Denis Edwin Essex, Sr.



Denis Edwin Essex Sr. passed away on May 25, 2018, surrounded by family. He was preceded in death by his parents Wilfrid Laurier Essex and Bronia (Stanulis) and brother Wilfrid Laurier Essex II. He is survived by his wife Shirley Essex (Van- Deventer) and his four children Denis Edwin Essex, Jr., Dawn Eades, Crystal Ullrich and Diane Lafata. He has 15 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Denis was born in Los Angeles on January 30, 1934. He graduated from Los Angeles High in 1952. After graduation, he enlisted in the California Army National Guard from 1952-1960, achieving First Lieutenant, Infantry and attended Los Angeles City and Fresno State colleges. While visiting his brother Bill’s home in Visalia in 1959, the girl living across the street, Shirley VanDeventer, caught his eye. He invited her to the National Guard Ball which led to a marriage of 58 years.

In 1961, Denis began teaching as a teacher-principal-bus driver at Hornitos School in Mariposa, teaching grades 1-8 in one classroom. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Fresno State College in 1965 and a General Elementary Life Diploma in 1970. He taught for Mariposa Unified School District from 1961-1981 at Hornitos, Woodland and Mariposa Elementary schools. Denis earned a Master of Arts Degree in Education Educational Administration from California State College Bakersfield in 1980 and finished his administrative credentials in 1979-80.



Denis lived in Bakersfield from 1981-2005, where he worked for the Woman’s Club of Bakersfield for six years and Trans-West Security for 25 years. He attended Fresno Pacific University and earned a Specialist Instruction Credential in Special Education in 1992. He worked as a full-time Special Education Teacher in Kern County until 2005, where his gentle kindness earned him the adoration of his students and co-workers.

Since retiring in 2005, he and Shirley lived at their family home in Mariposa, and he substitute taught for Mariposa Unified School District.

Faith and family came first in his life. As a believer in Christ, he started every day with Bible study and prayer. “Lord bend me” was taped to his lamp the day he became ill. Denis believed in the importance of education. He spent many years continuing his own education and encouraged his children to do the same. Denis also participated in his community by becoming a 32nd Degree Mason and Shriner, donating to charities and staying involved in politics.

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