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Obituary for Dennis Joe Whitehead

Dennis Joe  Whitehead
After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live. —Vince Lombardi
Dennis Joe Whitehead passed from this world Aug. 25, 2018. He was born Dec. 26, 1955 in Joplin, Mo., to Clarence and Wanda (Anderson) Whitehead. He graduated from Seneca High School in 1973 and continued his education at Central Missouri State University. In 1977, he married Deborah Joanne Bruce, who remained the love of his life and his best friend throughout their marriage. The couple celebrated their forty-first anniversary on Aug. 6 of this year. Dennis and Debbie had two children, Gina Clarisse, and Gabriel Christian who continue their father’s legacy as teachers. The family gained a daughter-in-law, Katie (Allen) Whitehead, who married Gabe in 2009.
Dennis dedicated his life to the education of others, teaching history and coaching sports including football, track, wrestling, basketball, and cross country. He spent his early career at Iberia High School and Versailles High School, respectively. For the remaining twenty-two years of his career, he taught at Ash Grove High School in Ash Grove, Mo. At all three schools, he became a beloved teacher, coach, colleague, and friend to all who were fortunate enough to know him. Dennis attended Center Baptist Church in Ash Grove where he participated in building projects and mission trips to impoverished areas where he helped build and repair homes, schools, and churches.
After he retired from teaching, Dennis traveled with Debbie, and took his family on trips to Disney World. He also spent his time helping his kids with home improvement projects, as well as landscaping around the house he and Debbie had recently built. By this time, however, Dennis had a helper. When Violet, his first granddaughter, came into this world, Dennis took on a new role as Funpa. His Facebook posts about his adventures with Violet became daily favorites for his friends as he shared about nap time, lunch time, tree planting, swimming, and walks to the mailbox accompanied sometimes by Max and Figgy, the dog and the cat, respectively. When a second granddaughter, Camille, came along, Dennis added Adventures with Camille to his posts. Through his many pictures and daily stories about life with Funpa—whether they involved picking out a donut at Casey’s, stopping by the Crackerjack Shack, or driving to town to meet Bees—Dennis created a virtual legacy for his granddaughters who will always know how much he adored them.
Dennis Whitehead is survived by his wife, Debbie of Ash Grove, his daughter Gina of Bolivar, son Gabe and daughter-in-law Katie of Clever, and granddaughters Violet and Camille. He also leaves brothers Dan and wife Carolyn of Diamond, Doug and wife Kelli of Neosho, a step-mother Delores also of Neosho, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents, older brother David, and infant sister Clarissa.
Dennis made the world a better place. One former student shared these words: He was the same person in the classroom as he was at church on Sunday morning and on a mission trip in New Orleans and anywhere else you saw him. If you were having a bad day, he gave you a Lifesaver mint and told you to straighten up because it was all going to be just fine.
If Dennis were here right now, that’s probably what he would say.
Memorial donations may be made to the Coach Dennis Whitehead Scholarship Fund at Old Missouri Bank in Ash Grove, Mo. Services will be held at Greenlawn East Funeral Home in Springfield. Visitation is Thursday, Aug. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. The funeral will be Saturday, Sept. 1, at 2 p.m.
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