Author: Carolyn Pitt
Daniel L. Leaman, founder of Wine Tasters of Naples, has led a life of sevens. His eyes crinkle and he laughs openly as he explains he was born the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh month, weighing seven pounds ten ounces, the seventh son and the seventeenth grandson. His wife of 40 years, Naomi was also born in the seventh month as were both his daughters, and even the dog. The expectation that the number “seven” connotes good fortune has followed Dan beyond the mere coincidences he enjoys sharing.
Dan’s smiling eyes and welcoming personality have guaranteed him a life full of successes. He began his professional career in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, selling kitchens, and as a high school junior sold his first kitchen, an unheard of accomplishment. Muhammad Ali’s training camp was in his territory, and he would occasionally go to watch the fighter practice. Stopping one day in 1972, he found a notice that Muhammad Ali was not there. Going back down the drive, Dan passed two limousines entering the property. He said to himself, “Oh ho, Ali is there, and something is happening.” He turned his car around, followed the limousines, parked between them, got out with his yellow legal pad in hand, and walked with the other men to meet Muhammad Ali. The writers, one from the New York Daily News and the other from the Philadelphia Enquirer, each thought Dan was with the other. He then spent the next three hours watching old films of the great athlete’s fights, and later watching him dance around the room saying, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” Finally, Ali said he had to spar and the interview was over. Dan considers this personal encounter with Muhammad Ali in the prime of his career to be a highlight of his life.
Knowledge of construction led Dan to a 20-year career with a development company of which he became Vice President and General Manager. During this time, Dan and his wife belonged to a charismatic Christian church that found itself in 1990 without a minister. Members of the congregation suggested him as a candidate for the new pastor. With no training he accepted the position as a volunteer. Employing his organizational and managerial skills, he recruited seven other members to share pastoral duties and in the seven years, the church doubled in size. Dan retired from the development company in 1995. In 1997 he resigned as pastor and eventually moved to Naples in 2000.
From 2000 through 2008, Dan experienced seven surgeries. Fortunately, his health issues were not life threatening, but they did precipitate a change in his lifestyle.
Retired, Dan along with his wife started to go to wine tastings in wine shops, where they met people with whom they exchanged cards. January 2008, with 17 cards on his desk, Dan sent an email asking if each were interested in a party where couples would bring a favorite food and a favorite wine. Everyone invited came to this first gathering at Charmin Davis’ home! They gathered around the table and told their stories. There was agreement to do it again next month and the seed for Wine Tasters of Naples was planted. Over his seven years of presidency, there were many parties and rapid growth for the club. A five-year run of Cheers for Charity raised over $400,000, the genesis of our Club’s charitable component.
After seven years, Dan Leaman decided it was time to make another life change, and in 2014 gave up official leadership of Wine Tasters of Naples. Does he still drink wine? He loves wine and is always looking for the best $30 bottle. Dan’s wife also enjoys wine and together they have made three trips to Napa. Their interest in the welfare of others took them to 25 charitable events in the last few years. However, Dan still finds time to be involved with the organization he was instrumental in founding. Recently honoring him with the first lifetime membership to Wine Tasters of Naples, our Club is indeed proud of our founder.