Dennis Ray Gamble was born on June 6, 1947 to Alice and Joe Gamble. My dad was the oldest of 6 kids and immediately his personality took on that of a fatherly figure. As his father became incapacitated with Alzheimer's disease, Dennis stepped up as a leader of the family. After his father passed, my dad become the patriarch of the family. He was the one to schedule all holiday plans and reunions. He was also the person his siblings called when they needed sound advice.
In 1964 he and his best friend, Terry Yarns started a band that eventually was called The Dentairs. They played at various venues in Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota and in 2004, they were inducted into the Iowa Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. http://www.iowarocknroll.com/inductee-list.php?id=11
During his rock-n-roll days my dad bought a 1961 Corvette. This coupled with the band's success made him a hit in his hometown of Spirit Lake, Iowa, especially with the girls. But one caught him, Debbie, and the rest is history.
In 1968 my dad married my mom, Debra Lenox and I showed up in May. My brother, Derek, arrived in 1973 while my family was living in Nebraska. At the time my dad was working for the Piggly Wiggly grocery store chain. After a short stint in Dallas, we moved to the Kansas City area (Independence) where my dad remained until 1993, when he remarried, to another KC suburb--Blue Springs.
My brother and I catching a ride on Dad
My dad started working in the insurance business soon after we moved to KC. He ended up working for Farmers Insurance and was very well regarded by his colleagues. In April 2003, mad dad, myself and a partner took the plunge into entrepreneurship by purchasing a hotel located at the Plaza in KC. The hotel had been foreclosed on, thus we were indeed rolling the dice. We implemented our plan of renovating, re-branding and re-positioning the hotel and it was truly a family business. My wife left her job in pharmaceutical sales to run the desk and eventually become the sales person while my dad would stop by after work to help hang pictures or attach towel racks. Sue and my wife spent one weekend attaching the bath mats to the tubs---not a fun job. But the hard work paid off and within 18 months we had tripled the motel's revenue. In January 2005 our group partnered with a larger group to purchase a 241 room hotel also on the Plaza and in September 2005 (as my dad was checking into the hospital for PCP) our group purchased a 123 room hotel in Omaha.
My dad lived a modest life (financially) but this was about to change big time. Many of his friends had done well and he was about to join them, though I doubt his frugality would have changed much. I sure wish he was around to see the fruits of his investments and labor.
In August of 2005 my wife and I gave my dad his first grandchild--Alice. She was named after 2 grandparents including my dad's mother who is still alive and well. There is a unique story behind this I must tell. Upon moving to KC, my mother went to work for a large reinsurance company and became friends with a woman named Vicki who happened to have two girls the same age as my brother and me. Our families began to do things together and the parents used to joke about the sons marrying the daughters. Well the youngest daughter, Amy, moved back to KC in 2001 and after just a couple of dates, we were in love. Amy was like the daughter my dad never had and although he was a stoic person on the outside, I'm confident on the inside he was thrilled at having her in the family and giving him a grandchild!
Dad with his grandchild---Alice
Celebration--Dad, Sue, Amy, Alice and me the day we purchased the large hotel
After we learned of my dad's cancer, my wife and I decided to try for another child and unlike Alice, this one happened quickly. I will always remember walking from my dads room at the hospital (during his chemo) to meet my wife at another part of the hospital to hear the first heartbeats. It was obviously an emotional day for me. My dad wasn't around to witness the birth of his second grandchild, Dennis, born in May 2006. But just ask his mother about the resemblance in baby pictures between him and my son!
My dad passed away on October 9, 2005. The funeral was a blur but so many people showed up that I was constantly reminded of the impact he had on others. You can definitely judge someone by the company they keep and in the end my dad passed this test. We decided to cremate him and his headstone is here in KC where my family and my brother will also be laid to rest.
Although a very conservative person, my dad lived life to its fullest. He enjoyed not only his music but reading, golf and later traveling. Golf was his hobby but his biggest commitment was to his church. He was a very religious person and a leader at the Lutheran church where my brother and I were confirmed. Even after moving away, he retained his membership at the church and was often considered the glue that kept the congregation together. He played in a golf league almost every summer and was very proud when he was able to join a nice country club in Blue Springs. My dad and I were inflicted with a condition well known around these parts called "being a Royals fan". When I moved back to KC in 1998 I purchased season tickets and my dad would join me for numerous games each season. Some of my best memories were at the games talking about life, politics and of course the sorry Royals.
I am a practicing Christian and thus I am confident I will see my dad sometime soon. I guess the biggest thing I learned from losing him was how most of my sorrow was generated from knowing my kids will be cheated from meeting their granddad -a man born to be a grandpa. The struggle is that these feelings are somewhat selfish because it is how my family and I are affected by his death, not what was best for him. Not that dying early is a good result, but I do consider myself lucky in that we had time to do and say what we wanted to after learning of his illness. I believe the unlucky ones are those that don't get that chance.
My goal in life continues to be to strive to make my dad proud. I'm left to do this through business and of course my family and how I raise my kids. There is a song by the band Blues Traveler titled "100 years' and the main line is "it won't mean a thing in a 100 years". I used to believe this until I had kids of my own and although all of us will be gone in 100 years, our legacy will continue through our children. I am lucky to have had such a great man raise me and I hope I can pass along this legacy to my own children.
A little air guitar from Dad at his wedding to Sue