Monte Campbell Dennis: An Appreciation

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By Pepper Parr

May 26th, 2021



He was a quiet, intense man.  He didn’t roar but when he began to speak – you listened.

When an issue caught his attention he was quick to react – and just didn’t know how to give up.

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Monte Campbell Dennis 1941-2021

I don’t remember when I first met him, probably at a meeting in his Walkers Line home.  I could never remember the address but always recognized the railway marker at the bottom of his driveway.

He was one of three who were named in a libel suit Vince Rossi served us with.  Rossi was the owner of the Burlington Executive Air Park, where he dumped tonnes of landfill on the property that Monte could see from his house.   The rural community took exception to what they believed was an illegal site alteration with fill that was polluted.

They Gazette broke the story and reported at length on the many community meetings and the several court cases.  When the city lost an appeal they decided to throw in the towel.  Rossi didn’t withdraw the libel claims – at least not right away.  Several years later in a Brampton Court House meeting room, with a supernumerary judge urging the parties to find a solution. An “arrangement” was put forward by Rossi’s  legal counsel that had almost everyone walk out of the court house happy with the solution.

The solution included a gag order that we were not supposed to talk about.  No one got costs and there were no financial damage awards . It was over and that was what Monte wanted.  His health was failing and he wanted it brought to an end.

Monte left Burlington in 2018; moved to Amherstview to be closer to family. His health no longer allowed him to drive his motorcycle but it didn’t stop him from getting involved with his new community. .

It didn’t take him long to become a member of the local railroad hobby club where he gave a presentation. Railway paraphernalia could be found in every room of the house.

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Monte Dennis on the far right – at a city council meeting when the Air Park was on the agenda. Ian Blue Counsel for the city is at the far left. The city manager is briefing the delegation.

Monte tinkered. An engineer by profession there was also a lot of the draftsman in him.  He would get an idea and then create a plan that included a full set of drawings  to ensure that it would work.  It usually did but not everyone saw it the way he did.

The lower level of his home was a fully equipped workshop.  You could find him bent over a lathe or cutting a length of hard wood against the grain if that is what was needed.

Monte was the kind of guy who just naturally went against the grain.  He used a Dean Alfange quote to define himself. ““I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon…if I can.” He could and he was.

He once had an idea that he was certain would solve some of the Brant street traffic problems in Burlington.  He built a model and convinced Rick Goldring to come out to his house to look at.  Goldring was polite by nature – but the idea didn’t leave the house with the former Mayor.

The battle over the Air Park expansion in Burlington was not Monte’s first run in with people who wanted to convert good farm land into air strips.

The attempt to build an airport in Pickering resulted in the expropriation of hundreds of homes that are nothing more than farm land today.  The homes that were there are gone.  One of those was home to Monte and his family.

Monte Campbell DENNIS passed away on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in Kingston: he was 80 years young.  He spent his last evening with his son and daughter-in-law.

Formerly of many great places across southern Ontario including Burlington (Mount Nemo), Waterloo Region, and Queensborough. He also spent some time in Minnesota, New York State, and Alabama.

Monte was a Queen’s Scout; you would have guessed that if you had met him. He surrounded himself with passionate people and loved to host parties with lots of good food, and laughter. He seemed to come up with a solution to any problem that involved fixing something.

When he was getting ready to move he donated all kinds of railroad stuff to the Freeman Station.

A proud Alumni of the University of Waterloo (1967) and Professional Engineer, Monte worked for IBM in the early part of his career in research and development, including the Apollo missions. He retired from teaching Technology at Conestoga College where he encouraged and challenged many students.

Monte felt honored to volunteer for two sessions in Ghana, Africa teaching locals the skills they needed to repair and maintain medical equipment.

Monte took every chance he could get to tour any kind of facility, manufacturing plant, natural wonder, or historic site, to see how things worked and the people or reason behind it.

Monte was the go-to person for anything technical and instilled confidence in his kids that we can build or repair anything, and that hard work is actually fun. They, along with many others, will remember him for his garden railway, and the stone horses in the yard. Monte always had multiple interesting projects on the go and shared his progress and talents everyone.

When there was a serious matter, one of a personal nature, Monte would reach out to the impressive bar he had and pull out a bottle of Scotch, two glasses and invite you out to the gazebo for a conversation.

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Completing the book was one of the last things Monte did. He was proud of that cover.

Monte had an unusual obsession for sauerkraut. This involved a family business fermenting sauerkraut in St. Jacobs and Milverton plus the annual sauerkraut making parties in Burlington, and years of subjecting family and friends to strange and unusual concoctions made with kraut! With help from family in his final months he was able to finally publish an all-inclusive sauerkraut cookbook.

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He had an eye for an opportunity. People across the province bought his product.

There are deli’s across the province that carried Monte’s sauerkraut.  There is an event in Picton in August that will feature the official launch of his book. Jean, his partner, will send you one if you are interested.

Monte had a sense of humor about the realities of life; the latest political shenanigans were something he would go on about at some length.


Monte Dennis delegating before Burlington city council.

He believed in individual accountability and was quick to hold elected officials to account, using the power of community to make a difference. He advocated for responsible land use throughout his life.  He was never afraid to stand up or speak out. Monte never stopped caring and lending his voice or expertise to do what he felt was right.

He made a contribution, he made a difference; he will be missed but not forgotten.

Monte is survived by his partner Jean Stuart; his children Scott (wife Melanie); Kara (husband Dean); brother Edward (wife Judy); grandchildren Brooke (husband Nick), Ila and Emerson; great-grandchildren Charlie and Thatcher; and a host of blended family, and friends.

Predeceased by his second wife Lillian Ruminsky (2004) and brother Robert Dennis (2014).

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