Kenneth Earl Denson, 71, promoted running in Howard

October 23, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Kenneth Earl Denson, a running enthusiast who helped form the Howard County Striders running club and later started the Howard County Junior Striders, died Sunday of a heart attack in Palestine, Texas.

Mr. Denson, 71, developed his love for running while living in Ellicott City from 1972 to 1983. Friends and relatives said his love for runners flourished during his years in Howard County.

"He really developed a fondness for runners as a whole," said his wife, the former Patricia Endel, whom he married in 1950. "The people we met through running and races, he fell in love with.

"He ran in a lot of a races, and it was my duty to stand on the sidelines and hold the sweats."

Mr. Denson's interest in running began after his sons ran for high school teams, and he organized numerous cross country races while living in Howard County, many starting and ending at his home.

He would often invite the entrants inside for a post-race party.

"He'd charge some for the races, but it was never enough to cover the spread he had," said Ryan Douglass of Columbia, a friend and longtime running partner.

Mr. Denson helped begin the Howard County Striders in the mid-1970s, and the group had about 40 members its first year. The group now boasts more than 1,000 members. Several years later, he started the Howard County Junior Striders, which has about 500 members.

Don Heinicke, who helped Mr. Denson form the Howard County Striders, said the junior group was formed with children as young as age 6.

"He had a bunch of young kids out there, and he just decided to get some jerseys and meet at his house," Mr. Heinicke said. "He liked the idea of people just getting together to run."

One of Mr. Denson's races was a 20-miler he called "Run for the Barbecue," where runners were treated to a cookout at his home after the race.

"We said after that race, 'Next time tell everyone to bring a picnic,' " his wife said.

A native of Palestine, Texas, Mr. Denson served in the Navy from 1944 to 1945 during World War II. He served aboard the USS Franklin in the Pacific Theater and was wounded when the aircraft carrier came under attack by warplanes within 50 miles of Japan.

The attack left 724 U.S. sailors dead and hundreds injured.

Upon his discharge, Mr. Denson entered Texas A&M University and graduated in 1950.

From 1950 to 1972, he worked as a salesman for Knox Glass Bottle Co. offices in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Missouri and Maryland. He was sales manager for Maryland Glass Corp. until 1983, when he moved to Texas.

A hunter, fisherman and volunteer, Mr. Denson helped to maintain a crisis center for abused women and worked with Meals on Wheels when he returned to Texas.

Services were held yesterday in Palestine.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons, Jerry Michael Denson of Pueblo, Colo., Bryan Denson of Portland, Ore., and Cavan Denson of Bedford, Texas; six grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Pub Date: 10/23/98

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