Henry “Bucky” Dennis ’59

Henry Buckner Dennis Jr., 84, passed away at home on Saturday, September 17.

“Bucky” was born in 1938 in Hollywood, CA to H.B. Dennis Sr. and Elizabeth Triplett Dennis. When he was six, they moved to Morehead City, NC. Along those shorelines and docks is where he learned many secrets of catching North Carolina fish. His boyhood roaming at times alarmed his mother, but led to his lifelong passion for the coast.

The family moved to Winston-Salem when Bucky was in the 5th grade, where his father opened up Dennis Inc. an iconic snack food company making popcorn and other products. Bucky attended Reynolds High School then Davidson College.

Bucky became an expert golfer based at Old Town Club. He was on the golf team at Davidson winning the Southern Conference Individual Championship in 1958 only one of six Davidson players to win it in the last 64 years. Bucky was known as a student of the swing.

At Davidson, he majored in English and was in the SAE fraternity. Following graduation in 1959 he attended the US Army language school in Monterrey, CA. Afterwards he was stationed in Germany as an intelligence officer through 1964. He rose to the rank of captain, working in one of the hotbeds of Cold War espionage.

While overseas he kindled his relationship with Nancy Gwaltney of Virginia, herself an intrepid traveler who was working in Denmark. They returned home to the US and were married in 1966. They settled in Winston-Salem where Bucky began learning the ropes of Dennis, Inc. In 1967 their daughter Elizabeth Gwaltney was born, followed by Charles Triplett Dennis in 1969 and Laura Buckner Dennis in 1973. The family lived primarily at Arbor and then Roslyn Roads.

Bucky was known throughout Winston-Salem for many things including golf, expert bridge, and popcorn. In addition, he was widely appreciated for his work in the community. He was dedicated to the power of AA, NA, and Alanon to transform lives and helped many others who like himself, had been in danger of losing everything. Later in life he was a reading tutor at the South Fork Elementary School, work he said was the most rewarding thing he had ever done. Bucky was dedicated to the arts of all kinds. He loved MerleFest and the Kruger Brothers.

One of the manifestations of his belief in people was how he helped to jumpstart the Jarrett Bay Boatworks, now a famous builder of fishing yachts. Bucky and his good friend Gene Vogler were approached by the founders in 1986 and asked if they would purchase the first boat of the new venture. The gentlemen agreed and the Sensation was built, Jarret Bay number 1 active still on the waterfront in Morehead City, NC.

Bucky and Nancy shared a great sense of adventure. They traveled throughout their lives frequently taking their children – and often friends and friends’ children – to National Parks, the coast, and far-off places such as the Amazon and Andes.

A remarkable aspect of their lives are the family friends he and Nancy kept. Their house was a comfortable gathering place, almost a salon type atmosphere full of books. They had friends for a half century or more, and others, just as dear, they made recently.

Without a doubt the greatest love Bucky held was for his wife Nancy, their three children, and four grandchildren. Bucky was a world class parent, able to listen, reflect, and be firm. He showed his support for his kids by visiting them in the far-flung places they lived, including the continent of Antarctica where Trip was employed.

Bucky was curious about the natural world. He kept track of moon phases, studied the ways of the fish, and read field guides. He learned much about the natural world from the fishermen he met along the coast, and patiently transmitted that knowledge to anyone who wanted to learn.

Characteristic of Bucky’s world view was the belief that he practiced that every person was worth his attention and respect. He was a true gentleman, passing from this world in a time when such examples are needed.

Bucky was predeceased by his son Trip. He is survived by his wife Nancy and his daughters Elizabeth (Betty) and Laura and their husbands Rob Baldwin and Thomas Hyland, and his daughter in law Gillian Dennis. He leaves four grandchildren, Ella and Julian Baldwin, and Jack and Henry Dennis.

A service will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 11 am on October 7th with a reception following at the Church.

The family asks that donations be made in Bucky’s memory to the Davidson College Golf Program https://community.davidson.edu/gift-form. Select “I want to support Athletics”, then “Golf”, then at the bottom “This gift is a tribute” and enter Bucky’s name. Or, mail to: Davidson College, Box 7170, Davidson, NC 28035-7170. 

Condolences may be made online at www.salemfh.com.