Saying goodbye to an old friend
Editor’s Note: Typically, this publication is not in the habit of printing obituaries, just as we do not have a classifieds section or op-ed contributors, nor do we highlight the outcomes of local elections or athletic events. These are simply not the kind of things that we run, given that there is already a newspaper in town doing just that. Rather, our pages are filled with what we consider to be (mostly) uplifting feature stories about the interesting people, places, and events of Benzie County.
However, we have recently had to ask ourselves what our publication would do in practice when the certainties of life occur: every year, we profile and/or interview dozens of people, adding up to hundreds just in the last four years of publishing. And eventually, it was going to happen—we were going to lose one of the people whom we had interviewed.
Dr. Dennis Eugene Pace is the first that we are aware of.
We profiled Pace back in September 2015, 10 months before his cancer diagnosis. On Friday, October 21, 2017, Pace—father, son, brother, grandfather, friend, guitar-playing member of the band, athlete, soccer coach, and Doctor of Optometry—died in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, where he had been spending the past few months with family after his prolonged illness.
Although running obituaries is not common place for The Betsie Current, we, the editors, believe that there is value in updating Pace’s story for our readers. What follows is the obituary for our beloved friend and community-activist mentor, Dennis Pace, who helped thousands of Benzie kids to play soccer over the course of two decades, who quietly and behind-the-scenes saved the Benzonia ice-skating rink, who found the funds and cut through the red tape of creating Benzie County’s first dog park. Sincerity and grace are the first things that come to mind when reflecting on this 6-foot-four gentle giant, who lived a life of selflessness and service, with a deep legacy that this community can be proud of. We love you, and we miss you terribly.
Pace, born in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 17, 1959, is survived by: his parents, Ralph and Naomi Pace; his children, Dakota Easlick and Isabel Lorton (Adam); his grandchildren Madeline and Andrew Dennis Lorton; and his siblings, Lynn Blake (Peter), and Dean Pace (Barbara). He was a true friend to many in Benzie County, where he lived for the past 30 years. A devoted father, he shepherded his children with love and integrity.
In 1981, he received a Bachlor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of California Berkeley, and later, a teaching degree from California State University Chico. He, much later, graduated from the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University and practiced in Beulah and Traverse City for twenty years. Pace was a member of several missions to Haiti that were devoted to helping those less fortunate with their vision problems.
Prior to optometry, he taught as Principal for Head Start, teaching the children of migrant farmworkers to speak English by having them sing along with him while he played guitar.
Committed to his community, Pace helped to run the youth soccer league in Benzonia and Lake Ann, long after his own kids had departed for college.
He was a Trustee and past President of the Darcy Library of Beulah, and his fundraising contributed to a much needed new building.
Pace stood 6’4”, and one of his few regrets was that he did not grow until his late teens. A letterman on his tennis team in high school, he played tennis the rest of his life; however, he loved to play basketball and pursued it with passion well into his forties. At the U.C. Berkeley gym or on the courts of Beulah or Venice Beach, California, he held his own with pro athletes, former high school all-stars, and college players.
An avid hang-glider in his twenties, Pace once flew off the White Mountains of California, overlooking the Eastern Sierra, and caught an updraft to 18,000 feet in a primitive craft, seemingly made of aluminum-lawn-chair tubing and colored Mylar.
Pace had a far-reaching intelligence and continued to learn and do throughout his life. He read science and history avidly and loved a good novel. He knew his way around tools and sailed on Crystal Lake.
His mother could often be quoted as saying that she had two sons who did not care much about material things. Pace definitely lived simply but fully, following his own muse. He did not own a television, for instance. His idea of a good time was riding his bike, singing, eating a red chile burro, or quaffing the occasional dram of rye. He was self-reliant in the best sense, subsisting on friends, family, curiosity, and endeavor.
We mourn his passing and feel blessed to celebrate his life.
The public is invited to a memorial reception will be held on Saturday, November 11, from 2-4 p.m. at Grow Benzie at 5885 Frankfort Highway/M-115, between Benzonia and Frankfort. Those wishing to memorialize Pace are requested to send donations to the Darcy Library of Beulah, PO Box 469, Beulah, MI, 49617. Click here to read The Betsie Current’s 2015 profile of Pace.
Feature photo: Dr. Dennis Pace at the 4-H Benzie Area Youth Soccer fields at Benzonia Memorial Park back in September 2015. Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.