In Loving Memory of Valerie Mills Daly

Val making rice pudding.

In honour of my stepmother’s passing -more affectionately known as my bonus mom- Foodie with Family will remain quiet the rest of this week. In the spirit of Val, I’ll be back ready to feed you next week. Below is the obituary my siblings, dad and I wrote together.

On Saturday December 22nd (her favorite day of the year) Valerie concluded her struggle with cancer and slipped away while in the loving embrace of her family. Her passing very much reflected her quiet and peaceful nature.

Valerie Lynn Mills Daly was born on August 4, 1955 in Oneonta, NY to Earl and Dawn Mills. She grew up the oldest of four siblings in Baldwinsville, where she graduated high school. She attended Houghton College, where she studied theology and raised her two children, Nathaniel Earl Thach and Christina Khemasanine Thach. In 1992, Valerie married James Daly and her family grew to include three more children, Rebecca, Jessamine and Luke Daly. Valerie and James lived and worked together running Camp Asbury United Methodist Church Camp in Silver Lake, NY where they watched their children grow up and begin families of their own. Valerie moved with Jim to Harrisburg, PA and continued to work with the United Methodist church for some years. During this time they would spend the early Fall weeks coming to the Upper Peninsula with their dog, Ginger, camping in all of their favorite spots along Lake Superior. The first time Valerie crossed the Mackinac Bridge she said, “I think I just came home.” Valerie and Jim soon had the chance to make their stay in the Upper Peninsula permanent when Jim accepted the position of Camp Manager at Camp Michigamme. Their home on the Peshekee River has been a special place for their brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren to come and spend time with them.

Valerie spent her life in the service of others, and had an insatiable hunger for literature, science, and the general pursuit of knowledge. Valerie filled her home with a rotating collection of thousands of books, many of which have been donated to local libraries in both New York and Michigan. She instilled this love of learning in her children, as her son Nathaniel has been working as a Teacher in South Korea and her daughter Christina is a Librarian in Richmond, Virginia. Valerie had an incredible ability to make those around her feel valued and loved, and many have been drawn to her table for long conversations and laughter over soup and muffins and tea.  Those in her company found her laughter gratifying and contagious and her singing -whether at church or to herself in the kitchen- soothing and lovely. Her ability to turn a pun was unparalleled.  She extended her generous spirit to those she didn’t know personally by being an active member of Kiva and making micro-loans to those who are starting their own businesses in developing countries such as Cambodia and Armenia.

Valerie was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2009. Her many friends and family members have been a constant network of support for her through this part of her journey. The family is grateful for this support and the invaluable work of those who have provided her medical care throughout this time.

Valerie Lynn Mills Daly is survived by her husband, James Daly, and her children Nathaniel (Sun Hwa) Thach, Christina (Kevin Thrasher) Thach, Rebecca (Dan) Lindamood, Jessamine  (Jeremy) Daly-Griffen, and Luke (Elvi Jo) Daly. She is survived by her parents, Earl and Dawn Mills, and her siblings Michael Mills, Marcia Mills, and Gerri Jalosky, as well as all of her nieces and nephews. Valerie is also survived by her grandchildren Liam, Aidan, Ty, Leif, Rowan, Willow, Ezra, Hazel, Soliegh and Penelope.

If you wish to make memorial gifts Valerie suggested that we list the Central UP Food Bank,  1710 Ash, Ishpeming, MI 49849, 906- 485-4988. She also suggested you consider as a recipient. Valerie was passionate about helping women better their circumstances and Kiva was her favorite way to do that.


  1. Beth S. says

    Val sounds like she was an amazing woman & you were blessed to have had her as your bonus mom. I am sorry for your loss & will keep you & your family in my prayers.

  2. Molly Franks says

    Still very difficult to fully embrace this fact. We should all hope for such a life well-lived I will miss Val and the exuberant, quiet love she embodied so completely. .

  3. Sairy Franks says

    Beautiful and a perfect description of my experience with Val. Thank you all for writing this, and thank you for posting this. Thank you most of all to Val, who transformed this world right before our eyes, and continues to do so. I’m loving you all so much and am with you in spirit and heart. xoxo

  4. Rie says

    I’m so sorry for the loss of you ‘Bonus-Mom’. It sounds like she was awonderful woman. How lucky you all were to have had her in your life..

  5. says

    When I first saw you call Valerie your “bonus mom” I knew she had to be a very special lady! What a wonderful alternative to stepmom. As much as you grieve her passing be joyful that you and your family were blessed to have her for 20 years. It sounds like you have many happy memories to look back on. Thank you for sharing her touching obituary with your readers. After all, we are kind of like family as well.

  6. Anita says

    I would like to extend my condolences. This was a lovely remembrance and I wish I had known her as she seemed a lovely spirit. Those who knew her were blessed and she was well-loved.

  7. Christine says

    As a step mom, it always warmed my heart to see your clearly affectionate references to Val. As a longtime dedicated reader of your blog, the undercurrent of warmth and respect between you was always evident–enough that in seeing todays headline I exclaimed “Oh no!” out loud, myself. I see I’ve used ‘warm’ twice–that just seems to be the word that expresses for me what came through from you for Val and about Val. I am so sorry for your loss. I know I will continue to enjoy many more Val references into the future, but my heart breaks for those times ahead when your instinct will be to head for the phone to ‘ask Val’. It is good to know she is embedded here already and so clearly in the hearts of your family.

  8. Robin W says

    Valerie’s story reflects a life well lived. Although she is no longer on this earth, her legacy will live on. And, she is now in Heaven, whole and well and carrying on her life well lived.
    Prayers for peace and comfort for you and your family.

  9. Alan Larsen says

    What impressed me most about Valerie was her ability to be able to smile and laugh even when she was going through so much in the last few years. Whenever I would stop by the house to drop something off for Jim or when we had lunch together, I never ever saw her without a smile and/or a laugh. That is good medicine for all of us. Thanks Val. You’re helping to brighten heaven now!

  10. Meg says

    I’m a stepmom as well, and it always heartened me to see how much you and she valued and enjoyed one another. May light eternal shine upon her and may your hearts be comforted.

  11. Karen says

    I was a dear friend of your “bonus Mom” and thought the world of her. I worked with her, and your Dad, when they were with the Conference in HBG.
    Val was one of the most unique people I have ever met. Her vast knowledge of so many topics, combined with her humor, made for some amazing conversation! Val helped me on my spiritual walk and broadened my understanding of God. I can’t imagine this world without her in on. I will truly miss her. I know she is being amazed by all that is surrounding her now. My love to you and your family… prayers are with you Jim…

  12. Ann says

    I wish I had know Val in my life. It would be fair to say that the world is a little less sparkling since Val’s way too early return the our wonderful Creator. Rest in peace and love Val.

  13. says

    I feel that I must have missed something not knowing such a spirited warm, loving person… I could feel the love she possessed flowing out of the words written about her. How lucky to all who happened to cross her path. May time bring you peace… until you meet again with sweet Val.

  14. Carl Chamberlain says

    I fondly remember sitting at Val’s table with friends back in the days at Houghton. Her home always smelled wonderful. Through the years we lost touch as each of us in that group moved from place to place but those memories have always remained.

    ‘Till we meet again.

  15. Alice E. says

    Please accept my heartfelt sympathy for you and all your family. I’ve read her earlier posts and enjoyed your references to her.

  16. Connie says

    I was so sorry to hear of your “bonus moms’ passing. I know she had a special place in your heart and you will miss her terribly. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

  17. Karen D. says

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother to breast cancer almost 13 years ago. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  18. says

    Knew Jim and Val during their time in Central PA Conf (now Susquehanna). I was involved in the camping program. My sympathy goes out to your entire family. Val was a very soft spoken person. Prayers going up for all.


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