I’ve got to tell you, folks, I’m becoming depressed and weary from writing these kinds of articles, but at my age I don’t see the trend abating. Initially, it was my first college friend and fraternity brother, Mike Glossinger, then a lifelong friend from primary school, Larry Livingston. There are others I have not written about, so permit me a bit of venting about the unavoidable biological reality that claims us all: |
DAMN! DAMN! DAMN!
With that in mind—
July 8, 2020 was the last day for Dennis James Hull. I would say he boarded the mystery train, but in Dennis’s case he took the controls for a final flight into eternity. Based on my conversation with him a week earlier, I wonder if Dennis was surprised when the boarding announcement came. It was a definite shock to me. He was born in Defiance, Ohio on May 5, 1940, and spent his retirement years and final day in Tucson.
We were best buddies since tenth grade both having an affinity for classic literature, writing, history, fine music, automobiles, art, aviation, and (of course) young ladies. Dennis took admiration for aviation to the next level; that is, he began flying lessons and soloed while we were still in high school. He was passionate about anything to do with flying including any and all types of flying machines. He started building models as a youngster, which became a lifelong hobby—er--obsession.
His other obsession: mirrors. To be sure, Dennis was a handsome rascal, but 30 minutes to comb one’s hair? I’d say, “What are you looking at?”
His answer with a grin, “I’m looking at mainly me!” We always inserted the word “mainly” anytime we could into conversations as a result of a shared appreciation for Mad Magazine, and (per their words) the usual gang of idiots.
He also maintained a sophisticated flight simulator in his home in which one could dial-in any aircraft, any locality, and any weather condition. To visit him was to be “forced” to spend time with the flight simulator. The problem was Dennis would hover over you like a father over a child with a new electric train. You’d hear things like, “What? What are you doing? No! No! No!” and he’d attempt to wrest away the controls to “save” you. I used to do any number of outlandish things to set him off—anything to get out of the forced, conscripted torment.
After college, we set off for California two days after Christmas in his Triumph TR-3 sports car. We arrived in the Southland several days after the New Year, and found employment almost immediately. Then our paths began to diverge; his to the San Fernando Valley, and mine to the South Bay. We continued to keep in touch and visit periodically. Though physical separation became longer and longer, when we got together it was like no time had passed. In the interim we both married—Dennis twice.
An unwelcome darkness came 15 years into our California sojourn. At just 38-years-of-age Dennis had a heart attack; then another. Heart disease seems to run in the male side of the Hull family. I recall his father going at 52.
Over the years, Dennis suffered a third heart attack, and had bypass surgery. After the last procedure he was told there was nothing else that could be done, but to prudently manage his life. He married and divorced a third time, but remained close friends with his last ex until the end. Suellyn and her husband really stepped-up to support Dennis through his time of trial.
Through the years, Dennis’s love for aviation continued unabated. He never stopped constructing model airplanes, including radio-controlled models. In addition, he continued to fly including flight time in sail-planes (gliders). After he retired, he became a docent at Pima Air Museum in Tucson, and was the in-house expert about the Wright Brothers. Perhaps the most unusual aircraft he flew occurred at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. He had several flights in a 1911 Wright Flyer replica. He described it as a real bugs-in-the-teeth experience.
In 2004, he finally found a lasting love (perhaps strangely) with a girl he’d known as a youngster. Her name is Linda, and she was the perkiest, most attractive, personality-plus girl in our high school. She lives in Wisconsin and had been widowed. They reconnected at a high school reunion; fate dealing them a perfect storm. It gave me a great deal of comfort to know that the last sixteen years of his life were filled with peace and unconditional love.
Intellectually, I knew Dennis was years beyond his probable expiration date, but he just kept aggressively managing his life; and I expected him to keep on rolling.
About 10 years ago, Dennis asked me to write his eulogy; said he wanted it to be funny, and delivered in a hometown barroom. When I sent a draft for him to edit, he gasped and said he didn’t necessarily want his family to know warts-and-all of our boys-will-be-boys shenanigans. I figured I had plenty of time to come up with a revision. I was wrong.
I must confess when Linda called with the news, I was totally unprepared. But is anybody truly prepared for that kind of news? I wrote his eulogy the very next day, which I think is suitable for barroom or church. I wish he would have been around to edit it.
I’M NOT MISSING YOU—A Eulogy
I’m not missing you when a single engine, airplane hums overhead.
I’m not missing you bugging me about going up in a sail plane.
I’m not missing you when I hear the classic strains of Rimsky-Korsakov.
I’m not missing you when I have a glass of red at sundown.
I’m not missing you when I hear Linda’s voice in my head.
I’m not missing you while reading Voltaire or Fielding.
I’m not missing you when my mind trips back to high school.
I’m not missing you when I sing Route 66 with the No Namers Band.
I’m not missing you when I see a vintage English roadster or a Studebaker.
Do you remember those double dates? I do.
Do you remember sneaking into the public pool at midnight? I do.
Do you remember cruising Clinton Street? I do.
Do you remember the time we drove to a nearby town, picked-up and made out with some strange girls, and never saw them again? I do.
Do you remember loading down your TR-3, and heading for California? I do.
Do you remember us separating; you to the Valley, and me to the Beach? I do.
The world-of-work parted us physically, but mentally and spiritually we’ve always known each other by heart. The professions we followed were good to us, but came with a price. The passing years and time snuck up on us like dusk upon a cat; and now you’ve gone—passed beyond the veil of this dimension. But…
I’m not missing you when I think about your never-ending model airplane building.
I’m not missing you when I remember us spending an afternoon in F-16 simulators.
I’m not missing you when remembering Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum, and you swiping a dipstick from a German ME-262 jet fighter that was waiting to be assembled. I know guilt haunted you till the end. Just desserts, old buddy.
I’m not missing you when I recall that day we flew over Defiance, Ohio in a Cessna, and you buzzed my Dad’s house
I’m not missing you when recalling, as 15-year-olds, we conned our way into a burlesque theater.
We always thought we had more time, but intellectually we knew better. Why were we so freaking clueless?
In the last five years of your life, we lived only two hours apart, yet saw each other very little, relying on sporadic telephone conversations. What a shame. Like Jack Kerouac’s Sal Paradise had Dean Moriarty, we had each other. Channeling Kerouac…
And so, in Arizona when the sun goes down, and I sit under an umbrella and gaze at the long, long skies over California and the Pacific Ocean, I think of that great blue expanse that rolls in one huge bulge over to the Orient. I think of all the merchant ships steaming and the people cruising, and the immensity of it. And in Hawaii—in Hawaii people are happy in the land that knows no sadness.
By now the Evening Star is dipping into the Pacific, and spreading her sparkling gems over the prairie just before the coming of complete night that blesses the Earth; cups the peaks; darkens all rivers; and enfolds the final shore. In that final moment—that metaphor for the end of everything—I know that nobody, and I mean nobody, knows anything that’s going to happen to anybody, besides the forlorn rags of growing old, taking the ultimate fall, and being tucked in by a spade.
In that sundown moment, I remember Dennis.
In every moment, I miss Dennis Hull.
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Dennis James Hull, aviation, Mad Magazine, flight simulator, heart attack, 1911 Wright Flyer, Eulogy,