Dennis James Saulys was a gregarious man whose circle of friends was wide and inclusive. He “never met a stranger” because, in talking to them, they readily became friends. He got the most out of life by doing what gave him pleasure—fishing, taking time with family and friends and doing for others.
Dennis was born in Racine, Wisconsin to Joseph John and Frances Ann (Cepukenas) Saulys on December 14, 1946, during a time of national optimism following World War II. Dennis was the apple of his grandparents’ eye and big brother of Tom and Jo Ann. They grew up in nearby Kenosha on the shores of Lake Michigan, where their father worked as a butcher while their mother remained at home. Together Dennis’ parents raised the children to appreciate their Lithuanian heritage and Catholic faith.
Dennis attended St. Peter’s Catholic Grade School and was an altar boy at the church. Despite a slightly mischievous (and some might say rebellious) streak, he was disciplined enough to take accordion lessons beginning at age seven. At age 14, when his father gave him the option of discontinuing lessons, Dennis did give them up, but he retained enough of his skills to be able to play even as an adult, which he did on occasion. However, his true passion was an outdoor sport that he maintained throughout his life.
Dennis’ grandpa first introduced him to fishing when they took an excursion to the Chippewa Flowage in Hayward, Wisconsin. It was a very long drive from home in the days before the freeway system, but in the years to come, Dennis would put on many, many more miles to become the expert he was at fishing. Even at age 12, he was able to guide people to the “hot spots” where the fish were biting. That was also the age at which he had a boating accident that could have been disastrous if not for his experience on the water. As Dennis started the boat motor, he fell out. With the empty boat circling around him, he managed to crawl back in and got it under control. Fortunately, Dennis was safe and the incident did not dampen his enthusiasm for fishing.
During his high school years, Dennis could be found at Becker Cigar Store playing pinball instead of studying at the library or shooting pool around town. In fact, he became proficient enough at pool to win competitions and many awards. Dennis graduated from St. Joseph’s Catholic High School with the Class of 1964.
In 1966, Dennis enlisted in the U.S. Army and honorably served his country during the height of the Vietnam War. Upon Dennis’ discharge in 1969, his father was so proud and thankful that he had made it home safely, that he bought Dennis a 1963 baby blue Impala convertible.
When he was first home from war, Dennis had taken a job with Snap On Tools, but the factory work was tedious to him, so he went to work for Triangle Appliance as a delivery truck driver. Of course, whatever job he had, it always had to fit with Dennis’ hobby. His family often said that the only reason he worked was to support his fishing habit, and everywhere he went, Dennis took a fishing rod “just in case.” The Hayward tradition, first begun with his grandfather, continued for 37 years, and every spring and fall for two weeks at a time, Dennis headed for Chippewa Flowage with the battle cry: “FISH ON!”
Other recreation that Dennis enjoyed always included friends. He played softball and pool in organized tavern leagues, and the fun and camaraderie he found at a local bar called Rumors, became his “Cheers,”where “everybody knew his name” and those friends became his second family. They were especially big Green Bay Packers fans, and one year when Dennis was meant to drive his sister and family to the airport on a “Packer Sunday,” his Rumors’ buddies stepped up. They all pitched in to hire a limo to take the family to the airport so Dennis wouldn’t miss the game with them.
Whatever Dennis did, he did well and for others. He loved to cook, and being a stickler for doing things “the right way,” he watched the Food Network to pick up cooking techniques. If cooking away from home, he always brought his own utensils to make sure he had the proper tools for the job. Whenever he came back from his fishing trips, he would freeze some of the fish and then cook them up for his family on the holidays. It became a family tradition to have Dennis’ catch at Christmas.
With his family in mind and his interest in gadgetry at his fingertips, Dennis was constantly on the lookout for items to make their life easier. For example, he once ordered a particular potato grater from Lithuania to make a special potato dish called kugelis. When a family member needed to buy a certain product, Dennis researched what and where it was available and reported back with the best brand and price. In this and many other ways, Dennis was sharp and knowledgeable without coming off as a know-it-all. He never bragged though he had a lot to be proud of.
Dennis delighted in life—listening to all types of music and becoming known as a decent dancer, getting lost in the joy of fishing, sharing laughs and good times with his friends, and putting family at the forefront of his love and attention.
Dennis James Saulys, age 65 years, passed away peacefully after a valiant fight with colon cancer on Sunday April 15, 2012. He was the beloved brother of Tom (Gail) Saulys and Jo Ann (Peter) Rodriguez; loving uncle of Paul, Phillip, Alora, and Ava Rodriguez and Janise and Joseph Saulys; fond nephew of Marilyn Saulys; and dear cousin of Julie Shepperd, LaVonne Krusa, John Saulys Jr., Mark Saulys, Doug Saulys, Janet Cannady, James Mohrbacher, Dean Cepukenas, Peter Cepukenas, and Ann Williams. Dennis is further survived by many loyal and dear friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Frances (nee Cepukenas) Saulys.
Special thanks is accorded to the Staff at the VA Medical Center in North Chicago for their loving and compassionate care. With fishing being Dennis’ life-long passion, the fish population in the Chippewa Flowage now has a chance to grow, and if desired, memorials may be directed to Fishing Has No Boundaries, Inc. 15453 County Hwy B, Box 175, Hayward, WI 54843 or online www.fhnbinc.org.