Washington State University sophomore Jennifer Mendez remembers a 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 volunteer coach of youth sports teams his daughters and others played on in Othello. In fact, he is still coaching.

As the result of Jennifer’s successful letter of nomination, Daniel G. Mendez was named 2001 WSU Dad of the Year during the Dad’s Weekend breakfast on the Pullman campus last November. A total of 24 dads were nominated for the honor. Other finalists included Bill Hyndman, Spokane, and Bill McConnell, Colville.

“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.”

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 team 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, merchandising, 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.”