Our mother, Gloria Dennen, passed away on August 23, 2020. It was just 3 days after enjoying a fun-filled dinner with her family on her 71st anniversary and only a few days shy of her 92nd birthday. She was at home, surrounded by family, and at peace.
Born in Newark, NJ, Gloria was raised in Hillside, NJ. She was an independent child with the insatiable desire to learn and teach. She once said when she was growing up that she could always be found reading in some corner.
She earned a BA in History and Economics from University of Miami (FL) in 1950. There she met the love of her life, Philmore, and they married in 1949. They settled in Grand Rapids and together they raised four children. Upon retiring, they moved to south Florida. After Philmore’s death in 2003, Gloria returned to Grand Rapids to spend time with her family and friends.
Gloria began teaching soon after settling into her married life in Grand Rapids. Over the course of her career, she was a teacher at Sigsbee Elementary, Burton Elementary, Northview Junior High, and worked on staff for Michigan State University's College of Education. In addition, she held several chairmanships and executive offices and served on numerous boards.
While both teaching and raising her family, Gloria continued her education and received an MA in Elementary Education from Michigan State University in 1963, and was all-but-dissertation for her PhD in Teacher Education from Michigan State University in the 1980s.
Gloria was an independent woman who did things her way. She was a life-long educator who enjoyed discussion and debate, history and sociology, international travel and music, and learning how and why things work. She was an avid reader, crossword puzzler, and needlework crafter of all kinds. A favorite quote of Gloria’s summed up her approach to life with its simple wisdom: “A great pleasure in life is doing what others say you cannot.” She embraced all opportunities as adventures of discovery, excited to learn and share her knowledge (typically in long conversations or lengthy, single-spaced emails). Ever practical, she ignored things she considered to be a waste of time or would serve her no purpose.
When we asked Gloria what information she wanted in this writing, there was only one priority: for readers to know that “I was a Jewish girl.” Gloria was proud of her Jewish heritage, taking a leadership role in various Jewish organizations throughout her life. She spoke fluent Yiddish and enjoyed playing mahjong each week with her long-time friends.
Gloria is survived by her children Bob, Sue (Bermann), Jackie (Mike), and Lew (Ilona), 5 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren, and a loving extended family. She was preceded in death by her parents Henry and Etta, husband Philmore, and an extended family who are missed greatly.
A funeral service was held on August 25, and there are no immediate plans to hold an additional gathering due to COVID-19. Memorial contributions may be made to the music, library, or cemetery funds at Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids. The family would like to express a special thanks to those who visited Gloria over the summer, her Spectrum Hospice-at-Home care team of Amanda, Sarah, Megan, and Amanda, and everyone who interacted with Gloria over the years to help her live her best life on her terms.
“And, there you are.” Apply lipstick, dinner is over. It’s time to go dancing with Philmore.
To send flowers to Gloria's family, please visit our floral store.