Dennis Hart - Brookings

Nov. 24, 1934 - Sept. 6, 2022

Dennis Elwood Hart passed peacefully from this life into eternal life before dawn on Sept. 6, 2022, holding the hand of the love of his life, Carolyne. Though Alzheimer’s disease had gradually erased Dennis’s entertaining stories of travelling the world to negotiate oil exploration contracts, fly-fishing in the mountains of Colorado, and sailing the Pacific as a Navy signalman, he never lost his love for his children, his wife, and his savior, Jesus Christ. And weeks before his passing, he could still sing “You Are My Sunshine” and “Edelweiss.”
Dennis was born Nov. 24, 1934, in Sioux City, Iowa, and grew up there, graduating from “The Castle on the Hill” in 1953. Dennis graduated from Iowa State University in 1959, having studied architecture and engineering. Midway through college, he completed his military service obligation as a signalman and quartermaster on the destroyer U.S.S. Preston in the Pacific.
After working for Morse Chain Company in Chicago and Ithaca, New York, Dennis married Melinda Bresee and moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the U.S. Patent Office during the day and attended Georgetown Law School at night, graduating with a J.D. in 1964.
After law school, Dennis worked as a prosecutor (assistant district attorney), defense attorney, Counsel for the U.S. Treasury Department in the Nixon administration’s War on Organized Crime, Washington lobbyist for Standard Oil of Indiana, and negotiator for Amoco International Oil Company (in Chicago, then Houston, and finally London). This phase of his life provided many interesting experiences, but most important to him was the birth of his two older children, Russell (Rusty) and Denise.
Dennis’s adventures traveling the world for Amoco negotiating oil exploration agreements with foreign governments took him to 27 countries throughout Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. Amoco’s early interest in China led to a University of Chicago far eastern studies major being hired to translate Chinese geological journals into English during the summer of 1979. That intern was Carolyne LaGrange, and throughout Dennis’s life he declared their 40-year marriage the most unlikely but happiest story of his life.
In 1983, Dennis left Amoco in London to start Hart International in the San Francisco Bay area where he and Carolyne made their home for 12 years. It was during their time in California that Dennis and Carolyne gave their lives to Christ, being baptized on Aug. 5, 1990, in Lincoln Glen Church.
Dennis’s childhood dream of living in Colorado became reality in 1995, when they relocated to Fort Collins and purchased a home on Baker Lake, with fishing from his own dock and short drives to Rocky Mountain trout streams.
At age 62, Dennis began the final great adventure of his life, with the birth of twins, Hannah and Hugh. Being a full-time, hands-on, older dad was something that Dennis always cherished and threw himself into with humor and gusto. When his peers told him, “Better you than me,” he always responded, “It keeps me young!”
Singlehandedly caring for toddlers during Carolyne’s business trips led to many “We had an adventure today!” phone calls, at least one E.R. visit, and hilarious “Dad’s in charge” photos and videos. He became a fixture on the playground at Resurrection Christian School and on the sidelines at soccer and football practices. Dennis remained an enthusiastic father throughout their high school and college years, bragging on Hannah and Hugh’s accomplishments, even if he didn’t always get the details straight.
Moving to Brookings in 2017 brought easy access to concerts, community events and family gatherings. Having Hannah, Hugh, and Ha Ri Jang, a.k.a. The Hart Triplets, in Brookings for extended periods was good for Dennis and invaluable for Carolyne.
Dennis attended South Dakota Art Museum programs and went to work there with Carolyne for a period before going to Edgewood Vista Memory Care for day care, where he embraced his “job” as support staff assistant. From March 2020 until June 2022 when he moved to The Neighborhoods, Dennis was cared for at home by Interim Healthcare aides who joined him at the kitchen table for conversation, music, art projects and meals. Brookings Health System Hospice staff and volunteers also provided services to Dennis and the family, initially in-home and later at The Neighborhoods.
Dennis’s transition to The Neighborhoods was bittersweet as it meant the end to more than 40 years of living with Carolyne, but he was happy in “Dennis’s Dorm Room,” filled with family photos, artwork, books, stuffed animals and music. He appreciated the care he received; the family loved visiting him as wife, daughter and son rather than caregiver; and the staff enjoyed his cheery demeanor, sense of humor, and repertoire of songs. We miss that, too, and hold onto the treasure chest of memories we each have of Dennis.
Dennis is survived by his wife Carolyne of Brookings; children: Rusty (Janice) Hart of St. Charles, Illinois, Denise (Chad) Alfeld of Simsbury, Connecticut, Hannah Hart of Salt Lake City, Hugh (Rachael) Hart of Iowa City, Iowa and Ha Ri Jang of Brookings and Bucheon, South Korea; grandchildren: Russell Hart, Adam Hart and Erin Hart, all of Chicago, Meegan Hart of Boulder, Colorado, Emma Alfeld of New York City, Ellie Alfeld of Boston; mothers-in-law: Harriet Swedlund of Brookings and Laura LaGrange of Ames, Iowa; sisters-in-law: Esther Hart of Ridgecrest, California, Elizabethann (Luciano Del Bufalo) LaGrange of New York City, Pamela Swedlund of Wichita, Kansas, Robyn Renz of Des Moines, Iowa, and Molly Taiber of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and five nieces, two nephews and six great-nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents Ivan and Anna Hart, brother Richard, infant sister, fathers-in-law William LaGrange and Dean Swedlund, and brother-in-law Eric Swedlund.
Dennis worshipped at Holy Life Tabernacle, where a memorial service will be held Nov. 5 at 10:30 a.m. For memorial suggestions and a more extensive obituary, visit


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