Obituaries » Dennis J. Nowicki
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January 22, 1942 - June 9, 2021
Dennis will be interred at Fort Custer National Cemetery and a celebration of his life will take place at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to the Kalamazoo Humane Society, West Michigan Cancer Center, or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.
Dennis J. Nowicki passed away at age 79 on June 9, 2021, surrounded by his family at his home in Kalamazoo, Michigan after a five-year battle with lung cancer. He is deeply loved and will be missed every day by his family and friends.
Dennis was born in Chicago, Illinois to Bruno and Sally (Krzanowska) Nowicki. He grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on 49th and Wood Streets on the city’s southwest side and served as an altar boy in St. Joseph Catholic Church. Upon graduation as an honor student from Chicago’s De La Salle High School in 1959, Dennis earned his Associate Degree in Electronic Technology from DeVry Technical Institute in 1961 and enlisted in the Army in 1962.
He proudly served his nation in the then-secret Army First Special Activities Detachment (SAD-1) of the Army Security Agency at Shemya Air Force Station, Alaska during the Cold War. He was part of a four-man intelligence team collecting information on Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile development and their ability to deliver atomic weapons. He flew on classified missions on board the Navy’s Douglas EA-3B, an unarmed reconnaissance variant of the A-3 Skywarrior bomber configured for collecting optical and telemetry information. Dennis honored his commitment not to reveal the exact nature of these operations, which have since been declassified. The efforts of SAD-1 and their unusual, highly secret joint missions with the Navy’s Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons were essential to U.S. Cold War intelligence and are now recognized at the Cold War Museum in Virginia. He was also stationed in the more temperate, yet less hazardous, climates of Japan (for two years), the Philippines, and Hawaii.
In 1965, Dennis earned a commendation from the United States Army Security Agency – Pacific for outstanding performance while serving with the joint Army-Navy project. “Exercising initiative, Specialist Nowicki established many new procedures for repairing and maintaining the unique and highly sophisticated electronics reconnaissance equipment with which he was associated. This was accomplished under highly mobile and flexible conditions with very limited supply and maintenance material on an operational immediate basis.”
Dennis met CeCelia Larson in Rochester, Minnesota that same year, where she was a nursing student at Methodist-Kahler School of Nursing, and he was attending training school for his job with IBM. They married on September 23, 1967, in Fairmont, Minnesota and made their home in Chicago and the Chicago area for the next 45 years. They welcomed their daughter, Stacy into the world in 1973. Dennis was an encouraging, devoted father who instilled in her the importance of kindness, curiosity, fiscal responsibility, and a love of learning. He retired from IBM in 1995 after 30 years as a Customer Engineer, maintaining and servicing specialized banking computers and earning multiple accolades for his thorough and efficient work. In 2012 he and CeCelia moved to Kalamazoo to be near their daughter.
Dennis was an impressive archer and skilled marksman. As an adult, he finally obtained the official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time that eluded him as a child. (A stickler for safety and doing things right the first time, he never did shoot his eye out.) Dennis could recognize and spontaneously teach a short history lesson on Chicago’s streets, buildings, and neighborhoods while watching any movie or TV show that was set in the city. He faithfully attended and videotaped his daughter’s classical music recitals and concerts, though country music was more his thing. A DIY enthusiast, there was little Dennis could not fix or rig to work, and he enjoyed customizing and flying remote controlled helicopters and airplanes. He had a deep love for animals and was a popular and memorable fixture at Meadow Run Dog Park in Kalamazoo where he took his granddogs almost daily. Dennis was always willing to lend a helping hand by acting as handyman, assisting with filing taxes, or chasing a turkey off a neighbor’s porch. He enjoyed learning about history and science, told corny jokes, loved a good Scrabble game, and was a magician at driving a manual transmission. One of his many talents was the ability to enable others to shine as he maintained humility about his public and private accomplishments.
Dennis is survived by his wife, CeCelia (Larson) Nowicki and daughter, Stacy (Anders Dahlberg) Nowicki of Kalamazoo; his brother, Robert (Joan) Nowicki of Rochester, Minnesota; six nieces, a nephew, and numerous cousins; his granddogs, Jake, Kai, and Bebe; and grandcats Gunther, Greta, and Lefty. Dennis was preceded in death by his parents, Bruno and Sally (Krzanowska) Nowicki; his beloved cats, Bonnie and Barney; granddogs, Sarah, Sasha, Pippa, and Ike; and grandcats Tiny, Clyde, and Eliza. Dennis will be interred at Fort Custer National Cemetery and a celebration of his life will take place at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to the Kalamazoo Humane Society, West Michigan Cancer Center, or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Dennis’s family is grateful to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan for their invaluable compassion, help, and support.