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Dennis Gordon Van Hook

June 3, 1950 September 22, 2020
Dennis Gordon Van Hook
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Obituary for Dennis Gordon Van Hook

Dennis Gordon Van Hook, 70, passed away peacefully at Benefis Peace Hospice on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. He was surrounded by his family and dearest friends.
Dennis was born on June 3, 1950, in Peoria, Illinois. He was the second of three children to his mother, Betty. He loved to recount old stories of his childhood growing up in Peoria. If he wasn’t fishing at Glen Oak Park, he was sitting in school day dreaming about it. He also loved to spend time with his big brother, George. They would often go to the Farmington Strip Pits to fish or hunt musk rats (and the occasional unsuspecting blue bird), which usually ended up turning into something mischievous; Dad and Uncle George were naturals at that! His love of music started in high school, where he played guitar in his high school band, The Mustangs.
Dennis spent a summer with his brother, George in Glendale, California on one of his summer breaks. After George got off work, they would throw their surf boards in the old pink rambler and head to the beach. George would surf and Dennis would stick to the shallows with his homemade skim board. Thus, his love for the ocean and the beaches of California was born. Dennis would later become a great advocate for the health of the ocean and its marine life.
Dennis joined the Navy in 1969 and was stationed in San Diego, California. He started out packing parachutes, but by the end of his five years he had started and developed an alcohol abuse counseling program for his naval base. After leaving the Navy, Dennis stayed in San Diego and attended San Diego State University, earning a BA in social welfare, as well as meeting his future wife, Karen. In 1980, they decided to leave the beaches of California for the mountains of Colorado where Dennis earned a Master’s Degree of Social Work at the University of Denver and also became a father to his son, Ryan.
Over the next three years Dennis worked and lived in Nevada, Utah, and Oregon. In 1984, Dennis Joined the United States Air Force and was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. Dennis practiced clinical social work for the air force and became a father for the second time to his daughter, Kylie while stationed at Travis.
After three years in California, Dennis was transferred to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana where he served the Great Falls community as a clinical social worker for more than 30 years. Whether practicing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, the local hospital, or the community mental health center, Dennis devoted his life to serving others. He also loved to teach his craft as a professor of psychology at Park University. He taught for over 25 years and was a student favorite for his down-to-earth personality, audacious sense of humor, and genuine interest for his students. His engaging personality was only rivaled by his empathy and love for others. He truly had a heart as big as they come.
This last year was a difficult fight with cancer, but not even that could stop Dennis from reaching out to help others. Last March, Dennis and his friend, Jenna started a community outreach project called “Discourse with Dennis” that provided the opportunity for anyone in the community to come together to discuss issues of loss in a supportive, laid-back setting. Even though they were only able to have a few meetings, the program was a great success and made a positive impact for many community members.
Although Dennis is no longer with us physically, the relationships he formed and the impact he had on other people will remain. His kooky personality and one-of-a-kind smile will not soon be forgotten, and the memories of Dennis zipping around town in his Miata or cruising along the river on his Vespa scooter will be in our hearts forever. We love you, Dad.
Dennis is survived by his two children Ryan(Rebecca) Van Hook and Kylie(Paul) Fulbright; two grandbabies and most special dates, granddaughters, Finley and Willa; brother, George Hinchcliffe; and sister, Patty.
An informal celebration of life will take place at the Holiday Inn Convention Center on Saturday, October 3, 2020. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people allowed in the convention center at one time is limited and masks will be required. Please feel free to drop in anytime between 1:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. to extend your condolences to the family. Light refreshments will be served.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Benefis Peace Hospice in Dennis’ name.
To donate: https://www.benefis.org/benefis-foundation/what-we-support/peace-hospice-of-montana

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