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Denis Body

May 22, 1938 – Nov 23, 2021

Denis died after being struck by a vehicle while out for an evening walk in his rural neighborhood. Denis’ sudden death sent out waves of trauma, shock and sadness. May all involved in this tragedy and all who knew Denis find peace in their hearts, joy in living and acceptance in not knowing.

Denis was a 12-year-old boy scout his entire life, filled with wonder, awe and curiosity. He was adventurous, playful and willing to be silly. He delighted in learning new information and thoroughly researched whatever tickled his fancy. He had the intuitive ability to understand how mechanical things worked and could visualize them in 3D.

Born in Highland Park, Michigan with club feet he started life wearing leg braces made by his father. At age 7, while Denis had cat scratch fever, his older brother died suddenly, shortly before his younger brother was born. Summer vacations included visits to his grandparent’s farm in Iowa and playing in the hay loft with his brother & cousins. As a teen ager, Denis delivered newspapers in his “Midget”. A hand built car made by his father from a Ford fender, with a Briggs & Stratton engine out of a lawn mower, a transmission out of a Star and one-wheel drive. Denis’ family moved to Whittier, CA when he was a junior in high school, where he ran track. He drove his 1952 MG TD through the winding hills to Mt SAC community college. Getting there faster than the souped up Ford, driven by a neighbor.

Born an engineer, Denis received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Berkley and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Cincinnati. He went to work for the US Public Health Service as a mechanical engineer. Eventually becoming part of the air pollution group which transferred to the EPA when it was first established. Highlights of his career were; design & constructing a chamber to measure Radon in people’s breath & in cow’s milk, design and construction of the Open Top Field Chamber to assess the impact of air pollution on plant growth in the field and his final assignment to supervise building a new EPA marine research lab at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR.

Denis married his best friend, Kath and they became life partners. They shared adventures, dreams and learning as well as the work and difficulties. Encouraging each other to be the best they could be. They were exercise buddies and explored & learned about the best foods for a healthy human body. They were team members, working together and with others. Their early life together included whitewater river trips. Multi-day Rogue River in OR, week long Middle Fork of the Salmon & Selway in Idaho and 3 week trips in the Grand Canyon were highlights. Evenings after work found them on the exercise bike or rowing machine. When Denis & Kath put their two households together part of what Denis contributed was copies of ‘Diet for a Small Planet’, ‘Laurel’s Kitchen A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition’, a membership in the First Alternative Food Coop located 50 miles away and his hand cranked grinder. The grinder was used to crack Denis’ calculated ratio of whole wheat berries to whole soy beans into his daily breakfast, fondly called “gruel” by friends.

Denis made his own choices based on personal values, experiences, beliefs and science, often outside of popular or normal. He believed his health and wellness was his responsibility and worked on this his entire life. At age 49, Denis was diagnosed with a brain tumor with surgery recommended to see if it was cancer. The next two opinions were dead areas of the brain caused by a vascular incident (stroke). A great relief! An eighty percent blockage was found in one carotid artery and surgery was recommended to clean it out. With no understanding or information on what the cause was or how to keep it from happening again, Denis went searching for other options. He found his answer in ‘Dr Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease’ a peer reviewed scientific study to reverse heart disease without drugs or surgery. After making changes to diet and lifestyle, gradually over the years the blockage decreased. Several times, multiple operators and multiple ultrasound machines were enlisted to double and triple check the blockage on the same day. Since Denis wasn’t “doing” anything (no drugs, no surgery) they believed the blockage couldn’t decrease. When Denis got to 0 to 15 percent blockage the yearly ultrasound tests were stopped. Over 30 years later, Dr Ornish’s program is now covered by Medicare, once you’ve had a heart attack! Other scientific studies show similar results, yet many people remain unaware of the effect of the food they eat or their life style on their health. Denis continued learning and in 2011 made the choice to slightly modify Ornish’s diet and began eating Whole Food Plant Based with Ornish’s emphasis on low fat (10- 20 percent of calories from fat). At 83 he was proud of needing no prescription drugs and having a total cholesterol of 150 and LDL of 70. Both of his parents died of heart disease.

After Denis retired, he & Kath designed an energy efficient home on property in Blyn, WA that Denis had purchased in the 1970’s. Many vacations were spent in a nylon tent camping on the property before moving there full time in 1993.

Sailing become a lifelong passion after Denis took a PE class in college. He class raced dinghies. From his Windmill in NC where he used a dust gun to decide the wind direction, to his O’Day Daysailor named Menace that he raced at a sailing club in Eugene OR and cruised in the San Juan Is. After moving to Blyn, they bought a Tartan 37, and outfitted it to sail in light air. Denis & Kath spent 22 years sailing and gunkholing in the San Juan Is, Gulf Is and along the BC coast, all the way up to Butedale. Eventually taking off for 3-4 months each summer.

With Summers on the sailboat, camping and exploring by land occurred mostly in the spring and fall until a Sprinter van was converted in a similar fashion to Denis’ old VW camper van. Finally, Denis at 6’3” had standing head room! Something he never had on his sailboats. The van encouraged travel anytime of the year in all kinds of weather. From short local trips to the coast for a few days to month long wanderings. Spending enough time in places to learn the plants, critters, some history and geology. Eventually road travel became more like cruising. With a general direction or destination in mind, no reservations, an openness to discovery and changing plans based on what was available and the weather.

Denis built the shop of his dreams. Where he constructed and fixed and tinkered. Starting many projects with his rough cut lumber. Denis was a master at the disappearing art of fixing a broken item. Researching options, thoughtfully considering the use, then grabbing his teddy bear (shop safety supervisor) and heading out to his “body shop” to begin repairs. He often fixed it to work “better than new”. What couldn’t be fixed was saved for parts.

Denis was good at living his dreams. He enjoyed overnight cross country ski trips, building igloos, exploring the 4 corners on his Honda trail 90, loading his own ammunition for target shooting, running whitewater rivers in open canoe, kayak and oared rafts, day hikes, backpacking, casual bike rides, time trial cycling, rowing his Skimmer a catamaran sliding seat converted to sliding rigger rowing shell, flint & steel fire starting and peddling and grinning on  his Scorpion trike.

He enjoyed every opportunity to talk with his neighbors, friends and people he didn’t know. Giving people his full attention even when he had other things to do. He initiated and was block captain for Map Your Neighborhood and squad leader for Community Emergency Response Team. He was a longtime volunteer with Peninsula Trail Coalition. From the early days of scouting out routes, to train trestle conversions and maintaining a section of the Olympic Discover Trail. For a few years he volunteered with Sequim Personal Computer User Group’s tech shop. Helping to refurbish computers that are donated through local organizations to people in need. He often said he had become an expert at disassembly! He participated in several work parties for the New Dungeness Light House. Adding his thoughtful ideas on how to repair things. He was an active participant and eager learner in the Greater Diamond Point Net, where he truly enjoyed learning more about Ham radios at the Fire Station meetings, before the pandemic.

Denis’ last act of thoughtfulness was his requested funeral at Recompose, which offers Natural Organic Reduction, an accelerated human composting. A ceremony and celebration was held virtually, Dec 22, 2021. His soil was transported to the land preserve in March, to be used in an ecological restoration project.

The times we shared together, things Denis made or fixed, his ideas and thoughts remain with us. Denis’ essence, his spirit, his energy, remains available to those of us open to it.

You can honor Denis by being kind to everyone and everything. Listen with curiosity. Learn new ideas and perspectives. Put the effort into creating something different and leave everyplace better than you find it.

A virtual Celebration of Life was held with Recompose. Guests may watch the recording here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cut5spnscj0n9je/Denis%20Body%27s%20Return%20to%20the%20Earth.mp4?dl=0

 

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