Monday, January 21, 2013

Dennis J. Reidy (1945-2013)

Saying   good-bye to someone who has   been such a big part of my life has never been easy.  I think it is one of the hardest things as I get "older" and it has happened more often.    However,  this past weekend   was especially difficult.  Our family had to say good-bye to someone who has meant so much to so many of us--Dennis Reidy.   Although we are not blood relatives, Dennis was my "cousin."   I valued his advice, respected his work ethic, am thankful for the many times were were able to stay at their house  when my mom was in the hospital in Tucson, and more than anything, the opportunity to hear stories and laugh.   

Last summer at the family reunion, Dennis did not look very good.  He was on oxygen, which I know was very difficult for him to have to accept.   But in the true Dennis fashion, he just made a joke of it and went on.  I know he didn't feel that well, but you would have never known it.

When we got the call a week ago Saturday   that Dennis had passed the night before, it was very difficult news.  Although I can say I wasn't    terribly surprised,  it still was unexpected.   Dennis lived every moment of his life to the fullest and not many people can say that.  It was a difficult week, and Teresa had such a hard time.

Janet asked me to speak at the funeral about Dennis' roots and Douglas.   I was so honored to be able to do this.  She told me to keep it short.  For those of you who know me professionally, you know I am not one for long speeches, etc.  However, trying to  condense so much about Dennis into something short, was hard.  I asked various people if they had any stories from growing up in Douglas.  I got quite a bit of information and was able to put it into a tribute to this wonderful human being.

I would like to share it on this blog with those of you who didn't get to hear it last Saturday.  Dennis meant so much to so many people, and that was evident in the   huge number of people who attended the viewing, the funeral, the burial and the reception.

Here is what I said:

I am Sheila Rogers, member of the Scott Family of Douglas, Arizona.    When Janet asked me to speak about Dennis’ early years in Douglas, to say I was honored would be an understatement.   The Reidy and Scott Families go way back.  I asked our Aunt Teresa, who is 90,  when the families met.  She wasn’t sure, but  she  told me that she doesn’t ever remember a time when our families weren’t friends.  My grandparents moved to Douglas in 1912 and to the current house we live  in on 14th Street in 1918.   The Reidy family, and their cousins, the Joyces , all lived in the 800  block on 14th for many years.   The Reidys, Joyces, and Scotts were godparents to each other, in each others weddings, and were truly an extended family.    Our families share strong Irish Catholic roots.

And as I look back on my childhood, I don’t ever remember not having the Reidys as part of our family.    Although there are no  blood ties, that never stopped us from being family.

Dennis was born in Douglas on August 29, 1945 to Edna and Corny Reidy.    He was the second child of the family with Cornella being the oldest and Jerry following two years later.  

Corny Reidy died suddenly of a heart attack on June 13, 1951 at the age of 43, leaving behind Edna and three young children.   Edna devoted her life to her three children.   She could have gone to work as she was a registered nurse, but she felt that her children needed a mother at home.   By this time,  all of the extended Reidy family had moved to California.  But the Scott family was still in Douglas.   Throughout the years of our childhood, we were together often.  Edna died unexpectedly in 1971.   That was devastating to Dennis.   Had both of his parents lived to see the adult that he became would have made them very proud.   However, I am sure that they did know.

Dennis attended Loretto Catholic School from first through eighth grades.   We have been blessed because  our principal at Loretto, Sister Ann Patrice,  is still in our lives.   We have kept in touch through the years and I emailed her over the weekend to tell her about Dennis.   She responded to me that she found out about his death on Saturday.   She told me that Dennis and Janet had sent her a floral arrangement this past Christmas and that she had talked to Dennis on the 26th.   I had asked her if she could share anything about Dennis with me.   She told me that  she remembered talking to Dennis at Loretto’s 75th anniversary celebration several years back.   He told her that his education at Loretto had the biggest impact on his life.  He prefaced it with telling her “this is the only serious thing  I am going to say to you today.”  Those of us who knew Dennis, can hear him saying this.  She also said that she felt that what he told her illustrated both his faithfulness and his sense of humor.  She further said that he was always a conscientious student and entered into school activities with energy and enthusiasm.    She said his smile often held a twinkle of possible  mischief in it, but evidently he didn’t act on that mischief that she could remember.  I know for a fact  that Dennis saved acting on the mischief until a few years after he left Loretto.

Loretto often had fundraisers.  At Christmas time, we always sold Christmas cards.   Dennis would go out to sell the cards to various people that he knew.    Dennis had a gift of gab at even a young age.  Every year he would go to see Mr. Levy, who owned a local department store.  Mr. Levy reminded Dennis each year that he didn’t buy Christmas cards because he was Jewish.  However, every year Dennis convinced him to support Loretto and so Mr. Levy bought Christmas cards.

Dennis attended Douglas High School after Loretto where he was involved in  many school activities—most notably the yearbook. 

Because of their financial situation, Dennis had many jobs while growing up in Douglas.  Jerry told me  about the first jobs that they had.  They would do odd jobs for people in the neighborhood. One of those jobs was mowing lawns.   Neither Dennis or Jerry were big enough to push the lawn mower, so each of them took a side of the mower handle and pushed together.  I can just picture this!

About the same time, Dennis and Jerry started working for Mr. Stevenson, who had the local franchise for a TV guide type magazine.  In order to sell more magazines, Edna decided to take the boys over to Agua Prieta in Mexico.  They would find the homes that had a television antenna on the roof and then knock on the door.  When the   homeowner opened the door, Dennis would ask “quieres comprar TV guide?”  They sold the magazines for 15 cents and got to keep 4 cents.   Jerry told me that what they were most excited about this job was that actually had a REAL boss.  When he and Dennis were reminiscing many years later, Dennis couldn’t believe that they were excited about having a boss!

Dennis also worked as a paperboy, as a carry  out boy at the Phelps Dodge Grocery store, worked at the Arizona Drug Store, and at the City of Douglas Water Department.   Dennis knew the value of hard work from a very   young age.  And he always appreciated the friendships that he made with the men he worked with doing manual labor.  Dennis had a real heart for the common, working person that he never forgot as he became so successful in the business world.

Edna expected all of her children to go to college. Dennis received the Logie Scholarship at Douglas High School  which was only for the University of Arizona.   He always leaned towards the U of A, but that scholarship confirmed it.   And that is how Dennis became a “wildcat.”    As a graduate of ASU and a Sun Devil, I can honestly say that is probably the only thing that I ever disagreed with Dennis on!!  We had a lot of fun over the years with the rivalry.    And I am very glad that Dennis did become a wildcat, because if he hadn’t, he would have never met and married his wonderful wife, Janet.  She is our family, too,  and we love her dearly.  She was the best thing that ever happened to Dennis.  Thank you, Janet, for making Dennis so happy !!  And thank you for sharing him with us these many years!  I am sure there were many times that you were ready to go, but Dennis had one more story to share!

Dennis loved Douglas.  When I moved back to Douglas 2 ½ years ago, he was one of my biggest supporters.   Dennis believed in giving back to the community that helped make him the person he was.  Each year, Dennis would send a letter to his clients suggesting that they give their Arizona Tax Credit donation to one of two schools.  The one in Douglas is Faras Elementary in Pirtleville, which is a very poor area of Douglas.   Many people with no  connection to Douglas contributed. Those of us who graduated from Douglas High School have a saying—“once a bulldog, always a bulldog!”  Dennis  did more than say it, he lived it through his support of our schools and his love for his roots in Douglas.

I have spoken of Dennis’ formative years in Douglas.    I have talked about what a conscientious student he was.  And I know you will hear about Dennis as an adult in the next little bit.  Dennis’ sense of humor was second to none.  I loved to get together and talk and listen to his very funny stories of growing up in Douglas.   Our cousin, Ted,  wrote that Dennis was our family’s “Seanachie” (Shawn a key).  A Seanachie  is an Irish storyteller.  They were the oral historians during the great suppression.  Dennis’ stories weren’t bound by dates or events like most histories.  They were about people and characters.  And although they made us laugh, we weren’t laughing at them as much as with them.  They were vignettes of the human condition---the divine comedy.

What I believe I am most grateful for is the many years of friendship that we had.  Dennis was an incredible influence on my life and on the lives of so many others.    In our family, our children considered Dennis an uncle.   I remember him inviting my daughter and some of the other cousins to “Camp Dennis.”   At Camp Dennis, they listened to stories about having fun and of Dennis’ escapades through the years. They learned to not take themselves too seriously and to enjoy each moment in life, and to live life to the fullest.  But they also learned the value of hard work and  the importance of family.   

I will always feel blessed to have had Dennis and all of the Reidys in my life.   I love Irish Proverbs and Blessings and I am going to conclude this with one that I feel is most fitting for his great sense of humor that we will dearly miss.   It simply says,  “May you get to heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”  I have no doubt that Dennis made it to heaven in record time!

To quote my favorite author, “those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told.”  Dennis stories will live on with the many people whose lives he touched.

Thank you, Dennis, for enriching our lives with your presence, your stories, and most importantly,  your friendship!  You will be sorely missed!