Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

January 30, 2013

Local philanthropist Barbara Dennos dies at age 90

TRAVERSE CITY — Area philanthropist Barbara Dennos, a longtime supporter of the local college, hospital and arts, died at age 90. 

Her death on Tuesday came seven months after that of Michael, her husband of 70 years, who died in early July.

Northwestern Michigan College’s Dennos Museum Center is named for them.

“There was no doubt that she was in favor more than anyone else I know of children being involved in the museum,” said Paul Welch, retired NMC art department chairman who worked closely with her on the museum project.

“Right from the beginning she said, ‘We have to have a place.”

Michael Dennos was the retired CEO of Chef Pierre, the family pie business that moved to Traverse City in 1963 and merged in 1980 with Consolidated Foods, the parent company of Sara Lee. 

Friends said today they would remember Barbara Dennos for her sense of  humor, love for family, books, adventure, travel, her thoughtfulness, vision and deep appreciation of the arts.   

“She was always appreciative of what we did here, as was Mike,” said Eugene Jenneman, the museum’s executive director. “They really had an impact on this community.”

Jo Bullis, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center of the Grand Traverse Area, agreed.

“One of the things I appreciated about her and the family is that they support local nonprofits and are very community-minded,” she said.

Dennos was born in Muskegon on March 25, 1922, the daughter of Mabel and Pete Hansen, the city’s police chief. She and Mike met in their teens while ice skating. She graduated from Muskeon High in 1940 and attended Michigan State University.

They married in 1941 and had two children and four grandchildren.

“I admired her so much,” said Old Mission artist Verna Bartnick. “She was just a great soul and highly respected. She was very proud of the museum and interested in what was going on in the art community.” 

Harriet Rennie worked with Barbara on the development of the Greek Orthodox Church and met the Dennos family in 1970s.

“They were both wonderful, so close and thrived on each other,” Rennie said. “She had grace and a great sense of humor, and so did Mike.”

Lois Orth, a Horizon Books book seller, said Dennos was an avid reader until her eyesight and hearing began failing in recent years.

“That took something that she really loved out of her life,” Orth said. “But she was so positive always. I think the community has lost a very special couple, not just in terms of what they gave but just in themselves. I was honored to know her. She was remarkable.”

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