Dennis Purduski. Where do I start in writing about Den? Maybe an over view of the man might be in order. Just a few adjectives. Super intelligent. Honest to a fault. Never put up a front always being just who he was. Outspoken. Great sense of humor. Practical jokester. Athletic. Caring. Helpful. Insightful. Able to read people and not be taken in. Adventurous. A true friend that could be counted on.
I met Dennis thirty eight years ago when I started working in the engineering department of Dit-MCO International. We were opposites in many ways. He was an outgoing extrovert while I was a quiet introvert. He would speak his mind off the top of his head while I would tend to give thought. He would do things on a whim while I liked to have a plan. We also had a lot in common. Our sense of humor was much the same, a little sick and over the top at times, but good. We could be in a crowd of people and see something and look at each other knowing what the other was thinking. We clicked almost instantaneously.
For thirty eight years he was a true friend. He gave advice and took advice. He was part of my family. He loved my son and my nephew while trying to stay away from kids in general. He was indeed my son's best friend.
Den excelled at everything he set out to do. They weren't hobbies, they were loves. Racing karts, midget dirt track, racing remote cars, flying remote planes and helicopters, to being an aviator. He excelled at all of these.
I have hundreds of memories of times spent with Dennis. These memories have been filling my head over the last several hours. These memories put together the puzzle that was Dennis. Too many memories to write out here though.
I say "the puzzle that was Dennis" because he was a complicated person. He had so many sides to his personality but all of them were very real and very honest. As time went on and our friendship grew closer I would eventually come to the realization that nothing Den did could ever surprise me anymore. He wasn't perfect, don't get the wrong idea. He had issues. He had self doubts at times. He had a temper that at times he found hard to keep in check.
Dennis coming into my life added so many things to it. When I was with Den and he decided to do something on a whim, I was forced to go along and experience the adventure along with him. That was probably the biggest over all thing that Den gave me. That feeling of having a thought run through your mind, speaking the thought, then following through on the thought. No planning, no thinking about it or mulling it over .... just think it and do it.
I think that was my biggest loss personally when Den left Kansas City to go south and land in Mississippi. I lost that push from someone to just go and do something. We met when we were in our twenties and not a care in the world. Now, as I turned sixty, I think about something I would like to do, and I ponder it and think about it, and let it go by. However just because I lost Den physically from Kansas City, I never lost him as a friend. He kept in constant contact since he moved south.
I really want to share a few memories of this person that was such a big part of my life.
When we met at Dit-MCO and found our desks next to each other, he looked around at the people in front of us and in back of us, turned to me and said "You and me? We are going to become VERY close friends." He was right.
He was so happy for me when Brett joined our family. He came over to the house and I actually have a picture of him holding a one year old kid. The kid he would later take under his wing as "Uncle Den".
He was always looking to save money wherever he could, especially on food. We would hit the bar across the street from the office for happy hour every Wednesday night even though neither of us really drank because they would have free appetizers until early evening. He always ordered an orange juice from the bar so he could stay and eat. When him and Brett were racing RC Cars in Raytown, Den discovered that the laundromat next door to the race track had a popcorn machine. Between heats, him and Brett would disappear and then reappear with a couple of bags of popcorn for dinner.
When he found out that Brett's favorite driver, Darrell Waltrip, was going to be racing in the NASCAR truck series in Topeka one weekend, he showed up on my doorstep at about eight in the morning. I opened the door and said "What's up?" His reply was "Can I borrow Brett for a day?" and took Brett, who was about seven at the time, to Topeka to meet his hero and take his picture with DW.
We found ourselves behind on a project once and decided to go in on Saturday to catch up on things. It was snowing terribly. We sat in the office for a couple of hours watching it snow then Den said "Let's get out of here." and we left. We didn't go home though. We went to the Liberty Memorial and took the elevator to the top during that storm and took some wonderful pics of Union Station. Then we headed over to "The Scout", the famous Kansas City sculpture of an Indian on a horse over looking the city. Den climbed up on top of the base of the sculpture, about ten feet I would guess, in that snow and started talking to the Indian, telling him he was looking the wrong way and pointing west towards Kansas. About that time we saw a police car down on Pershing Road and I heard Den say "uh oh" and he jumped off the sculpture. We had just gotten in the car and were preparing to pull away when here came the police... slowing down... looking at us... then driving on.
One of the more touching things he did was introduce me to his mom and dad. His mom was a lovely lady and a nice lady. Once she got to know me, she would give me a loaf of fresh baked Povatica bread at Christmas every year.
Den tried to get on the local news as often as possible. We succeeded a couple of times when we would go to the NBA draft or some event such as that. We had half season tickets to the Kings NBA team when they were here and sat in a section called "The Backcourt Boozers". It was a rowdy bunch that would make bets on scores, fouls.... whatever they could think of. At one game, just before half, one of the Kings shot a long jump shot right at the buzzer on the far end of the court. All during halftime bets were being placed on whether the shot hit the glass or just net, you couldn't really tell from where we were. As halftime came to an end, Den volunteered to go find out if the ball hit glass or not. He ran down the side of the court to Cotton Fitzsimmons, who was the head coach at the time. Den says "Hey Cotton.... did that shot hit glass or just net?" Cotton looked at him and smiled I am sure he figured Den was from the Boozers... "Net" Den came back to relay the message to a bunch of happy people and a bunch of disgruntled people.
Den went with me and my family to my sister's place in Alabama for Thanksgiving one year. Very special time and he fit right in. That's the kind of person he was though. He could fit into almost any situation.
I could go on and on with stories about Den and the things we did, the shenanigans we pulled. You would tire of hearing them though even as special as they are to me. As a lot of people and friends of mine as well as family got to know Den from being around each other all the time there started to be a pattern. If I were to start telling a story and the word "Den" or "Purduski" came out of my mouth, the listener would automatically get a small smile on their face because they knew that what was about to be disclosed would be good.
Den had a heart attack several years ago. When I had a heart attack a couple of years later, he was full of optimism and encouragement. When my wife came down with serious heart problems, Den would call to give her the same encouragement. He had begun to eat healthier and to excersize everyday. He kept himself busy with new hobbies and continuing to learn new things.
He was healthy. In better health than he had been his entire life.
Den passed away from an apparent heart attack last weekend and a very special thirty eight year old relationship came to a screeching halt.
Den changed my life in many ways just by knowing him and I am very grateful for that. I wrote one of my friends to relay the news that Den had passed on. The reply back was so very true. It said "He was one of a kind".
Thank you Dennis for the good times and the memories. You touched more lives than you could ever imagine and you will be missed by a lot of people.