Known to most as John Dennis (born Jackie Joseph Goonan — but eternally Jack Dennis) died peacefully on March 12, just shy of his 92nd birthday; surrounded by love, classical music, and family — including his wife of 61 years, Melanie Eastburn Dennis.

Pursuing their shared love of the theater, John and Melanie first met at auditions for Rumpelstiltskin at a community theater in Oak Park. Cast in the roles of Rumpelstiltskin and the miller’s daughter, they fell in love-at-first-sight and spent the rest of their lives “spinning gold out of straw.”

He came from strong Irish stock, a man who loved deeply, cared strongly, and believed wholeheartedly in synchronicity. He followed his dreams, figuratively and literally. He always travelled the road less taken which was what made his life the grand adventure it was. With each idea, interaction, and project, he strove to leave an indelible mark on his communities. John believed in the goodness of others and always tried to see people’s good qualities, giving them the benefit of the doubt. He would often say how lucky he was to have the family and devoted friends he had, and what a blessing his life was.

He was the oldest of five and adored his four siblings. He treasured most being the father of his six children. He was the “Papa” of 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, for whom he unfailingly generated adventures, whimsy, far-fetched tall-tales, and endless silly songs.

He was also a phenomenal whistler, a master pumpkin-carver, and an avid lawn-game player. He swore by his daily calisthenics and his cheater’s-diet (he never met a dessert he didn’t like). He was funny, witty, and a pun-master. He had an uncanny sense of direction, and his penmanship was second-to-none.

Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, he moved to Connecticut, Chicago, Maine, Vermont, Indiana, and eventually landed back in Vermont for good in 2016. He was a prolific writer — memoirs, poems, political speeches, musical productions, marketing for various health, youth, and senior organizations and initiatives, and countless children’s books, plays, and animated shorts. As a jack of all trades and master of some, he worked many odd and wildly varied jobs and careers while honing and pursuing his writing craft; eventually earning his PhD in Communications and Social Marketing from Union Institute later in life.

Writing was John’s lifeblood, and Melanie was his muse, editor, costumer, actress, accountant, cheerleader, critic, and biggest supporter. Melanie watched over him all their years together, knowing he would rather write than eat or sleep. Their love was vast and their hope was deep.

Jackie, Jack, John, John darling, Dad, Grampy, Papa will be missed, but he will be remembered and celebrated as a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, son, father-figure to many, and dedicated friend. Even if you weren’t fortunate enough to know him, please know that the world is a better place because he was in it for his time.

Because John dedicated most of his life and writing-career to advocating and creating for kids and seniors, we are asking (in lieu of flowers) for donations to be made in his name to any local-to-you child or senior-centered organization of your choice.

A celebration of life will be held on a future date when the family can make plans and arrangements.

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