Dan was born in Ohio in 1942 as Daniel Joseph DeSilvio but grew up in Richmond, Calif. Dan
joined the Navy and served on ammo ships during the Viet Nam War. After honorable
discharge, he accompanied a friend to Arcata to check out Humboldt State University. The
friend did not enroll, but Dan did. He earned his Master’s Degree in Botany at HSU. He
developed a new and sophisticated slide technique for the student lab he staffed there, while
developing a world class collection of slime molds. He adopted his stepfather’s name and was
known locally as Dan Taranto.
Dan bought, rehabbed and managed many properties over the years. He was proud to provide affordable housing to many students and “working folks”, many of whom became lifelong friends. His home base was his beloved acreage in Fieldbrook. He was active in the United Stand organization and instrumental in the creation of the Alternative Owner Builder (AOB) program. He served on several County Housing Element Committees over the years.
A major focus of his volunteer efforts was service on the Humboldt County Grand Jury, where he reorganized its function, and later did the same for the California Grand Jurors’ Association as State President. As president, he advocated for permanent Jury reports filed in state archives, support and training for incoming jurors and other reforms. He worked with then-Senator Quintin Kopp to pass state legislation requiring all counties to respond in writing to local jury findings. His local Jury instituted a requirement for a written response. Dan paid for an insert in the local paper and personally delivered stacks of it throughout Humboldt County. In his further quest for government transparency, he personally installed the first video camera in the Supervisor’s Chambers, which came as quite a surprise to some of the Supervisors and staff!
Dan was a man of great intellect with wide and varied interests. He crewed on sailboats from Canada to Mexico, owned some of historical significance, and was a member of the Humboldt Yacht Club. He raised an assortment of plants and animals, most notably sheep, goats and his Watutsi livestock. He had a vast collection of books encompassing science, history, astronomy, religion and literature. Dan volunteered with the Westhaven and Fieldbrook Fire Departments. He was an early and active member of the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County where he participated in a number of local studies. He volunteered yearly for the Jazz Festival and loved Blues by the Bay. He was known to be a hard worker, well liked and respected by a wide swath of people.
With no prior music experience, Dan started tango lessons at age 68. He dove in “with both feet”, practicing, recording the music, travelling locally and to Mexico to take workshops and dancing in the yearly Student Showcase. He became quite good at the art. His dancing days ended when he had a stroke, but he continued watching hours of tango on line and attending local dance events. He made many friends in the tango community.
Dan passed on January 14, 2021 from complications of the stroke. He was preceded in death by his mother Barbara and stepfather, Frank Taranto, and his brother Mark Taranto. He is survived by his brother Richard Taranto and nieces Lacey and Logan Taranto, former spouse Kathy Kistler, and numerous friends and distant relatives. Thanks and appreciation go to the Staff of Frye’s Care home and the many good and faithful friends who supported Dan.
His niece, Logan, wrote the following tribute to her uncle: Dan Taranto was my uncle and one of the greatest men I have known. He was so knowledgeable and I was so lucky that he shared a lot of that with me. We lived five hours away from each other, so we kept in contact through phone calls which lasted for hours. I will cherish those phone calls and all the things I learned from him. My uncle loved when our family would visit at his beautiful property in Humboldt with all the amazing redwood trees. He made three ponds and stocked them with fish so we could go fishing. As a little girl I remember running through the grassy meadow, making flower headbands and just enjoying nature as much as my uncle did. I would get so excited when he would come to the Bay Area to visit us. The last time he was supposed to come, he didn’t show up nor call. That wasn’t like him so I knew something was wrong. I called the Highway patrol and then the Sheriff’s office. They found he had had a stroke and got him to the hospital. After a long recovery period, he asked that I come be his caregiver and that’s just what I did. I felt honored that he asked me. The time I got to spend with him is unforgettable. I loved my uncle very much. I know that he is now dancing tango in Heaven or guiding his sailboat through the clouds.
From Dan’s niece, Lacey: My Uncle was a very special man, not only was he every word and more that is listed above but he was kind, caring and great with his hands. He amazed me at the things he could build. When I was little he built a 2 story playhouse for me! Yes, a 2 story playhouse fully equipped with a bay window, carpet, 3 different rooms, a secret latch door for the upstairs and my name engraved at the front door. To say the least he was amazing. He will be very missed and remembered forever by so many people.
In the words of Rick Taranto, Dan’s brother: I have never met a man with more integrity and he will be deeply missed.
There will be a “gathering” of Dan’s friends sometime during the summer of 2021.
The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Dan Taranto’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.