I am an Elk - Meet Dobbs Dennis
He comes from all over the place - from places we have heard of - to a place he had never heard of. And the results are better than anyone could ever expect.
Dobbs Dennis is originally from Chalkill, Pennsylvania, but grew up all over the world, including the Azores, Hawaii, and on to Ohio at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base before finally landing in Abilene, Texas. The son of A.J. Dennis and June Dennis Everly, Dobbs was the middle child of five. A.J was a World War II pilot flying B-24 Liberators into combat as part of the Greatest Generation. Dobbs’ uncle on his father’s side was also a pilot, flying the B-17 Flying Fortress in the war. His maternal uncle landed with the third wave on Omaha Beach during the Normandy Invasion. “He made it a couple of days before he got shot up and sent home,” Dobbs says of that uncle, “But everyone he knew that landed in the first or second wave didn’t make it.”
For his generation, all his brothers, his brother-in-law, and Dobbs served in the United States Navy. Aviation Boatswain’s mate (AB) Dennis spent three combat tours on the flight deck of the USS Midway (CV-41) fueling aircraft – those are the crew that wear the purple jerseys on the deck. Following the combat tours, the Midway homeported in Japan. The Navy was in drawdown mode at that time, but his skipper called him to the bridge and asked what he could do to encourage Dobbs to reenlist. “I want your flight jacket and to be home by my birthday,” Dennis boldly replied to his commander. He got to try the jacket on while on board the ship and was home by his birthday as part of the deal.
Dobbs though ended up on several ships over the years including the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and the USS Independence (CV-62). “Bluewater was in my veins,” Dobbs says of his love of the sea. He served aboard many different carriers throughout the 1970s and well into the 1980s. However, as fate would have it, in 1989 the Navy transferred him to the USS Wasp (LHD-1) as part of the pre-commissioning crew as Ingalls Shipbuilding was constructing it.
USS Wasp - First Helicopter Landing
Dobbs recalls that he was sent to “Somewhere I had never heard of,” when being transferred to Pascagoula. While there, he caught the eye of Myrna Ladnier Lennep and the romance turned into a marriage in 1990 as the USS Wasp was being delivered to Norfolk, VA.
Throughout his career, Dobbs deployed to foreign waters fourteen times, including the three Vietnam combat tours, the invasion of Grenada (rescue of US medical students), the Lebanon incursion, the first Gulf War, and many Cold War confrontations with Soviet forces. His final tour was in the Naval Leadership and Training Command. The team he led was instrumental in reviewing and writing leadership training for enlisted, officer, and flag officers of the United States Navy. He contributed to the warfighting ability of naval units through time-proven leadership techniques.
He says of his time instructing in the Navy, “My instructor partner and I would find the best places to export the portable training.” One of those places was Corpus Christi, Texas where he fondly remembers eating at the original Whataburger restaurant along the bay, “It just seems better knowing it came from the original location.”
Once retired, Dobbs was recruited heavily by various industries. “But I didn’t want anything to do with shipyards,” he says. Being an instructor seemed natural, so he enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi as a true freshman, having never attended college education courses outside of the Navy. Taking a more than full course load, he finished in three years with a B.A. with the highest honors. He continues to be a USM Golden Eagles football fan through thick and thin. “USMTTT,” he boasts.
Dobbs began his teaching career at Trent Lott Middle School under Anthony Ladnier as a long-term substitute teacher for algebra and pre-algebra. Alluding to his struggles with mathematics as a young student himself, Dobbs says that he found a way to use the stock market as an example of how these types of math worked. However, History was his passion, and when Marvin Picket retired across the hall from him, he took that chance to fill the vacancy.
He taught 7th Grade World History at Trent Lott Middle School and William Colmer Middle School for 15 years. In addition of his teaching duties, he also coached football for 10 years, coached Track for 14 years, sponsored William Colmer Middle School Fellowship of Christian Athletes, sponsored the Colmer Color Guard, and insured proper handling of the US flag raising and lowering at the CMS campus. He was honored as the 2010-2011 Colmer Teacher of the Year. He then retired from his second career.
The aspiring politician kissing babies.
But retirement is not in his interests, so he kept active by running for Mayor of Moss Point. While he did
not win the election, he says that he met a lot of good people in the city. He says of his mayoral run, “I realized what a nice town it was.” During his campaign, he met a lot of folks in the media, including Coach Waldo Thornton at WPMO radio. When Thornton passed, Dobbs filled in until Noah Britt could find another radio personality.
That personality ended up being Dobbs himself, and he spent three years on the airwaves with his show “The Morning Menace.” He also had a weekly community service broadcast “Spotlight on Jackson County” on WGUD. During this time Dobbs represented many of his service organizations, including the Pascagoula Elks Lodge 1120, as an in-person media representative.
But soon, he was called by Fr. Mike Kelleher and recruited to be the Athletic Director of Resurrection Catholic Schools. During his tenure, RCS teams and athletes increased their competitiveness in many sporting activities. Dobbs and his team implemented a plan for facilities improvements and the results can be seen today, including a permanent girls' softball field for the school on Orchard Road.
He served on many community boards such as Our Daily Bread. For the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra, Dobbs not only served as vice president but was also heavily involved in bringing Bachtoberfest to Pascagoula celebrating the composer’s birthday. When he bought a party barge, Dennis began working with the annual Coastal Cleanup as a zone captain, securing the lower Pascagoula islands exclusively as the Pascagoula Elks’ responsibility for the event. He is also heavily involved in Moss Point Main Street.
An active member of Dantzler Memorial United Methodist Church, Dobbs served as Lay Leader, Church Council Chairman, and a delegate for the Annual United Methodist Conference. He is a Lay Speaker for the Mississippi Annual Conference and fills the pulpit when pastors must be away from their church. Dobbs takes his faith seriously and uses the talents and skills provided by God to serve those who have no home church. He presides at funerals, such as for the recent loss of long-time Pascagoula Elks Lodge 1120 member and ENF chairman David Peattie. He also officiates weddings and provides a Saturday morning Bible study for Elks members who wish to attend.
Dobbs is an active member of Pascagoula Elks Lodge 1120 having been Esquire, Loyal Knight, and Lecturing Knight. He has also served as the Lodge SOAR Rally coordinator, the Youth Activity Coordinator, and the East Jackson County Coordinator for the Pascagoula Elks Lodge “Hoop Shoot.” He served for many years as the Scholarship and Student of the Month Committees Chair. Dobbs says he was sponsored in the Elks, “…by the late, great, Henry Tillman.” Dobbs and Henry met through Myrna, who was Chancery Court Administrator, and for which Henry served as a Special Master.
Dobbs has been instrumental in spreading Christmas cheer for over 15 years and plays an integral part in the Moss Point Christmas celebration. He is the current Master of Ceremony for the annual Jackson County Veterans Program, held each November 11th at the Jackson County Veteran’s Memorial at the Moss Point River Front.
He has been a Duke for three Elks Balls, a Duke in the YMBC Ball, and Tri-Cities Ball. He was honored to be chosen as King Antler LVII with his lovely wife Myrna, as Queen Doe LVII.
Dobbs and Myrna reside in Moss Point, Mississippi with their dog Toby. They have been happily married for 33 years and have a blended family of seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.