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Dennis Jay Kikendall of Chatham County celebrated the new year by departing his earthly life on the morning of January 1, 2024, to begin eternity with his Lord and Savior in Heaven.
Dennis was born on January 8, 1948 in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Melvin and Catherine Kikendall. During his high school years in New Berlin, Illinois, he was recognized for his outstanding musical talent, being presented with the prestigious John Philip Sousa Award for his proficiency in playing saxophone. Foregoing the option of attending four-year college during the Vietnam War era, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, where he served honorably for four years before receiving his honorable discharge in 1970 with the rank of Staff Sargeant. It was during his years of military service that he met and married the love of his life, Judith Lynn Butzin (Judy) of Peru, Indiana. They were married on November 25, 1967 and remained devoted, inseparable partners in life until his passing. Their union led to the birth of two children, Kurt and Kristi.
Following his military discharge, Dennis became a public servant in the State of Illinois, developing his aptitude in the then-evolving field of computer programming. Afterwards, he took a position with Delco Remy, sharing his programming skills in its Anderson, Indiana manufacturing plant by day, and farming 60 acres of land on evenings and weekends. He eventually took a programming position with Northern Telecom and its later iterations at its Research Triangle Park facility and moved his family to Raleigh. It was during his time there that he became a living legend within RTP, well known for his ability to write efficient, concise, and effective computer code. He was highly sought after for employment by many firms, and he provided his services to some other projects, but his own yearnings led him to begin efforts to escape the rigors and requirements of the corporate world. Becoming semi-retired, he purchased 15 acres of land in southern Chatham County and began the process of clearing the land, then planning and building a homestead on the property. Almost every detail of its development was accomplished through work performed by himself and his family and it became his comfortable home for 30 years.
Throughout his adult life, Dennis was known for his involvement in a variety of remarkable activities. He was a skilled pilot, obtaining his instrument rating for flight. For a time, he owned and piloted his own airplane. An accomplished musician, in addition to saxophone, he played keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar, and taught himself to play pedal steel guitar. Although he was not an entertainer, he was always entertaining when he played with or for family and friends. He could be called an auto and diesel mechanic; there was nothing mechanical that he could not understand and repair if that was called for. He had a unique ability to comprehend the contours of land, which he paired with his heavy equipment skills to develop his own business, Dennis’ Dozer Service, providing clearing and grading services to his customers and the installation of farm ponds. Furthermore, perhaps to scratch an itch for a little adventure, he got his commercial driver’s license and served as a professional big rig truck driver, hauling logs from Sanford NC to a processing facility in West Virginia.
In each of his professional identities, Dennis developed his reputation for being honest, reliable, and dependable; he was indeed a man of integrity. Even while holding so many skills and accomplishments that were obvious to others, he was always a man who exhibited good character and humility. His life was primarily devoted toward serving others. Throughout his life, he acted as a consultant, an encourager, a mentor, and a servant to co-workers, friends and neighbors, often sharing his time and treasure with a sacrificial spirit. But his character and service toward others became magnified following his acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in 1999, providing him with new focus and purpose for the uses of his gifts, skills, and talents. He trusted in and served God until the moment he was called home.
In no other area was Dennis’ character more apparent than in his involvement with his family. His love and devotion to Judy was complete and grew each day they were together. They raised Kurt and Kristi with the love and guidance that would allow each to prosper in their own lives, instilling values that would extend the family legacy. He was the ideal example of a husband and father for them to observe as they grew and began families of their own. His influence extended beyond his wife and children to members of his extended family. In his life he was beloved as a son, brother, uncle, father-in-law, grandpa and great-grandpa. While each of his surviving relations will miss him greatly, they rejoice in knowing that Dennis now resides in Heaven, free from the concerns and constraints of earthly life, enjoying life in the presence of the Lord. Local, surviving members of his family include his wife Judy, of the home; his son Kurt (Kim) of Fuquay-Varina; daughter Kristi Sledge (Bob) of Garner; and nephew Kevin Kikendall (Paula) of Zebulon; seven grandchildren (Kyle Kikendall, Andrew Sledge, Kimberly Kikendall, Amanda Sledge, Kelly Kikendall, Joshua Sledge and Hannah Sledge); a great-granddaughter (Savannah Matthews); and a great-nephew Luke Kikendall. A great-niece, Megan Kikendall, arrived in Heaven before Dennis, and joined in welcoming him to his new home.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorials be sent to the international relief agency, Samaritan’s Purse.
Donaldson Funeral Home & Crematory is honored to serve the Kikendall family.