My dad, James Dennison, taught me many things. He would have been 100 years old this year and I think about him quite often. He passed away at the age of 90, the year he also celebrated 60 years of marriage to my mother. My dad led a long and very interesting life.
A very talented man, Dad had many interests. He was a musician with a natural ear for music and played violin in the local symphony orchestra in Cumberland, MD where he was born and raised. He not only played the violin, he was a self-taught luthier – a craftsman who made and repaired stringed instruments. He made several violins during his lifetime and he also played the guitar. He instilled his love of music in all of us, me and my two brothers and sister. I took piano lessons for many years and while I was practicing, he would join in, playing his violin to whatever piece of music I was learning.
Dad was also a gifted artist – he met my mother while he was a student at an art school in Baltimore, MD. They both painted many oil paintings and were also talented potters, teaching me and my siblings the love of art. One of his oil paintings, my favorite, is a beautiful vase of sunflowers. It adorns my dining room wall, a daily reminder of him. He taught us to always look for and see the beauty in life in the simplest of things.
What I loved most about my dad was how he worked so hard to give us a good upbringing. We lived in the country in an old plantation home that was surrounded by mountains. We had horses and spent time as a family on trail rides. My fondest memories of our horse adventures is when we took a family vacation to Tumbling River Ranch, a dude ranch in Colorado. We participated in a saddle club that went on group rides and attended horse shows. Dad taught us the value of hard work, as we were all responsible for caring for the horses, cleaning stalls and bailing hay.
My dad was a World War II veteran having served in the U.S. Armed Forces as a ball turret gunner in the Mighty Eighth Air Force. His job was very dangerous and it was only after he passed away that we learned his plane had been shot down during one of his many missions and he had to parachute to safety. He taught us about the duty of serving our country and his footsteps were followed by my brother Joe, who is a Vietnam War veteran and by my grandson Mack, who is a Marine.
The biggest thing my dad taught us was the importance of family. I have so many memories of beach vacations in Ocean City, family gatherings, barbecues, parties and family dinners, games and so much more. What I remember most is the laughter and Dad’s sense of humor.
This Father’s Day, I will cherish the memory of my dad and all he taught me.