Dennis W. Vickers passed on June 22, 2022. As Dennis once wrote, he was born in Winner, South Dakota, and is one of those lucky few who hail from a place with an optimistic name. It could have been Prosperity, or Harmony, but it wasn't. It was Winner. He lived there for three days and left in a basket in the back of a Dodge. It could have been a Ford or a Chevy, but it wasn't. It was a Dodge.
As his love, Mahrie, says: We can grieve, but, along with sadness we must celebrate the extraordinary life that her Denny lived. He had the privilege of mentoring beloved friends and students, engaging in creative and scholarly endeavors, and traveling the world. Denny also left an everlasting gift to those who knew and loved him—his voice captured in more than a dozen novels he published.
Denny was an accomplished writer, scholar, and philosopher. While making many lifelong friends along the way, Denny earned his BA in Philosophy from the University of Wyoming in 1971 while sharing an apartment with his brother Randy, followed by his MA in Philosophy from Bowling Green in 1973 where he met his former wife and dear friend, Colleen O’Hara. Denny earned his PhD from the University of Texas-Austin in 1977. Denny spent the next four decades in public service, he worked from 1978-83 at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, spent the following decade at Wisconsin Power & Light (now Alliant Energy) and worked from 1993-2004 at the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Information Technology Services as the Deputy Administrator. Denny then began his career as a teacher, serving as a Lecturer at the University of Belize for two years. Denny ended his career as Professor Emeritus at the College of the Menominee Nation, where he especially enjoyed teaching philosophy, writing, and the philosophy of sustainable development from 2005-2020.
Denny served as a time as the president of the Shawano Area Writers, an organization dedicated to helping professional and hobbyist writers learn and grow. In his role as both writer and mentor, he described himself best when he said, “Like bears and Sasquatch, Dennis Vickers lives in the north woods. He teaches philosophy and creative writing at the College of the Menominee Nation. When he’s not doing that, he holes up in a river cottage and writes quirky stories rendered in literary prose, like a carnival barker dressed up for the opera. His writing conviction? Truth is best told through fiction. Also, lies are best told through nonfiction, but he doesn’t do that. With fiction, the story can be about anything so long as it has the stuff of life in it. The stuff of life—that’s the difficulty; that’s where the fun lies.”
Most important to him were his children: James Jacobs, Molly (Van Bogner) Vickers, Rebecca (Patrick “Bird” Erdmann) Vickers, and Tara (Lewis) Dahlberg. Papa adored his grandchildren—Jordan, Jaycee, and Jaiden Jacobs; Connor, Mason, and Josie Dahlberg; and Elby Bogner. These children will remember their Papa who not only read them books but also told them bedtime stories, cuddling with him while watching any Pixar movie, and making each their own walking stick to explore the forests surrounding the Wolf River.
Denny is survived by his wife, Mahrie Peterson, who has been a source of joy, liveliness, and inspiration in good times (and frequent living room dancing partner), and hope and solace in more trying times. He is also survived by his sister, Kathy Vickers Fix; brother-in-law Jim Fix; and his nephew Kevin Hirsch and his son, David. Dennis is further survived by his sisters-in-law Chris Vickers and Kari Peterson; and brothers-in-law Chris and Bill Peterson as well as his special cousin Murray (Circe Tsui) Brown. Dennis is also survived by his beloved nieces and nephews: Randi (Matt Roskoski) Vickers, Colin (Jenni Brown-Lenz) Vickers, and Seth (Jessi) Vickers; along with more great-nephews Jack, Max, Sam, Drew, Xander, Harrison, and Colin.
Denny was preceded in death by his parents, Walter “Vic” Vickers and Margery Vickers; his in-laws John and Patricia Peterson; his brother Randy Jake Vickers; and his dear cousin Tracey Brown Lorey. As Denny’s father “Pop” wrote, “Just as I can’t visualize the death of personality, I can’t visualize the death of real love. . . I can’t imagine a God so cruel as to perpetuate life and allow the most beautiful, the most meaningful part of it to die.”
It is difficult to express what made Denny so special. His friend of 50 years, Todd, shares how he remembers Denny:
“You are a brother—the older, wiser brother—that I never had. And one of the few examples of a full self-actualized individual that I have ever known. Now you may not, probably do not agree with me, on the topic of your near flawless character, which is to your credit. And it is one of the several aspects of your character—that include your humbleness, dignity, thoughtfulness of others, strength, depth of thought, and compassion—that I appreciate.
I have gained so much—become a better person—from just knowing you.”
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the College of Menominee Nation, PO Box 1179, Keshena, WI 54135. The College held a special place in Denny’s heart. In fact, so much so, that Denny dedicated his final novel, Most Gentle Tree, to friends, colleagues, and students from whom he learned so much. We are so grateful for the love and support that the College and the Menominee community have shown to both Denny and Mahrie.
The family is filled with gratitude for the health care professionals who cared for Denny throughout this three-year journey, including those from Mayo Clinic-Rochester, ThedaCare, UW Health, and Agrace Hospice Care, especially Kelly, Marie, and Sonya.
Dennis Vickers will be greatly missed. In the words of his father Pop, uttered after he treated you to a nice dinner out, “Thank you for the pleasure of your company.”
A private gathering will be held at a later date to celebrate Denny’s life.
Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
1310 Emerald Terrace Sun Prairie
Please share your memories at www.cressfuneralservice.com