned him various monikers: Dad, daddy, Papoo (by his grandchildren), Super-Papoo (by his great-grandson), Cap., and D.A. to name a few. He volunteered his time with his parish, the St. Vincent DePaul Society, and the Holy Name Society. His generosity was the quiet kind. He helped neighbors, supported the Church, and answered calls for funds whenever needed.

He learned this generosity in part from his mother. During the depression, a man had knocked on the door of their home offering to paint the house in exchange for food. Though his house did not need any paint, his mother still put together a basket of food to give him. Daniel never forgot that and would recount it to his grandchildren to emphasize the importance of gratitude and generosity. It's a lesson he taught and lived as a public servant, brother, husband, father, and as a grandfather. He will be greatly missed.

Daniel Davila is survived by his children and their spouses: Sylvia Mermea (Ernest), Richard Davila (Yvonne), Rose Marie Salinas (Richard) and Elizabeth Zerda (Michael); his grandchildren: Christopher Delgado, Stephanie Delgado, Kimberlee Sauceda, Veronica Davila, Stephen Salinas, Jeffrey Zerda, and Michael Zerda; his great-grandson, Johnny Sauceda,; and his sisters, Delia Rodriguez and Alicia Jones. He is predeceased by his wife, Gloria, son, Daniel, grandson, Ricky Salinas, his parents, and his siblings, Edmund Davila and Connie Douglas.

Daniel's family would like to thank Dr. Gladys Rodriguez and her staff, and Encompass Hospice's nurses and staff for the excellent care they provided him.

"In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life," Daniel's family will lay him to rest next to his wife, Gloria. With this hope, his family looks forward to the day they will be greeted with a warm embrace and hear Daniel say: "Hey guy!"

The family will receive friends from 5-7pm, on Tuesday, August 25th, 2020, at Porter Loring Mortuary.

7:00 PM

11:00 AM

A private burial will be at San Fernando Cemetery II.

A recordin of his service will be available via this link:

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Porter Loring Mortuary

1101 McCullough Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78212
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