Life Story Funeral Homes®
The exclusive providers of the Life Story Experience


Life Story Funeral Homes®
The exclusive providers of the Life Story Experience


Richard F. Dennis

October 10, 1931 - November 10, 2005
Indianapolis, IN



Sunday, November 13, 2005
2:00 PM to 6:00 PM EST


Sunday, November 13, 2005
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST


Monday, November 14, 2005
10:30 AM EST
St. Pius X Catholic Church, 7200 Sarto Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46240


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Richard Dennis Award c/o North Central Music Dept
North Central High School, 1801 E. 86th St., India

St. Pius X Catholic Church
7200 Sarto Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46240

Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis
Symphony Centre, 32 E. Washington St., STE 900, In

American Heart Association
6100 W. 96th St., STE 200, Indianapolis, IN 46278-

Life Story / Obituary



Richard F. "Dick" Dennis was a vigorous man of enormous talent whose favorite place on earth was anywhere he was performing. Whether as teacher, soloist, or director, Richard impacted many lives with his gift of music.

Richard was born at a time when Americans were attempting to recover from a major stock market crash. Despite the scarcity of money, people did what they could to make life happy. Movies and big bands were popular entertainment outside the home while parlor games and radio gathered families in homes to listen to baseball and President Roosevelt's fireside chats. In 1931, there was particular joy in the home of Stephen and Susan (Soyka) Dennis when their son Richard was born on October 10th in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Richard's father was a coal miner in eastern Pennsylvania and his mother tended the home. Richard and his younger sister, Charmaine, were raised on love, care, and great cooking.

Richard's childhood was filled with activity that shaped a well-rounded personality and approach on life. He played football, took music lessons, and was a member of the debate team. It was his violin and piano lessons, begun at the age of ten, that would capture his interest and give expression to his talents in such a way that they inspired Richard throughout his life.

Richard was just 17 years old when his father passed away. By then, his musical skills were so notable that Richard could help support his family by playing at weddings. He was in great demand in his community and nationally through radio performances. Once Richard won a talent contest on the nationally broadcasted Horace Heit Radio Show, he was called to do many such programs. It was a foretaste of a career in musical performance.

After graduating from West Wyoming High School in 1949, Richard attended Ithaca College in New York where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in music education in 1953. In 1955 at Butler University, he earned a master's degree in music with a concentration in violin performance. During this time, he was a member of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1953 to 1956, and 1958 to 1959. Between 1956 and 1958, Richard served in the military and was a violinist with the 7th Army Symphony in Stuttgart, Germany.

Shortly after being discharged from the Army, Richard met and married a young woman in Indianapolis, Indiana. In his marriage to Jennifer Bennett, Richard welcomed three wonderful sons into his life: Richard, Stephen, and Robert.

In 1959, Richard began his teaching career as orchestra director and music teacher at Anderson High School in Anderson, Indiana. In 1963, he moved to Indianapolis to teach at North Central High School where he remained for the next 32 years. Richard was a popular, non-traditional, and effective teacher. His sons went to the same school in which he taught and he was always their friends' favorite teacher. Richard was an avid supporter of all high school athletics, even playing a violin serenade for the football team before they would go out on the field. He didn't like to wear ties when they were required, and he was considered the crazy Hungarian skag. It must have been a term of endearment because Richard called all his friends and students either skag or gumbatz when he couldn't remember their names. Richard had an interesting temperament and "dead on" accuracy with a chalk board eraser. Under Richard's directorship, North Central High School orchestras consistently earned superior ratings, won many state championships, and reveled in a successful concert at Carnegie Hall! His orchestras performed many times for the Indiana Music Educators Association, the Music Educators National Conference, and American String Teachers Association conventions.

Throughout Richard's life he was active as a teacher, violinist, conductor and adjudicator on the local, state, national and international level. He taught many clinics and collegiate classes in Indiana including at Indiana University, Indiana State University, University of Indianapolis, Purdue, Anderson, Butler, and Indiana University Southeast. Richard conducted the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis, Indiana Opera Theater, and was associate conductor and concertmaster of Starlight Musicals for many years. He was also music director for Footlite Musicals, The Dick Dennis Chorale, RCA Chorus, L.S. Ayres Chorus, and the Columbians of the Knights of Columbus. Additionally, he directed orchestra festivals and all-state orchestras in Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Louisiana, Florida and Japan. As adjunct instructor in music education at Butler University, Richard served from 1997 until just two weeks before his death. Music was his life and he furthered its enjoyment around the world.

Richard's career as a violinist includes 28 years as concertmaster for Henry Mancini's touring orchestra, as well as many tours as concertmaster for Julie Andrews, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Burt Bacharach and a number of other well-known stage personalities. His national and international work included concerts, television specials, RCA recordings, and movie and commercial soundtracks. He performed as violin soloist with a number of orchestras, and was featured soloist on four tours of Japan sponsored by the Min-On Concert Association.

Richard's distinguished career included a number of awards: the Gold Award of Merit from The American String Teachers Association, Teacher of the Year twice in Indianapolis' Washington Township , runner-up for Indiana State Teacher of the Year, Outstanding Instrumental Teacher of the Year by the Indiana Music Educators Association, and the Robert A. Phillips Service To Music Award. In addition, Richard was named Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Evan Bayh for his work in music education. Credit for Richard's success include his teachers George Sheeder of Brussels Conservatory, Lynn Bogart and Ferdinand Pranzatelli of Ithaca College, Eric Rosenblith of Butler University and Daniel Guilet and David Dawson of Indiana University.

Always the consummate performer, Richard never ceased to be humble and compassionate. He was totally dedicated to, even passionate about his art, yet he was generous and giving. Richard was frugal yet he prized his priceless Calconius Violin made in Italy in 1750. His favorite foods were pasta and meat loaf, but he thought chicken was "fowl". Richard's attributes complemented his talent: ambiguous, perfectionist, prankster, humorous, and very friendly. It was said of Richard that "he never met a stranger," that is, people Richard met soon became his friends. In fact, a woman who was in the same musical circles as Richard became a friend whom he began to date. His relationship with Carol Richardson Eads flourished, and they were married on July 16, 1986. Richard's life was full and overflowing, especially with the joy of grandchildren whom he loved dearly: Kelsi, Nichole, Austin , and Tori.

Richard Dennis loved life and all it offered. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.

Richard F. Dennis, 74, of Indianapolis, died on Thursday, November 10, 2005. He is survived by his wife, Carol L. Dennis; sons, Ric Dennis, Stephen (Jill) Dennis, and Robert Dennis; step-sons, Charles Eads, Robert Eads, and Jon Eads; sister, Charmaine Potenza; grandchildren, Kelsi, Nichole, Austin and Tori Dennis. Visitation will be on Sunday, November 13 from 2 to 8 p.m. in the Leppert Life Story Funeral Home, Nora Chapel, 740 E. 86th St., Indianapolis. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday at 10:30 a.m. in St. Pius X Catholic Church. You are invited to to read Richard's Life Story, share a personal memory, or in lieu of flowers make a memorial contribution to the Richard Dennis Award, c/o North Central Music Dept., St. Pius X Catholic Church, Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis, or the American Heart Assoc.