A reminder For those old fogies out there, Dennis was mostly known for his roles on "Dragnet," "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun Will Travel," and his starring role in "McCloud," (I loved this show), that aired from 1970 thru 1977.
He was such an interesting person. He was a mid-westerner who spent some of his time growing up in Joplin, MO which is where several of my friends now live. Side note: It was the Joplin Globe newspaper that got their hands on pictures of Bonnie and Clyde so law enforcement finally knew what they looked like. He then went to the University of Oklahoma where he was a track star. When WWII broke out, he became a fighter pilot for the Navy. When the war ended he married his high school sweetheart who he was married to for 60 years before he passed away from prostrate cancer at the age of 81. They had three children. He tried out for the 1948 Olympics but didn't make it; he finished right behind the legendary Bob Mathias.
Dennis, not unlike John Denver, was very active in conservation and alternative energy. He had a foundation that served around 150,000 meals a week for the homeless in L.A. Although he certainly came across as a "good old boy," he was one of the original Hollywood progressives. He was a vegetarian from 1958. He did yoga and studied meditation through the Indian guru who established the Self-Realization Fellowship in the United States. He was a life-long Democrat.and organizer for George McGovern's campaign for president in 1972.
I've got to say Hollywood did a great job of creating a persona through Dennis' roles because there's no way I would've thought he lived the lifestyle that he did. I guess I could say the same about Rock Hudson. :)