SUTTONS BAY — Dennis Joseph Rathnaw, 78, of Suttons Bay, passed away on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. It was Valentine’s Day, and the 58th anniversary of his engagement to wife Nina.
Dennis was born of German, Polish and Kashub heritage on March 18, 1935, in Detroit, the son of Gregory and Mary (Selewski) Rathnaw. On Sept. 8, 1956, at St. Albertus Church in Detroit, he married Antonina Palazzola, who survives him.
Dennis’ was a life that will be celebrated by all who knew him, and those who had their lives touched by his generosity. His life was defined by a selflessness that showed in his devotion to his family, his career, his church and faith, and his community. Those close to him will remember his unerring ability to find elegant, often surprising solutions to the problems and challenges that he and his family faced.
As a child, Dennis showed an aptitude and passion for music, picking up the accordion at the age of 6, and performing on Detroit radio by age 9. Throughout his life, he could be persuaded to play for the special occasion, regaling everyone with a round of polkas or waltzes.
Immediately following his wedding in 1956, he was drafted into the army and served a two-year tour of duty, including a post in Germany with U.S. occupation forces. He was able to fly home for a visit to witness the birth of his first daughter, Grace Marie. In later years, he would retain a fondness for his time in Europe, and he and Nina would return, especially to France.
Dennis devoted a 40-year career to the Engineering Division of General Motors. He worked at the Technical Center in Warren, and the Proving Grounds in Milford. His work spanned various models and products, however he was especially proud of helping to usher in the era of air bag safety to automobiles.