Over the past three decades, I have written a lot of obituaries for Field Day folks. Some have been more heart wrenching than others. This will be the most difficult I will ever have to write for, on Sept. 24, my husband Dennis, a longtime Field Day of the Past volunteer and supporter, passed away. Field Day was a passion for Dennis. Even before he retired, he would leave his job in the afternoons and head to the show grounds to work on a project. When you stood on the Rockville site and looked around, you were hard put to find something in which he did not have a hand. He built the post office and worked on the announcer’s stand. He erected the water tower and “planned” for the Bill’s Barbecue sign to be erected. Ed Wesley and Dennis were the major forces in constructing the sorghum complex. He supervised, planned, made drawings, nailed, and studied as each new project came up. Dennis worked on equipment, was in on the construction of the Educational Building, helped reconstruct the Field Day office, and devised Grasberger’s Spoon Factory. He planted cotton and tobacco, worked it, and harvested it for the show. He was Field Day’s farmer, builder, mechanic, woodworker, electrician, and go-to man. Dennis pushed to host the annual Christmas event and was completely behind bringing young school children to the grounds for field trips. He adamantly believed and thoroughly enjoyed teaching young children about the old ways. Field Day of the Past held his heart, and it became a second home. Of all his accomplishments, however, the moving of Springfield Baptist Church to the grounds, and its refurbishment was his pride and joy.
Dennis was not always the easiest person to get along with. He could be cranky, critical and downright ornery at times, but he never expected more from someone else than he was willing to give of himself. He believed that if a job was worth doing, it was worth doing to the best of your ability and “good enough” was not good enough for him. He believed you had to earn the trust of other people and he believed in being brutally honest.
Dennis delighted in the people he met at Field Day. He never met a stranger and enjoyed talking to everyone and telling his tales. There are few people who knew Dennis who did not hear some of his tales numerous times, but that never stopped him from telling them again. Many of his fellow volunteers became extended family and we shared their lives with them.
Field Day was not the extent of Dennis’ interest. He loved to hunt and fish. He reveled in family gatherings where he could tell his tales, recount family genealogy and relive history. He enjoyed travel, adventure and ice cream.
As the years advanced, however, Dennis’ health began to decline. Not one to give up, he battled through lung surgery, heart surgery, lung cancer, and two brain cancer surgeries. He still maintained a gleeful joy in life through it all, and there were always plans for tomorrow. It became a standard joke that he was like a cat with nine lives. As our daughter said, Death found that it could not march boldly through the front door and snatch Dennis up, instead it had to sneak up quietly from behind. Last month, Death did just that and that ninth life ended. With Dennis’ passing, the world is now a sadder, lonelier place. We can only hope to find comfort and joy in the many, many lives he touched.
Dennis was the son of the late Claude and Lucille Gammon of Gum Spring. He is survived by his wife, Melinda, who he lovingly endured for 37 years; his children Karen Nicely (Kent), Patricia Lawson (Gary), John Gammon, Sarah McCurdy (Mike), Robert, Richard and Denise Gammon (Steven Hubbard); sisters Joan Lloyd and Shearin England; brother Jerry (Dorothy); sisters in law Mary Katherine Gammon, Joanna Gammon and Robin Brooking; seven grandchildren; an extended family and many good friends.
Donations can be made in Dennis’ memory to Field Day of the Past, P.O. Box 29643, Richmond, VA 23242.