Denny, the second of three children, was born in 1926 in Utica, NY to Margaret S. Byrne and William S. Owen. His parents, modest and hard-working immigrants from Ireland and Wales, instilled in their children a strong sense of family, hard work, self-confidence and humility, both by example, and through their many wise lessons and Irish sayings.
In the 1930s, following a family move to the Westvale suburb of Syracuse, young Denny learned about generosity when his grade school principal gave him a pair of sneakers that his family could not afford, which helped Denny get started on the basketball court. In 1941, he entered high school on a scholarship to Christian Brothers Academy (CBA), where he lettered in football and excelled in basketball. Among his most memorable basketball accomplishments were being named MVP of the Catholic High School State Championship Tournament in 1944, and being selected to the Syracuse All-City, 1st Team in 1944 and 1945 by both the Herald-American and Post-Standard newspapers. For years, he reminded friends and family with a smile "Two Years, All-City, Both Papers." In 2002, Denny was inducted into the CBA LaSallian Sports Hall of Fame.
In February 1945, Denny was called to serve in the U.S. Naval Air Corp., serving as a Seaman Second Class. Following his military service, Dennis attended Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and graduated in 1951 from its School of Foreign Service.
Shortly after graduating, Dennis returned to Syracuse and joined his father at the W.S. Owen Company, a manufacturer's sales representative firm. A natural in sales, Dennis often reminded his children and grandchildren to "always ask for the order".
In September 1954, he married the love of his life, Eleanor Teresa Sullivan of Binghamton, NY. They built their first home and established their family of eight children in Westvale, encircled by the homes of Dennis's parents, brother and sister. In 1967, Dennis and Eleanor purchased Roosevelt Hall, and moved their young family to Skaneateles. In 1974, they donated the historic home to the Christian Brothers, in recognition of the significant impact the school had on Dennis's education and personal development.
Dennis was a communicant of St. Mary's of the Lake Church for over half a century. He was also a member of the Skaneateles Country Club, and very well known in the local community for his generosity, friendliness, and as Master of Ceremonies at the annual Skaneateles Turkey Trot.
Grounded by his humble beginnings, Dennis devoted his adult life to actively supporting numerous charities, including working with an early mentor, Monsignor Charles Brady, at the Bishop Foery Foundation, addressing the needs of inner-city poverty. Dennis later helped to establish the Oxford Street Inn, a shelter for homeless men. For 40 years, he served on the Board of Catholic Charities, and received their President’s Medallion.
Dennis was a life-long advocate for Christian Brothers Academy, where he served as a trustee, avid fundraiser, chairman of the board, and trusted advisor. He personally endowed a perpetual gift to fund scholarships for underprivileged students; so far over 70 students have received the four-year scholarship. For his unending support and service, in 1983 Dennis was awarded a Diploma of Affiliation with the Christian Brothers international organization, an honor bestowed on only five laypersons in more than a century.
Dennis loved and supported his alma mater, Georgetown University, at the local and national levels of alumni leadership for more than 50 years, serving as president of the Georgetown Alumni Club of Syracuse, president of the Alumni Association, and a member of the Board of Directors, Board of Governors, and Board of Regents. In 1983, Georgetown awarded Dennis the John Carroll Award for his distinguished service.
He was inducted into the Order of Malta in 1989, a founding member of its Central NY Chapter, and helped establish the Malta House for elderly residents in Mattydale.
Dennis was predeceased by his parents; his sister Maureen and husband Don Louer; brother Joseph R. Owen, USMC Ret. and wife Dorothy Litz; and his beloved wife Eleanor Teresa Sullivan Owen, who died much too young in June 1982.
Dennis's crowning achievement was the family he and Eleanor raised, including his eight children: Brian (Krys) of Manchester, MA; Marty (Jan) of Toronto, Canada; Denny Jr. of Washington, DC; Joe (Alaine) of Clarence, NY; Molly (Paul) Adams of Cohasset, MA; Eileen (Michael) Nelson of Riverside, CT; Brendan (Delphine) of McLean, VA; and Teresa (Wade) Dyke of Coral Gables, FL; his 21 beloved grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews who considered him a role model and mentor.
Due to COVID-19, Dennis was laid to rest on February 27, 2021 in a private mass and burial at St. Mary's of the Lake Catholic Church in Skaneateles. A Celebration of Dennis's Life will be planned for summer 2021.
Memories of Dennis are welcome at www.robertdgrayfuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made in Dennis's name to Catholic Charities of Onondaga, or The Skaneateles Ecumenical Food Pantry, as follows:
Catholic Charities of Onondaga County - Fund Development
Gift to Neighborhood Centers and Youth Programs
1654 West Onondaga Street
Syracuse, NY 13204
Donations can also be made online: ccoc.us/giving/give-now
Skaneateles Ecumenical Food Pantry (located at 819 W. Genesee Street Rd.)
P.O. Box 901
Skaneateles, NY - 13152