Bill Dennis was born in Ottawa on November 19, 1921, the son of Jean and Clint Dennis, both Maritimers. He died in Calgary, Alberta, on May 24 in his 86th year, having lived most of his adult life in England. He is survived by his wife, Frances, and daughter Anita. His son, Bill jr, predeceased him in 2005.
As a boy, Bill was a bit of a scamp. He found school slow and boring and dropped out at sixteen. Looking for excitement, he lied about his age and joined the Cameron Highlanders, with whom he found himself standing ramrod stiff on Parliament Hill in the Honour Guard for the visit of King George VI in 1939.
When war was declared he left the Highlanders and, still underage, enlisted in the infantry as a Private, impatient to be sent overseas. He spent six and a half years in the Canadian Army, mostly in England but with tours back to Canada to get his commission at Brockville and to train new recruits in British Columbia. To his regret, he never saw action.
After the war he took his discharge in Ottawa and was determined to get back to England, where he had fallen in love with the variety shows, the theatre and the way of life. On short acquaintance, he married Frances, his wife of sixty-one years, and in January 1946 they sailed for England on a banana boat, the only transport available at that time.
Having no idea what he wanted to do, Bill checked out various employment opportunities until in 1947 he teamed up with skilled technicians to start a company to make and rent photo finish cameras for dog racing, a popular sport throughout the UK. This was a new concept, now common in sporting events throughout the world. At its peak, the company had more than eighty cameras all over the UK and Ireland. The equipment, which also provided accurate timing, was also installed in Madrid, Prague, Lahore, Tripoli, Rome, Turin and the Canary Islands.
In 1963 this innovative company teamed up with the Forensic Department of the University of Glasgow to develop a methodology for testing greyhounds for drugs before they raced, doping being a widely prevalent problem that subsequently affected many sports. Labs were set up at all the big greyhound tracks in the UK. Bill made several visits to the United States where interest in the technique was growing.
After many years of successful operation, the company bowed to the growing prevalence of digital cameras and more refined testing systems. In Bill’s own words, it was time to shut up shop. He was seventy-five when a very successful and pace-setting enterprise was brought to a close.
In private life, Bill was a fond father, golfer, party-goer and voracious reader. He was also a bit of a horticulturist, growing tomatoes from seed baked in the Provençal sun and distributing them among his English friends where they were known simply as “Bill’s Tomatoes.” He amassed a large collection of early jazz and ragtime records and liked to accompany the tunes on his ukulele.
Bill loved going camping all over Europe with his kids and towing the motor boat from London to the south of France each August. When that adventure ended, he bought a tumbledown cottage on the shores of Lake Memphremagog in Quebec where he showed his mastery of survival skills. He retired ten years ago to Calgary, where both his children lived.
The family would like to thank Dr Linda Hames and the nursing staff of the Rockyview General Hospital as well as Home Care staff for all their help and support.
A private family Funeral Service will be held. Forward condolences through www.mcinnisandholloway.com.
In living memory of Bill Dennis, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES Park Memorial Chapel, 5008 ELBOW DRIVE S.W. Telephone: (403) 243-8200.Print This Obituary & Condolences