Kelsey Dennis

Baker City, 1930-2019

Kelsey Dale Dennis, 89, died on Oct. 28, 2019, at Baker City.

Kelsey was a beloved father who was loved very much and will be dearly missed. Kelsey was a hardworking, honest man and those who knew him will always remember his warm smile and kind blue eyes.

Kelsey was born on July 4, 1930, in his family’s home on Broadway Street in Baker City. He was the third son of Earle Francis Dennis and Verlie Agnes Graven Dennis. Kelsey lived nearly his entire life in Baker County. Kelsey was from a pioneer family. His paternal great-great grandfather, Abraham Tharpe, traveled the Oregon Trail to the territory of Oregon in 1845 where his son, Abraham, was born in 1848. Kelsey’s grandfather David Dennis (1861-1941), came from Mower, Minnesota, on the Oregon Trail in the 1870s settling at Joseph, and in 1897 he married Augusta Tharpe (1871-1936). Later the family moved to Baker County in the Hells Canyon area in the very first years of the 1900s. Kelsey’s maternal grandparents, Clint Graven, (1884-1967) and Callie Rose Graven (1884-1921), came from Amega, Missouri, in 1904 settling at New Bridge where later that year Kelsey’s mother, Verlie, was born. Kelsey had many memories of Baker in the 1930s where some ranchers still came to town on horses or in wagons. There were still horse-watering troughs on Main Street and the trains were driven with steam engines.

Kelsey attended Baker Schools and played football and basketball. Kelsey was the quarterback of the football team and was a letterman. He also was a member of 4-H and raised a black Angus bull which was controversial to the area ranchers at that time since Herefords were mainly raised. It was in high school that Kelsey met Patricia Dusbabek, and they were married in 1947. They had four children. In 1948 the couple lived at Roseburg where Kelsey was a log scaler at the Roseburg Mill. In 1949 the family moved back to Baker and Kelsey worked for the Chevrolet Garage. In 1952 the family moved to the Territory of Alaska and lived in Juneau for a couple of years where Kelsey worked as a mechanic.

In 1954 the family moved back to Baker where Kelsey built a house on 17th Street. Kelsey built stock cars and raced at the Baker race track where he won trophies. Other hobbies included hunting and fishing. He enjoyed bird hunting along with big game hunting and he harvested many trophy deer and elk. Kelsey was an incredible marksman and loved to demonstrate his skills by flipping a bottle cap up in the air and drawing his pistol and hitting the cap.

The family owned and operated Dennis Auto Wrecking from 1957 until 1962. In 1961 the family bought land on Dogtown Creek (Dry Creek), southeast of Baker where Kelsey built a beautiful home and ranched until 1971. Kelsey was the owner operator of Dennis Well Drilling from 1973 to 1995 and drilled hundreds of wells in Eastern Oregon, and he also held an Idaho license. In 1978 Kelsey and Patricia built a home at Old Auburn and lived there for 24 years where he enjoyed mining for gold. Kelsey was a talented inventor and a gifted metal fabricator. Some of the items he built are still in use today.

Kelsey was a very proud American, appropriately born on the Fourth of July. Kelsey was an American patriot interested in Republican politics and was never shy about stating his political opinion. He was a member of the National Rifle Association and a property rights group, Oregonians in Action.

Kelsey is survived by his four children, Linda Dennis Patton of Baker City, Kelsey Earle Dennis of Yuma, Arizona, Stephen Dennis of the Durkee area and Valerie Dennis Russell and her husband, Bob, of Medical Springs; seven grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia; his parents and his three brothers, LaVaughn, Wayne and Lynn Dennis, as well as his stepfather, Clyde Wilkins.

For those who would like to make a donation in memory of Kelsey, the family suggests either the local YHEC (Youth Hunter Education Challenge) or Baker County Meals on Wheels through Tami’s Pine Valley Funeral Home & Cremation Services, P.O. Box 543, Halfway, OR 97834. Online condolences can be made at

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