Memorial for David Morris Denton, Sr. and David Denton, Jr.

I hope you all enjoy a replay of our memorial service at the Denton Family Reunion. All of nature joined in the celebration: the incessant crowing of a rooster, dogs large & small, small airplanes & big trucks along with a symphony of insects lent their voices to the morning’s activities. Established in 1872, these are the sounds our loved ones listen to each day in their final rest at Old Mother Church Cemetery. I hope Heaven has a noise filter!

Old Mother Church Cemetery ~ Robbinsville, North Carolina ~ July 25th 2021

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Gathering music by Mary Margaret & David Flood- Two Strong Men written by David Flood

Friends and family- Thank you all for coming this day to honor two among our number who have passed from this life into the next. Let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, we come into your presence today to honor
David Morris Denton, Sr. and his son, David Jr.
We are in mourning, Lord, for these souls that you have called home.
Grant us thy peace and comfort as we adjust to their transition from this plane.
Help us to celebrate and understand the life they had here
and to find meaning in their passing.
We praise you for allowing us time with them
and give you all glory and honor.
In Christ name, Amen.

~

Reader: Nikki Denton

Ephesians 4:22-24
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (ESV)

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Reader: Avery “Denise” Gordon
Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

~

Eulogy by Rev. Dr. Catherine Denton

Our world has profoundly changed since we last met at the Denton Family Reunion two years ago. Our country has seen many losses of life for numerous reasons. Our individual lives have gone through a massive shift. We are here today to acknowledge two of our Denton family leaders- David Morris and Dave Jr. They have made the ultimate transition.

These two souls were among those responsible for our initial gatherings here in Robbinsville, around 1999, at what we have called the Sweetwater Cousin Reunion. Because of their vision, we have become closer in spirit and not just in name. Each of us has had memorable experiences each year we come together and celebrate what it means to be a Denton- a family of immeasurable love and compassion.

David Morris Denton was born and graduated high school right here in Robbinsville, NC. He served four years in the United States Air Force as a Crew Chief on the Douglas A/B-26 and the North American F-51 Mustang. He was a well educated man receiving degrees from Cumberland College, Lenoir-Rhyne College, California State University and finally his doctorate at Western Maryland College. His awards and accolades are many ranging from distinguished ones from colleges, to humanitarian awards from Rotary Club, to a 4-H alumni award, plus many, many others. In his career with deaf education he was superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf as well as an international lecturer spreading his ideas and thoughts on deaf education where ever there were those receptive to his message. The world knew Dr. David Morris Denton as a great man of learning. We knew him as husband, father, grandfather, uncle and patriarch of the Sweetwater Denton Clan.

Uncle Morris opened a door to our past with his storytelling and reminisces. He gave us a glimpse of those gone before our time and a deeper look at what it means to be human. His hard-won insight into living on this earth has touched us in infinite and heartfelt ways. He was the youngest son of Gwynn and Bess Denton and though he did not see war, he was touched by its heavy hand. He had dreams of a life and career beyond Robbinsville but his heart remained tied to his old home. We are grateful he shared his love of its treasures, the bounty of its blessings, and his own sage-like wisdom.

David Denton, Jr. was born in Williamsburg, KY in 1957. He went to Frederick High School and then Western Maryland College where he earned a degree in communications. He and Shawn married in 1983 and produced three lovely children. They later divorced. David made his profession of faith at the First Baptist Church in Frederick then when he moving to Charlotte he attended the Moravian Church. David spent much of his life in Charlotte or Frederick at various jobs and businesses. Once a month he took time to visit and help with his dad while his mother took a break for respite trips to Yellowstone and Hawaii. His assistance was invaluable. David was a big Panther’s fan and for many years he and his best friend, Clifton had season tickets. Several family members went with him over the years. His biggest thrill was going to the Seattle Seahawks game where his favorite quarterback handed him the touchdown ball. The handoff was captured on TV.

For each Denton Reunion, Cousin Dave gathered us all like a hen with its chicks. His coordinating skills made this event happen year after year. Each of us were called upon to add to the everyday details and the joy we find in each other’s company. One of the first faces we would see was Dave’s with his arms outstretched and a hearty welcome to all who came. Dave’s skill and enjoyment at being MC at our Saturday evening Talent Show is etched in each mind, heart and funny-bone. He loved watching family members perform, giving out prizes provided by those attending that year. He gave us hope of a bright future and something to look forward to throughout the year. He made it possible to be family though miles apart. His most important accomplishment in cooperation with his former wife, Shawn was to give us Cailen, Hannah and Ethan. For this and more we are grateful.

As we acknowledge these two souls, let us not forget that they were human in every way. They had their flaws and struggles as each of us do. Their bodily frailties at their end were only a piece of what they suffered at times during the fullness of life. As it said in our opening verse in Ephesians- These men have put off their “old self.” They are experiencing “the new self” beyond this life. We each have our times of mental and emotional anguish and know what it feels like to wonder at our own worth and value. We may even have experienced regrets. These men were no different but now they labor no longer. We extend to them and ourselves compassion and grace. As a family, we offer them peace in their eternal rest.

~

Reader: Erin Connor
Psalm 30:1-5

I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up,
and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
2- O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
3- O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave:
thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
4- Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his,
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
5- For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night,
but joy cometh in the morning. KJV

~

Our Beloved Aunt Peggy & Cousin Mary Margaret wanted to share some words with the family:

Peggy wrote:

Dave, Jr. was my first born and only son. He was flawed, but he loved the Denton family enough to organize the family reunion and help keep it going. He loved his nuclear family and so enjoyed being a daddy. He read to his children using voices of the characters. He appreciated Bess’s paintings enough to find as many as possible and created a website for them. His sister, Mary Margaret was precious to him. He enjoyed having her visit and took her to his beloved Panther games. He cared for his father to give me respite as a caregiver. I’ll regret the last year of his life, but love him as long as I have breath.

My husband was a spiritual man who found his passion in serving deaf people. He approached the absence of using sign language as a human rights issue. He was invited to lecture in 40 states and 7 foreign countries to spread the philosophy of Total Communication. He was a devoted husband and father who was so proud of his Denton heritage and loved telling stories about it. Half of me is gone now, but his love and that of his family sustain me. Mary and David Flood are helping me hold it together with their love and care. My friends have been faithful and nurturing. I thank each of you who are here for your show of love and family solidarity.

Mary wrote:

My brother David was an avid Emcee. Ever since I can remember, he was finding ways to entertain people. He was quick witted and had a fabulous way with words. Even as a child he had a great vocabulary and he always excelled  in school. He was always in the Honor Society and I was always grounded. David was able to dodge all the teenage bullets that I caught.

My brother cherished his family, nuclear and extended. He enjoyed creating skits that we and our cousins staged for our long-suffering parents. David also wrote, cast and filmed his own action pieces. Dad got a call from an employee of Maryland School for the Deaf who had just alerted police to report snipers on the roof of one of the campus buildings. Word got out that there was no real danger, it  was just Dr. Denton’s son and friends shooting a film. They were on the roof throwing rifles off onto a mattress on the ground below. One such rifles suffered a broken scope which David promptly super-glued back together. The gun never had quite the same aim. I was frequently a cast member in his productions, but was usually just a dead person in the background.

Despite typical sibling bickering David generally loved me deeply and treated me like a princess. He looked out for my well-being but never judged or tried to unduly influence me. Although he did turn me into a die-hard Panthers fan! We enjoyed many a game together.

David survived some excruciatingly hard times with strength and grace. He was a caring and complex man…often bigger than life. When he walked in a room it was immediately filled with his electric presence. He was kind, interesting and interested. I always felt his compassion and infectious calm.

He was my only brother and I miss him beyond belief. But, his sweet and mellow presence will be felt all the rest of my days.

The cliche about being a “Daddy’s Girl” is too bland to describe my relationship with my father. We inspired each other and were always comfortable in each others company. We all know of Dad’s accomplishments in his career in Deaf Education…he was world renown. We recall his storytelling ability, his amazingly strong, yet easy presence, his musical prowess and love of history, family and nature.

But I, myself to knew a deeper, softer and spiritual David Denton. He shared his highest highs and lowest lows with me. He taught me subtly and not so subtly how to be courageous and humble at the same time. I remember when my brother and I got in trouble and Mom warned us that Dad would use his belt when he got home. Upon arriving David and I would tackle him and get him so tickled and laughing that he’d soon forget all about our punishment. What a pushover!

Other indelible memories were of watching Dad fearlessly and cheerfully jumping into the ocean to play in the “Ooh Aah’s”. And the many times he would send someone or personally come rescue me when I ran out of gas somewhere on the East Coast. My favorite memories of the many evenings we spent on the yellow, Naugahyde couch in the kitchen of the MSD campus singing along with Dad and his guitar while Mom would be cooking dinner and adding her beautiful third harmony to our mellow songs.

Daddy charmed every one he met. He met me on the day I was born and I could never get enough of his sweet soul. Even during his last days as his body and mind betrayed him he continued to grin, giggle, flirt and philosophized. He often alluded to the wonder of growing into yourself as a human being. He often told me, with a cherubic look on his face, “Mary Margaret just let it happen”.

I know that Daddy touched the lives of everyone here today. I am completely grateful that he touched mine as a father, mentor and friend. He will always be with me.

~

Reader: Jana Nivens
Isaiah 40:31
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)

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As Mary Margaret and David provide us with music, you may come forward to place your tribute on the grave or your hand on the stone to honor these men who have touched our lives. If you desire a blessing for comfort and peace, I will be here to offer anointing oil and prayer.

Music: I’ll Fly Away

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious unto you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

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