Dennis James Hisman
July 1952 – May 2011
Dennis Hisman passed away on May 10, 2011 in Tucson, Ariz. Earlier this year Dennis was diagnosed with throat cancer and went to Tucson for treatment. Although he was given an excellent prognosis to beat the disease, he developed complications due to his chemotherapy and passed away quickly. He is survived by wife Colette, daughter Bethany with son-in-law Martin, and daughter Meredith; sister Carol with husband Tim and family; brother Larry with wife Cathy and family; brother Gary and family.
He was born on July 3, 1952 in LaCrosse, Wisc. to Ellen and Ward Hisman, the third of their four children. Dennis and family also lived in the communities of Green Bay, Wisc., Kingsford, Mich., and eventually Hastings, Minn., where he graduated from high school in 1970.
Dennis enjoyed many activities in Green Bay, among them street and backyard football, baseball, swimming, waterskiing, biking, and playing in nearby wooded areas. Probably his favorite summer/fall activity was attending Green Bay Packer football practices and games. He was among the original “bike kids” who began the tradition of sharing their bicycles with Packer players to ride through the parking lot of Lambeau Field to their practice area. Winter brought snow sledding, skating, and building and defending snow forts. Dennis also favored coaxing the family dog to pull sister Carol on the sled in place of him and his brothers.
The family’s move to Kingsford in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula added activities including golf, skiing, ski jumping and seemingly endless summers building and rebuilding ski jumps, tree houses and underground forts, not to mention the baseball games played on the field all the neighborhood kids carved out of the woods.
During Dennis’ high school years in Minnesota he took part in sports and was an award winning member of the school band, but seemed to prefer part-time work for his free time. He worked a delivery route for a local newspaper for a year or two, and later worked part time in several local restaurants. No one then had any idea that would lead to a lifelong career in the food industry here in Skagway, Alaska.
After graduation Dennis was employed in various vocations and for a time he was part of a traveling steam fitting and pipe fitting crew for The Milwaukee Road railroad, working at points from Chicago, Ill. to western Montana. However, Dennis always seemed to gravitate back to food service and he graduated from culinary school at the St. Paul, Minn, Technical Vocational Institute in 1971.
Upon the recommendation of the school’s head instructor he was hired as a chef at Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, one of Minneapolis’ finest restaurants. It was while working there that he met Colette Weivoda, a fellow employee who became the love of his life and eventually his wife. They would go on to raise two wonderful daughters, Bethany and Meredith. He was also an avid skydiver for several years during this period, amassing 100-plus jumps.
In 1977 Dennis and Colette learned of an opportunity to purchase a relatively new business in Skagway, the Sweet Tooth Saloon, as it was known in those days. They have operated the “Tooth” from that day on. Dennis would be up and at work at an hour when many were yet enjoying their celebrations from the day before. Many mornings the door of the “Tooth” would open to greet the incoming crowd that had just left the Moe’s Zone and other clubs of town. Known as “Uncle French Fry” to many local kids, untold numbers of locals would greet and tease him with “time to make the donuts” a la the old Dunkin’ Donuts TV commercial. It also meant a lot to Dennis to be able to work with so many wonderful employees over the years. They had a special place in his heart and became like family to him and Colette. Dennis also worked for many years as a longshoreman, long shifts loading ships at the Ore Terminal or pumping bulk oil and gas from White Pass container ships.
Dennis was actively involved in the community of Skagway. He was a member of Eagles Aerie No. 25 for five years, and a member of Elks Lodge No. 431 for 34 years. In earlier years he was quite active in the Elks, serving on the “house” committee, and volunteering services for countless benefits and functions over the years.
During the past few years Dennis really enjoyed winter visits with brother Larry and his wife Cathy in Green Valley, Arizona where he hoped to retire eventually. Much as he would gruffly complain, he also enjoyed volunteering with them in the kitchen of American Legion Post No. 66 for fundraisers and various other functions.
Dennis will be greatly missed by his family and his many friends in Skagway and Green Valley.
A memorial service for Dennis will be held at the Elks Lodge Saturday, May 28 at 4 p.m.
– Submitted by the family.