Cover photo for Irving H. Dennis's Obituary
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1926 Irving 2024

Irving H. Dennis

July 29, 1926 — January 5, 2024

Irving Hadley Dennis (1926-2024)

Irving Dennis lived a long and happy life—one that began in Leominster, Massachusetts in the Roaring Twenties and ended peacefully in the warmth and security of Royal Oaks in Sun City, Arizona. That life spanned a millennium and lasted nearly a century, and it was persistently blessed with prosperity and good fortune—the result not merely of Irv’s luck but his pluck.

His first great moment of good fortune, and the pivot of his life, came in about 1949 when he met Jeanne Croteau, a nursing student at Fitchburg State, then a teachers’ college in north central Massachusetts. They would make a life together following their marriage in 1952, which lasted fifty-seven years, until Jeanne’s death in 2009. Boldly they embraced new opportunities, new jobs, a burgeoning family, and new destinations. Together they raised four children, beginning with the birth of Sandra in 1954 and Matthew in 1955. By 1956, they had relocated to Heidelberg, Germany, when Irv accepted a position as a scouting executive in Europe for the Boy Scouts of America, at a time following the Second World War when many military families remained deployed abroad. In Germany they welcomed Christopher in 1958, and after their return to the U.S. Martha in Philadelphia in 1960. Now a family of six (2 boys and 2 girls), Jeanne told Irv, “The score is tied and the game is over.” They declared victory.

Before he met Jeanne, Irv grew up as a child of the Depression, never in want because of the hard work and resourcefulness of his parents Dorothy (Hadley) and Cyrus Irving Dennis, who worked various jobs, cultivated a vegetable garden, and found ways to squeeze extra money out of Dot’s famous baked beans and Cy’s apple cider, sometimes peddled door to door with a borrowed cart, with little Irving aboard, pulled by an ancient swaybacked horse.

Smart and curious but not necessarily a dedicated student, Irv did fine in school and enjoyed playing hockey on frozen mill ponds in winter (his mother’s magazines stuffed into his knee socks for shinpads) and baseball, exploring woods and brook, and working odd jobs in summer, whenever possible tagging along with his Uncle Clifton on outings to Boston, to watch his favorite team, the Braves.

Irv served in the Navy during the war, which ended as his ship was pushing down the East Coast headed for the Panama Canal on its way to the Pacific. Instead, he ended up ferrying victorious troops home from Europe and carrying replacements across the Atlantic, rotating into peacekeeping roles. He remained proud of his service as a Navy signalman, entitled to wear a red eagle, crossed flags, and red chevron on his right sleeve—that is, his was one of the exclusive “right arm rates” reserved for sailors in the Seaman’s Branch. Semaphore was a foreign language of flags, but he learned it well and could communicate with other ships at the rate of seventy words a minute.

All that was a prelude to what Irv saw as real life, dating to his fateful match with Jeanne. After three years abroad, filled with adventure and travel and the challenges of babies and toddlers, they returned to the US and found their way to Havertown, Pennsylvania, on the Philadelphia Main Line, where Irv continued to work as a Scouting executive and then shifted into sales when he took a position with Firestone Tire and Rubber.

He worked in plastics. As it turns out, Mr. Mcguire was right in his conversation with Benjamin in The Graduate (1967): “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.” Plastics were a modern invention, a petroleum byproduct that became the miracle (and perhaps curse) of the post-World War II modern world (not that we knew that then). Working in the Plastics Division, he sold film, fabric, and sheeting to buyers in the Deep South, travelling through that fraught terrain in his little company-issued Ford Falcon, which had a car radio only because Irv paid extra himself to have one installed. This was the early 1960s, and he encountered another world, a different, American world.

From Firestone, he moved to Stauffer Chemical Company, which after a transfer took Irv and Jeanne and their children to Southern California in 1968, where they lived and prospered for two decades before making their way to Sun City, Arizona in the mid-1980s. Irving later managed the Southern California operation of Custom-Bilt Products, a window shade manufacturer, and then founded his own business selling and installing window coverings.

Like their other relocations, going to Sun City was a bold move, and though Jeanne was initially skeptical, she agreed and together they found a new senior life there that exceeded all expectations—new friends, new activities, and a perfect venue for their civic and religious engagement, whether it was their church, its educational and charitable efforts, St. Vincent DePaul, or the local foodbank.

While still in La Habra, California, Irv embraced a calling to become a deacon in the Catholic Church, which meant that Jeanne too threw herself into this course of study and preparation—it became her calling too. She excelled and became a constant sounding board, balance, and source of support, and they continued to work together through their decades in the desert.

By then, their children successfully launched, and with grandchildren appearing, they enjoyed years that were almost literally golden. Irv, like the best of his generation, was a joiner. He was also a leader. He became a volunteer in the police auxiliary organization, the Posse, and rose to be its captain. And he continued to serve as a deacon—the beloved “Deacon Irv”—and touch people’s lives.

Irv lived through turbulent times, but his life was never in turmoil. He was consistently optimistic, upbeat, energetic, a problem-solver—always the solution, never the problem. He got so much done because he cared so little about getting credit or personal recognition. Whatever the challenge, he found ways to prevail, through hard work, a moral compass that was always true, and the kiss of good luck. He always seemed to know the right way to do something—from putting on socks or mending a tear, to planting a tree or navigating congested highways and cityscapes, to finalizing a deal that benefited both parties. And he always did the right thing and showed others how to do it too, with honesty, humility, and integrity.

His grandson once asked him, what was the favorite place he’d ever lived? He replied that he’d loved every place he lived and had no interest in ever living in any of those places again. Irv always looked forward without regret, as if standing on the bridge of a ship, pennants flapping, with the wind in his face.

Irving Hadley Dennis died peacefully as he slept in the early morning of January 5, 2024. His beloved partner Jeanne predeceased him in 2009, as did his brother David; he is survived by his sister, Nancy Piermarini. He is also survived by his four children, Sandra Garber, Matthew Dennis (Elizabeth Reis), Christopher Dennis, and Martha Tuma; by his grandchildren, DJ Garber, Deborah Horn, and Karina Garber; Sam and Leah Reis-Dennis; Peter and Claire Dennis; and Elias and Christopher Tuma; as well as by his great-grandchildren, Caiden and Shilo Garber; Asa, Bowden, and Elara Horn; Cyrus and Roy Reis-Dennis; and Anderson and Archie Tuma, and Cairo Tuma.

In lieu of flowers or other memorials, friends might donate their volunteer labor or monetary contributions, as they are able, to the local Foodbank.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Irving H. Dennis, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, January 26, 2024

10:00 - 11:30 am (Mountain (no DST) time)

St. Clement of Rome Church 15800 N Del Webb Blvd, Sun City, AZ 85351

15800 North Del Webb Boulevard, Sun City, AZ 85351

Services for Dennis Irving will be Friday, January 26, 2024 at 10:00 am - St. Clement of Rome Church 15800 N Del Webb Blvd, Sun City, AZ 85351

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