It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye too early to Dennis Herttua, age 74, of Ashtabula, Ohio, who died of dementia and COVID-19 on Thursday, December 31, 2020 at Jefferson Healthcare Center.
Dennis was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, son of Elmer and Esther (Izzi) Herttua and was a long-time Ashtabula resident. He loved Ashtabula Harbor and was proud of his Finnish and Italian heritage.
A 1964 graduate of Ashtabula Harbor High School, Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Gannon University and a Master’s in Education. An Air Force veteran, Dennis was stationed in Greenland where he studied meteorology. He was a proud liberal who loved American history, which he enjoyed by reading and watching the History Channel. He was a great admirer of the Kennedy family and worked on George McGovern’s presidential campaign.
His professional expertise was in workforce training and curriculum development and he especially enjoyed helping young people. He formed strong relationships with many and served as an inspiration and mentor. One of his former students said Dennis had been a second father to him. Another wrote to him, “Know that no matter what happens, knowing you has had a profound impact on who I am.” He was especially passionate about his work with Case Western Reserve University’s Career Beginnings program which empowered high school students to reach their goals. He was very proud of what his students accomplished. The time he spent with them, he truly cherished, and he formed friendships that became family.
Dennis was an avid Cleveland Indians and Browns fan. He would call Jim, his childhood friend, long distance during games so they could simultaneously enjoy and critique the teams, sometimes for hours on end. He loved his memorable trip to spring training camp in Arizona with his friend Phil where he was thrilled to meet Bob Feller.
Dennis’s passion was people. He was kind and sensitive and loved to help others, always giving of himself. He treasured family gatherings, enjoyed music, especially from the 60’s, and cherished his connections with lifelong friends. He leaves a collection of impressive artwork and formerly showed his work at an Ashland gallery. Portraits of people were his specialty. Dennis will be lovingly remembered as a kind and gracious man and a positive force, who brought empowerment, joy, creativity, and love into the world.
His family thanks the caring and dedicated staff at Jefferson Healthcare Center where Dennis resided the past two years and to Bella Care Hospice for their comfort and compassion.
Dennis is survived by his sister Vickie and brother-in-law Jim Barry of Mentor; brother-in-law Sam Pappas of Saybrook; sister-in-law Rita Herttua of San Diego; four nephews: Jimmy Barry, Eric, Neil and Cory Herttua; his former wife, Chris Mayes of West Salem; and loving friends Phil and Michelle Biondo and family; Chris and Crystal Hamilton and godchildren Breanna Denise, Darien, and Derron Hamilton; Jim DeGeorge and family; and confidante and soulmate Pam Nicodemus. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Richard E. Herttua and sister Carol M. Pappas and his two oldest brothers, Johnathan and Benjamin, who died in infancy.
Arrangements are by Fleming & Billman Funeral Directors, Inc. of Ashtabula. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be no funeral at this time but we hope to have a memorial gathering when it is safe to do so. Memorial contributions in his name may be made to Bella Care Hospice (Ashtabula Region), 1933 State Route 45, Austinburg, Ohio 44010. Guest book and obituary are online at fleming-billman.com and starbeacon.com.
“Of all the names in this big world of mine
The name Dennis Herttua stays on my mind.
That was the time my dreams began
When a man had so much faith in this young man.”
[from a 2006 poem written by former student Homer Thompson]
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