David (Davio) Danielson, an advocate for progressive politics and personal development, died in Northampton on August 27. The cause was tularemia, contracted while working on Martha’s Vineyard.

He was known for his vitality and his passion, for everything from politics to spearfishing, saxophone and Scrabble. A true free spirit, he loved jazz and often said, “Talk to strangers!” After a career advocating for health care reform, he shifted to facilitating interpersonal growth and environmentally conscious real estate development, describing his last two decades as “an astounding inner journey, exploring somatic and spiritual connections.”

David Arthur Danielson was born in Ipswich on Dec. 3, 1938, to Arthur William (Dan) Danielson and Hope Frances Flanders Danielson, educators from the islands of Åland in Sweden and Martha’s Vineyard respectively. His early childhood was spent in New England towns — including Chilmark and Oak Bluffs — where he developed a love of nature and the sea. A product of Mayhew and Flanders family lines, his roots on Martha’s Vineyard went back to the 1600s, and the Island remained a beloved home base throughout his life.

When he was 14, his father was offered a post in Shah-era Iran as an education advisor. Given the choice to stay behind and attend boarding school, or travel to unfamiliar Iran, he chose the latter, and to be “a world citizen who often felt like a stranger everywhere.” The family left Iran shortly before fundamentalist revolution upended the nation.

At 16, he arrived at Maine’s Bates College on a debating scholarship. He was “allowed to resign” as a junior after violating an 11 p.m. curfew with his girlfriend, Judith Elizabeth Frese. They were married in 1958 and he finished his A.B. degree in biology at Boston University in 1959. After two years of graduate study at (then) Montana State University in Missoula, the couple joined the Peace Corps and moved to Benin City, Nigeria.

In 1962, a first child, Robin Sarah Adesode, made headlines as the first Peace Corps baby born overseas. A Ford Fellowship brought the family back to New England, where Mr. Danielson earned a master’s degree at the Harvard School of Public Health. A son, Benjamin Darius Stiles, was born on Martha’s Vineyard in 1964. Mr. Danielson served as assistant director of public health programs for Peace Corps/Bolivia from 1966 to 1968, where daughter Maria Amy Ellsworth was born, and later as assistant administrator of worldwide public health programs for the Peace Corps, in Washington, D.C.

After his first marriage ended in divorce in 1973, Danielson married Janice Balsam, a teacher, on Martha’s Vineyard in 1975. They moved to Newton Upper Falls, where their son, Jason Dov, was born in 1976 and daughter, Lucia Elana, in 1978. Mr. Danielson’s role as director of the generic drug program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health led to leadership roles creating generic drug programs around the country.

In 1987, he persuaded the Massachusetts state legislature to approve a state ballot question on a national health care program, and got the same question on the ballot in Richmond, Ca. The initiatives won with 67 per cent and 82 per cent of the vote respectively, strong showings of support for national health care that shifted the political conversation at the time.

Over the years, Mr. Danielson drafted model health legislation, consulted with the W.H.O., testified before Congress, fought for strong health planks in Democratic Party platforms, and published in medical journals, all in the interest of advancing health reform. He served on the national board of directors for the Gray Panthers, helped found Citizens for a National Health Program, and was a leader of the National Association for Public Health Policy. He worked on Barney Frank’s early campaigns for Congress and was a key operative in Vermont in Michael Dukakis’s 1988 campaign for President.

Throughout, he lived part of every year on Martha’s Vineyard, often at the shack he inherited from his mother on Sengekontacket Pond. As president of the Tower Ridge Real Estate Corporation, named for his stepfather, Obbie Tower, he helped develop Tower Ridge in Oak Bluffs, which featured a then-innovative focus on shared green spaces.

After his second marriage ended in divorce in 1993, he met Deborah Watrous, a registered nurse; they married in 2000. Together they bought and ran Nine Mountain Retreats in Plainfield, hosting everything from weddings to breathwork retreats. He joined and chaired the Plainfield board of health, was chairman of human services for the Hampshire Council of Governments, volunteered for The Climate Action Network, and became a member of the Dance New England Camp Coordinating Group. That community had so many “dancing Davids” that Danielson returned to the more distinctive nickname he’d been given when knocking on doors canvassing for health care in Italian sections of Boston, Davio.

One of his proudest accomplishments was caring personally for his beloved mother when she drifted into dementia in her 90s. He and Deborah took an apartment in Northampton and cared for Hope there with a team of trusted friends until the end of her life.

Recently, he led planning for Lagoon Ridge, an Oak Bluffs development. After a drawn-out effort that he joked he wanted accomplished “before I die,” the project was approved on August 9 by the Oak Bluffs planning board.

A figure of legendary vitality, Davio Danielson danced, biked, and worked long hours until the last week of his life.

He is survived by his wife, five children, a stepdaughter, Azana Watrous, and six grandchildren.

His family requests that those who would honor his life make a donation to the ACLU or the Climate Action Network.

A celebration of his life will be held for family and friends on the Vineyard on Oct 6.