It is a truly organized, purposeful and committed man who recognizes the best time to “retire,” to turn in his car keys and to admit it when living alone independently finally is no longer possible.

   It is a truly organized, purposeful and committed man who recognizes the best time to “retire,” to turn in his car keys and to admit it when living alone independently finally is no longer possible.

   One such person was the colorful J. M. (Densey) Denson. An insurance agent for almost a half century, he sold his business in 1969, ready to assume what amounted to volunteer full-time service at Mineral Wells’ First Baptist Church, where he was a member for 61 years, a deacon for 55 and a Sunday school teacher for a half-century. He did even more, including serving as interim choir director. What he enjoyed most, though, was visitation.

   When someone executes admirable planning that worked well for 103 years and is remembered fondly in conversations 33 years after his death, a look back at the life is warranted….

*****

   One day as dusk neared, he was shocked upon returning to his car after a hospital visit. In fact, he was ready to call the police. The 97-year-old seemed certain that someone had stolen his “steering wheel, dash board, clutch, brake--everything.”

  Returning to the church to report on visitation, he breathlessly told his pastor, Rev. Bobby Moore, about the incident. “Luckily, I discovered I had gotten in the back seat,” he admitted.

   He loved the old 1972 Plymouth. He said it “rattled and wheezed, but the noises weren’t a bother.” In fact, he knew the car was running only because he could feel the vibration….

*****

   At age 101, he made simultaneous decisions others might soon have needed to make for him. He gave up his car keys and took up residence in a care center. This meant he could no longer drive to make in-person visits, nor could he deliver gifts of homemade fig and pear preserves, cakes, pies or candies. He could, however, sing Happy Birthday by phone to celebrants. So that’s what he did.

   After all, he’d taken careful notes during his 62-year marriage, so he knew when he was no longer able to maintain a household and turn out preserves, desserts and such.

   He died the day following his 103rd birthday…

*****

   It says much when “Densey stories” continue to be shared in Mineral Wells, where he and Ruth lived for 46 years.

   He was a great example of an others-centered, committed Christian and “people person.”

   Eschewing titles of “retired” or “inactive,” he welcomed the title “emeritus deacon.” He was front-and-center of many of the church’s historical moments. He was deacon chairman the year ground was broken for the education building, and as the oldest living deacon, broke ground for the current sanctuary….

*****

   They had a big “whoop-ti-doo” for his 100th birthday, and for once, he listened while others sang Happy Birthday. Quick of mind and storyteller extraordinaire, he claimed that by age 100, he’d “learned what he needed, been where he pleased and done what he wanted.”

   He made an understandable admission, then, though: “Trouble is, I can’t remember any of it.”

    Denson keenly remembered his first plane ride, however, taken at age 89….

*****

   Denson remembered helping to lead music in numerous revivals, including late greats Dr. George W. Truett, longtime pastor of Dallas First Baptist Church; J. B. Gambrell, editor of the Baptist Standard and R. C. Buckner, founder of Buckner Baptist Benevolences.

   Quoting scriptures readily, he often cited the words of Jesus: “He that would be great among you, let him be servant of all.” His favorite motto was inspired by a familiar quotation from the pen of Stephen Grellet, a French Quaker: “I shall pass through this world but once. If therefore, there is any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.”  Someone passed this along. Age asks, “Now what?” Life answers: “The next thing.” J. M. Denson, a lifelong Rotarian, had many “next things,” and he took care of most of them. With his gifts and smiles, he also had a storehouse of funny stories. He said he had no enemies, claiming he “outlived all of them.”

   On J. M. Denson’s dying day, that’s really all he really needed to do….

*****

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com, newbury blog.