Dennis officially entered the world in Holdenville, Oklahoma when his mother returned to her hometown to give birth near her mother & family. He lived there for a full two weeks before returning to California for most of his life. He was the middle child of Homer Richmond & Rosa Lee Carter, raised in a family with his siblings: Charles, Marilyn, Stephanie & David. He grew up with them on the West side of Watsonville, attended local grammar schools & graduated in 1966 from Watsonville High School. Dennis was drafted into the army in April 1968 during the midst of the Vietnam War and was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in January 1970. While he appreciated the discipline, structure, and camaraderie experienced in the military, the war itself left lasting scars and regrets that haunted him throughout his life. Forty years after the war he was honored to finally run his fingers over the names of the young men who had lost their lives in front of his eyes that had been etched into the black stone of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. Dennis found some solace from the horrors of war away from post-war society by backpacking throughout the Sierras as well as from Mexico through Central and South America – enjoying Machu Picchu well before its designation as a world heritage site, and pounding over the waves to the Galapagos on the uncomfortable wooden seat of a small boat. His many adventures brought him a greater understanding of the wonders of creation in nature and the variety of people and cultures encountered on his journeys. He expanded his explorations to the ocean and enjoyed SCUBA diving in the Monterey Bay and later snorkeling (he could spout and dive like a whale!) in the Philippines and more recently in Australia with Carlene.
Dennis also attended Cabrillo College, the University of California Santa Cruz, and worked in various jobs - most related to carpentry. After time as a choke-setter in the Trinity/Shasta area, he became a framer of tract homes in Sacramento, he was a garbage man for the city of Watsonville, and drove local school busses before finally settling in as a long-time employee in the Maintenance & Operations division of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. He also added fun things to his resume like being a bus driver during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles!
Later in his life Dennis thought long and hard about his conflicted upbringing and came to terms with his understanding and love of God and was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1987. He came to realize that he could only worship a God of love, one who had created the universe eons ago and saw to it that the earth was eventually established to welcome humans and provide them with a perfect home in which to enjoy the possibility of paradise conditions forever. While humans have since brought about situations that are about to reach a negative tipping point, he is sure that God will not allow this world to be destroyed in this manner but will see to it that His original purpose for humans, the earth, and all life upon it, will ultimately be realized and give loved ones the hope of somehow being together again.
After his first marriage to Janet ended, Dennis threw himself more fully into his career to the extent that he became President of the CSEA (California School Employees Association), Chapter 132, representing classified employees for some time near the turn of the century. Shortly thereafter Dennis was ushered into the next phase of his life when he got reacquainted with Carlene Anderson at a 2002 convention in San Francisco’s Cow Palace. They soon fell in love during a camping trip to Kings Canyon National Park - and life as they both knew it changed course dramatically. They were married (perhaps with initial trepidation) in September of 2003 at a happy ceremony in Corralitos and went on to enjoy a varied and happy life based at their home in Watsonville as true partners in love, spirituality, conversation, and their enjoyment of people and God’s spectacular creation. Their joy blossomed to expand their mutual relationships with friends and family, sharing experiences and traveling together to far-flung locales throughout the country and the world – all by various means of transport: their VW camper & cozy motorhome, his Honda Goldwing, kayak, cruise ships, high-speed (and much pokier) railroad trains, float planes, & jets. Dennis was a voracious reader, greatly appreciated the smoothness of a good, aged, bourbon, and loved engaging with people of all sorts, always willing to discuss nearly any topic to solicit varied viewpoints, whether they were long time friends or individuals encountered in passing.
Dennis & Carlene had just celebrated their 20th anniversary soon after a long awaited Carter Sibling & Spouse Reunion he had organized in Monterey. Those twenty years had been interrupted by a dire cancer diagnosis in 2017 that was only able to be successfully endured with the support of friends & family, their faith community, the help of the VA and, more personally, by the cancer center in Monterey - enabling a 6-month diagnosis to be extended to 7 years, into which they crammed as much living as possible! That period of time was therefore converted from a “death sentence” to a “life sentence” with the love & care provided by what he called his “cancer team”. Dennis ultimately lost that battle with cancer and was allowed to take his last breath peacefully at home in the arms of his wife with the support of family, true friends, Puppy, and Hospice.
Dennis was predeceased by his father Homer Richmond Carter during his service in Vietnam, his step father Fred Wendt in 2005, his mother Rosa Lee Wendt in 2006, his mother-in-law Dollie, all of his aunts & uncles, and his step son Seth. He is survived by his wife, Carlene; siblings Charles (Helen), Marilyn, Stephanie (Steve), and David; sister-in-law Mary Elin (Bill); step siblings Carolyn, Gretchen, and Alan; step daughter Jessica; and nieces, nephews, cousins, and close friends too numerous to list but who likely know they were loved.
A memorial service will be held on February 10, 2024, at 2:00 pm at King Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, 480 S. Green Valley Rd. Watsonville, Ca 95076.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7 “For love is as strong as death is, and exclusive devotion is as unyielding as the grave. Its flames are a blazing fire, the flame of Jah. Surging waters cannot extinguish love, nor can rivers wash it away.”