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Farewell, Denny

Former Olympic Center GM remembered at funeral on the ice he loved

February 15, 2019
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - R. Dennis "Denny" Allen left the Olympic Center for the last time just before noon Friday, Feb. 8, a week after he died unexpectedly at the age of 64.

The former Olympic Center general manager's wooden casket - draped in an Olympic flag - was wheeled off a red carpet in front of the players' benches, across the ice, then loaded into the back of a hearse parked in the Zamboni tunnel before being driven away.

It was the end of a 90-minute funeral - the first one ever to be held at the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena where the U.S. men's hockey team beat the Soviets in the "Miracle on Ice" game during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. It was also the end of an era for Allen, who was the manager of the Olympic Speedskating Oval during the 1980 Olympics and worked at the Olympic Center starting in 1981, first for the town of North Elba and then the state Olympic Regional Development Authority starting in 1982. He was ORDA's director of operations, director of events and finally general manager for 24 years, retiring on April 27, 2018.

Article Photos

The 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena was turned into a church the morning of Friday, Feb. 8 for the funeral of former Olympic Center General Manager R. Dennis “Denny” Allen, who died unexpectedly a week earlier at the age of 64. Town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi gave the eulogy, and the Mass of Resurrection was performed by the Rev. John Yonkovig, pastor of the St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lake Placid. Hundreds of friends and relatives attended the ceremony. Allen had worked for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority since 1982 and for the town of North Elba at the Olympic Center for a short time prior to that.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

About 500 people attended Allen's funeral, sitting in three sections of red seats in the arena behind the players' benches, where his family members were seated. On the scoreboard above, a slide show of memorable images from Allen's life greeted the crowd, making a somber occasion just a little bit more bearable. To the left of the casket on the red carpet sat the pall bearers - David Allen, Ted Blazer, Brian Bliss, Tony Kilburn, Butch Martin and Tom Oddy - next to a musician on an electric piano. Behind the casket was a stage where the Rev. John Yonkovig, pastor of the St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lake Placid, presented the Mass of Resurrection, and guests and passage readers spoke at the podium. Behind them were two Zambonis.

Town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi gave the eulogy.

"Denny would be so honored to know that this service was being held here today in the 1980 Rink, a place so close to his heart. But he would also be quick to remind us that we have only one hour to get this over with because there's a youth hockey tournament starting right after."

Politi said Allen's passing was a "great loss, a life gone far too early."

"But, in reality, the length of one's life is not what we measure. It's the depth and spirit of their being. Look around today. What a testament to the quality of a man's life that so many friends and colleagues should be here to recognize Denny."

Politi quoted the French poet Paul Valery, who said, "A great man is one who leaves others at a loss after he is gone."

"I know that I can't possibly do justice to Denny, the person, in this remembrance," Politi said. "And I realize so many of you have your own Denny Allen stories. In truth, the richness of his life lies in the memories we have within us and those that we share with others.

"Looking back, I was always proud that Denny was my first cousin. And I was usually quick to mention that. But inevitably the response would be, 'Really? I never would have guessed that. Denny was such a nice guy.' I'd laugh inside because in my mind I knew that they were only part right. In fact, he was better than a good guy, a nice guy. He was a great guy.

"I've learned over the years in politics that people tend to forget what you've said or what you've done. But people never forget how you made them feel. Denny was that feel-good, speak-little, do-much kind of guy. Someone who constantly wanted to lend a hand, find a solution or help a person who needed a lift. He always felt that one of his most rewarding accomplishments was helping the kids of Lake Placid develop lifelong friendships in sports, and he enjoyed being a part of that experience."

Politi said that Allen had the patience of a saint, but he was also a softy.

"He used to refer to the rink workshop area as 'Denny's Home for Wayward Boys.' And he would agonize over having to let someone go. But inevitably he would always invite them back. If he gave you one chance, he gave you 25. There was a time that a young fella desperately needed a day off, but it was also the fifth time that he told Denny his father was having his leg amputated. Denny just took it in stride, and then he (said), 'By the way, how many legs does your father have?' He was that kind of guy."

Politi shared some Dennysims.

"Geez, pull yourself together. You look like an unmade bed."

"This better not be on Facebook."

"Why are all you standing here? If a bomb went off, there would be nobody left to work."

He also said Allen was a role model to those who worked for him.

"It was nothing to see him hanging from the rafters, parking cars at an ice show, cleaning bathrooms, cutting trees or giving tours. He was just one of the boys in his mind."

Of all the work he did - as coach, mentor, distinguished member of the Lake Placid Hall of Fame - Politi said those accomplishments were not highest on Allen's priority list.

"It was his family, his friends and his love for Lake Placid that meant the most to him. ... I remember once asking Denny about meeting his wife Karen for the first time. He said to me, 'It was like a bolt of lightning.' And everyone close to him knows that the momentum of that lightning strike never ceased."

Politi thanked Allen for all he did, especially for making Lake Placid a better place.

"And as only Denny would say, 'Whatever comes your way, take it with a smile and everything will be fine.'"

In his homily, Yonkovig called Allen a "quiet pillar of strength" who had a "quiet efficiency for caring for people." He spoke of the appropriateness of holding a funeral in the 1980 Rink. After all, he said, an actual miracle had happened there in 1980.

Throughout his remembrance, Yonkovig kept going back to one theme while telling stories about Allen: "When you give, you receive. When you forgive, you are forgiven."

Sixty-four years ago, Yonkovig said, God whispered into the hearts and lives of Allen's parents, Bob and Gloria, "I have given you the gift of life. Nurture him. Love him."

"And over these 64 years, many people have done just that. So today, when we offer gifts of bread and wine on this altar, let all of us whisper to God, 'Thank you for this wonderful man, Denny Allen, and along with these gifts of bread and wine, we give you the marvelous gift of life, the gift that Denny has been to all of us. We give him back to you. Take him. Care for him. Nurture him. Love him. Just as he did throughout his life until our journeys have ended on this earth. And our hearts will be joined with his and yours for all eternity. Amen.'"

 
 
 

 

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