The Profiler: Kiwanian Dave Denyven

The Profiler: Kiwanian Dave Denyven

Marcy Morrison

Photo by Michele Ellson.

Dave Denyven may be a man of few words, but the Purple Heart and Bronze Star displayed in his living room cabinet speak loudly of his bold action years ago. Now the accolades continue as the Kiwanis Club of Alameda honors Dave Denyven for 60 years of active duty on the Island he now calls his home base.

Denyven was 27 years old when Russ Ford, the gentlemen from whom he bought his Everett Street print shop, told him it would be good for his business to join the Alameda Kiwanis. It proved to be a good idea for business, but it turned out to be even better for Kiwanis. Sixty years later, Denyven, 87, is Alameda’s longest-serving Kiwanian and also one of the Island’s oldest.

“I’m 87 now … I don’t try to hide it anymore,” he said.

Denyven was president of Alameda Kiwanis from 1975-1976. He and his wife, Joyce, participated annually in a camp for hearing impaired kids from 1983 until 1993, which was organized and led by now-deceased Kiwanis member Dr. Alan Mitchell at Camp Cedarbrook near Twain Harte. He’s been on the front line for many of the work projects the club has recently undertaken, including the Towata Park cleanup, a pilot project installing residential smoke alarms to help the fire department, and construction of a storage shed at the former Longfellow School. His current list of tasks includes serving as the club’s cashier, a job that requires him to greet people – which may be his biggest challenge.

“I’m not much of a talker. I’m a doer,” he said.

His role as one of Kiwanis’ Meals on Wheels’ participants has him regularly rolling down Alameda’s streets on his recumbent bike, towing a trailer-load of meals to house-bound residents – most of whom are younger than him. Even when he isn’t on a specific assignment, Denyven is a frequently seen blur on Alameda’s streets, riding steady, with intention, low and swift and close to the ground.

Why a recumbent? “It’s like sitting on a chair. It’s comfortable,” he said.

Denyven averages about 10 miles a day on his trusty recumbent.

“He often rides to Costco to pick things up for me,” his wife, Joyce, said.

Denyven said it’s important for older people to challenge themselves socially and mentally, and an afternoon of bridge with friends fits the bill for the couple. Several times a week, they play at different bridge clubs around the East Bay, and a number of vacations have been dedicated to the game as they relaxed on bridge-themed cruises.

One of the 30 cruises they have taken since 1980 was devoted to retracing Denyven’s steps along the Rhine during World War Two. Denyven was with the 102nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. By the time the war had ended, he was awarded the Purple Heart – which is given to those who have been wounded or killed while serving in the military – after being burned in an accidental, non-combat explosion along the coast of France. Following two weeks of recovery in the hospital, he continued on with the troops throughout Europe where another award, the Bronze Star, was bestowed upon him. The Bronze Star is given to members of the U.S. Armed Forces for acts of heroism or acts of merit in a combat zone.

“Our engineer platoon blew up an enemy fortification that had been used to harass our troops,” he said. “Our infantry had a fire fight with the inhabitants of the fortification and we followed behind them carrying boxes of TNT. As it turned out, there were still some German troops inside and we took them as prisoners before igniting the explosives.”

Last month’s Kiwanis party celebrating Denyven’s 60 years of service coincided with another milestone in his long list of life accomplishments: 65 years of marriage to Joyce. The lovebirds were married on Valentine’s Day, she said, though that wasn’t Dave’s idea: He was aiming for February 29, Leap Day.

“I want a card at least every year!” she said.

Sixty-five years of marriage calls for more than just one celebration, so the couple held two: One attended by friends they’ve gathered over the years from different service organizations and another attended by Denyven’s family, biological and Kiwanian. Their two daughters, one from Alameda who teaches school in nearby Piedmont, the other from Texas along with a granddaughter and a son-in-law joined in the Kiwanis festivities.

And what exactly holds this marriage happily together? One might venture to guess service; Joyce Denyven has heard and responded to a call for action just as readily as her life partner. Currently the immediate past president of the Alameda Welfare Council, Joyce has been involved for 18 years with the 85-year-old organization, which raises money for the Island’s nonprofits. Her resume also includes an eight-year stint on Alameda’s Board of Education and work with the Girls Club, Scouting for Food, P.E.O. (a women’s organization), and the American Association of University Women.

Shying away from words like “dedicated” or “altruistic,” Denyven said the work “just interests us.”

“If it was boring, we wouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “If you’re doing something, it makes life interesting, instead of just sitting in front of the TV all day.”