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Patrick Daly Dies; Had Role in Gift of Pandas

By Louie Estrada
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 16, 2005; Page B06

Patrick Daly, 64, a senior State Department protocol officer who chaperoned spouses of visiting foreign dignitaries on sightseeing tours and helped engineer one of the most memorable gift exchanges between heads of state, died March 2 at Howard University Hospital. He had diabetes.

In addition to being a chaperone, Mr. Daly was the gift protocol officer in the Office of the Chief of Protocol. In that capacity, he advised presidents, vice presidents and other high-level officials on possible gifts to present to their counterparts on official state visits.

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Mr. Daly, a connoisseur of fine arts and a collector of 18th-century French furnishings, often suggested prints, porcelain figurines, collectors plates -- crafts that were uniquely American and highlighted the skill of artisans.

But he wasn't always as traditional in his thinking about gift selection. In early 1972, when then-President Richard M. Nixon made his historic trip to China, it was Mr. Daly who suggested that the president give two musk oxen to the Peking Zoo as a gesture of goodwill, according to Mr. Daly's then-wife, Gail Serfaty, who also was working at the State Department.

About two months later, amid much fanfare, the Peoples Republic of China sent two rare, giant pandas to Andrews Air Force Base as gifts to the United States. The pandas, Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling, were taken to the National Zoo, where in those first few weeks they attracted nearly 10,000 visitors. They quickly became the zoo's most popular and best-known animals.

Mr. Daly was born in Washington and raised in New York, where he graduated from Fordham University. He returned to Washington in the early 1960s to work as an adjudicator in the State Department's Passport Office.

He received a master's degree in foreign service from Georgetown University in 1967 while working at the State Department.

Mr. Daly joined the Office of the Chief of Protocol in 1969 as an officer for ceremonial affairs, then became special assistant to the chief of protocol. He was protocol officer for state and official visits until his retirement in 1999. He lived in Washington.

During his career, he worked behind the scenes of a number of high-profile visits, including Pope John Paul II's trip to Washington in 1979.

Most of Mr. Daly's time was spent in charge of protocol's spousal program. A dapper dresser with impeccable manners, Mr. Daly was said to have endeared himself to the spouses of visiting monarchs, presidents and prime ministers who came to Washington as official guests of the White House.

For his part, Mr. Daly planned itineraries for spouses, which, depending on their interests, included visits to schools, hospitals, museums, art galleries, theaters and concerts. He took them on sightseeing tours in Washington, New York and elsewhere.

"Patrick had a special talent for connecting with people of all levels," said Richard Gookin, former deputy chief of protocol. "He treated everyone with consideration and courtesy."

Mr. Daly's marriage to Gail Serfaty ended in divorce.

Survivors include a brother and two sisters.

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