Dennis McBee, 59, passed away on Sunday, February 1, 2015, after several years of declining health.
Dennis was born on May 13, 1955, in Mineola, N.Y., the son of Adeline (DeMeo) and Joseph “Fred” McBee. He grew up in Port Washington, N.Y., and graduated from Paul D. Schreiber High School in 1972.
After graduating high school, Dennis moved to Vermont to attend Goddard College. “You can’t choose where you are born but you can choose where you call home,” he would often say describing his love of Vermont and its people. In his first year of college Dennis began volunteering at a Montpelier youth center. This ignited a passion leading to a lifelong career working with young people. He was a member of a community effort leading to the creation of the Washington County Youth Service Bureau. In the years that followed, he taught at alternative high schools, ran youth centers, served as a youth counselor and community organizer, started a private high school, and volunteered as a shelter parent for runaway youth. Throughout his career he advocated a philosophy of youth empowerment. He challenged his colleagues to work with young people, not for them.
In the 1990s Dennis took this strategy to the University of Vermont. There as coordinator of alcohol and drug services for the Student Health Center he created programs that would receive national attention. The National Commission on Drunk and Drugged Driving recognized his work with a Citizen Activist Award. His passion for Vermont’s communities led to hours of volunteer service in support of then-governor Madeline Kunin’s Project Graduation. His work received the endorsement of four Vermont governors and numerous awards and recognitions.
After declining health forced him to stop working, Dennis became a school crossing guard for the Burlington Department of Public Works. Every morning his smiling face greeted students at the corner of Mansfield Avenue and Colchester Avenue If a simple smile and wave could help get their day off to a good start, what a small investment, he liked to say.
Dennis was predeceased by his parents and his aunt Florence DeMeo, who was a second mother to him. Dennis always considered himself blessed by the love and role models of his childhood, especially his maternal grandfather Mario DeMeo and special aunts and uncles Harry, Irene and Arthur DeMeo.
He is survived by his loving wife, Anne, and his two sons, Daniel and Michael. Family was the center of his life. Fatherhood was the most important and rewarding part of his life. He loved talking about his sons and sharing quiet moments with his wife. He is also survived by his siblings, Joseph, Martha and Harry. In addition, he leaves behind a niece, four nephews and many extend family members. He also leaves his good friends Bill Allen and Andy McKenzie.
Memorial services will be held on Friday, February 6, at 5 p.m. in Elmwood-Meunier Funeral Chapel, 97 Elmwood Avenue. Visitation at the funeral home is on Friday from 4 p.m. until the services.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations may be made to a charity of the giver’s choice that benefits young people or families.