Grieving Belleville High pals recall Dennis Dework’s sense of humor, compassion and love of family and friends

Good morning, yesterday
You wake up and time has slipped away
And suddenly it’s hard to find
The memories you left behind
Remember, do you remember

Dennis Dework was a member of a special fraternity at Belleville High, one that will always define his athletic ability.

Beyond that, his personality, charisma and fortitude would be a staple in the lives of his family and close friends.

Dennis and many of his friends. The group stayed close long after high school. All photos courtesy of Rocco Constantino.

A 1993 graduate of Belleville High, Dennis was called home on April 30. He was 45 years old.

Twenty seven years ago, he had became just the seventh member of the Belleville High boys’ basketball program to eclipse 1,000 career points. To show you how tough a club that is, only one player in the program’s history has attained that mark since.

In 2010, DeWork was enshrined in the Belleville High Hall of Fame.

The laughter and the tears
The shadows of misty yesteryears
The good times and the bad you’ve seen
And all the others in between
Remember, do you remember
The times of your life

Beyond being an excellent basketball player, Dennis Dework loved his family, and was a dear friend to many.

One of his closest friends, Michael Janicelli recalled Dennis’ athletic abilities.

“Dennis was one of the kindest, gentlest souls anybody has ever known,” said Janicelli. “His confirmation name was Jordan, because he was such a huge (Chicago) Bulls fan. His full name is Dennis Michael Jordan Dework. 

“The only bigger Bulls fan was his Grandma Mary, who had a house in Belmar. The family would congregate there often. Dennis trained in martial arts for years.

High school memories.

Reach back for the joy and the sorrow
Put them away in your mind
The mem’ries are time that you borrow
To spend when you get to tomorrow

“His first and true love was obviously basketball. That was the only sport he had played in high school. He did play little league baseball for FMBA. And in grammar school, he was a great center forward for the traveling soccer team.”

Janicelli also remembered Dennis’ sense of humor, calling him one of the funniest people one could ever meet.

“He was the star of our friends’ funny videos over the years, including being Chevy Chase, in the Paul Simon video ‘You Can Call Me Al.'”

Dennis (second from right) with close friends.

Keith Veltre, another Belleville graduate, also remembered a dear friend.

“I grew up with Dennis and he’s been one of my closest friends since grade school,” said Veltre. “I think when you talk to any of us, we would all tell you that one of the things we are most proud of is how we all stayed so close over the years. I think I speak for everybody when I say we truly have the best friends in the world, and Dennis Dework was a huge part of all of us.

Here comes the setting sun
The seasons are passing one by one
So gather moments while you may
Collect the dreams you dream today
Remember, will you remember
The times of your life

“Thinking back on the many memories I had with Dennis, since we were kids, I could not think of a single memory that didn’t include some kind of laughter. Whether he was sneaking up behind you and putting his nose in your ear until you turned around then busted out laughing once you reacted, to doing his many impersonations, or just acting like a complete goofball, where you had no choice but to laugh.”

“Dennis was one of a kind, and wasn’t afraid to be who he was. I’m not sure exactly why, but Dennis’ mannerisms always reminded me of Chevy Chase, specifically his Clark Griswold character. You could not be around Dennis and be in a bad mood. It was impossible.”

Carmen Pizzano noted how difficult it’s been to come to grips with this loss. The two were also inseparable.

“We are all saddened,” said Pizzano. “This one hit hard. Dennis was my first friend. Our parents were neighbors before we were born. I was born in January, and he, in April. We shared many firsts together and milestones. It was my birthday, on Jan. 19 1993, that he scored his 1000th (career point).

“After that game, we went back to my house with our friends and celebrated my birthday, and his milestone. He was a gentle giant, and didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He would have done anything for anybody. We had a Zoom call with all our friends (on May 1) and shared a lot of tears but more laughs, all in remembrance of our guy Denny.”

Rich Romano, yet another guy from the Class of ’93, recalled, like all the other pals, a lot of laughing, when being around Dennis DeWork.

“My brother Joe and I spent many summers in Belmar and Ortley with Dennis, and loved every minute of it,” said Rich. “He was a great person to be around. Dennis was funny and kind. We had a lot of laughs when Dennis was around. We will miss him.”

Rocco Constantino noted Dennis’ ability to make others feel good.

“He was one of those guys who made any get-together better, by just being there,” said Rocco. “He was a great person and one of the funniest people you could imagine.”

Having written sports for a local newspaper for many years, I had the chance to watch Dennis play basketball during his four years of high school. One day, after a practice, in 1991, Dennis, myself and a few coaches played a quick pick up game.

Klutz that I am, I accidentally stepped on Dennis’ foot and ended up fracturing my ankle. (Of course, if I wasn’t wearing running shoes, it probably wouldn’t have happened).

If you know these guys, then you know what a classic picture this is.

When I came to the next practice, about two days later, with a cast on my leg, Dennis couldn’t help but laugh, but it was in such a way that he was concerned, but also understood that it was just a freak accident.

“That story doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Constantino. “Dennis was a character. You never knew what he was going to say, or do next, but you knew you’d be laughing.”

Beyond the laughter and smiles that defined Dennis, his friends are grieving.

“We are all hurting right now,” said Veltre. “Every single one of us. It still doesn’t seem real and quite honestly I can’t accept the fact that he’s gone. But I was thinking to myself, late last night, the one thing I’ve learned from Dennis and from his passing, was never to take yourself too seriously, but take the time you have with friends and family seriously.

“Dennis loved his family and friends. And he loved them with every ounce of his soul.”

Dennis Dework is survived by his parents, Judy and Dennis, along with his sister, Danielle, herself a tremendous athlete at BHS, and his cherished niece and nephew, Caitlyn and Nicholas.

May God bless Dennis’ family and friends.

Thank you, Dennis, for being the man that you were. Rest well.

We’ll all see you again one day.

Gather moments while you may
Collect the dreams you dream today
Remember, will you remember
The times of your life
Of your life
Of your life

Do you remember baby,

do you remember the times of your life?

By mike051893