Dennis Pennington, 64: Marine vet loved to sing

Dennis Pennington decided he’d lived in Virginia long enough, so he moved back to Pennsylvania, where he was born. He didn’t have much money, less than $1 family legend has it, but he was a hard worker and he had a plan. By the time his family caught up with him a couple of weeks later, he’d made more than $85.

“He was 11 at the time,” said older brother Doug Pennington. “And he decided to run away from home. One of the aldermen who knew the family saw him, and held on to him until our daddy could get there. But even as a young man, you could tell Dennis was determined.”

It was Dennis Pennington’s determination that brought him to Atlanta, his brother said, and led him to a singing career.

“After he got out of the military, he packed up and said he was moving to Atlanta and he was going to sing,” said Mr. Pennington, who lives in Huntsville, Ala. .

For the past 12 years, Dennis Pennington worked at Altobeli’s in Alpharetta, where he sang on weekends and waited tables when he wasn’t on stage. He was a natural at entertaining and customer service, said Al Bashiri, who owns the restaurant.

“He was always so sincere and he always had a smile on his face,” Mr. Bashiri said. “And he did a very good Frank Sinatra. If your eyes were closed you couldn’t tell his voice from Sinatra’s on a CD.”

It was memories of Mr. Pennington’s voice and personality that brought close to 200 people to Altobeli’s Sunday night for a memorial gathering. Mr. Pennington, of Alpharetta, died Sept. 19 from complications of cancer. He was 64. Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory, Buford, was in charge of arrangements.

The Marine veteran spent several years touring the country, playing for months at a time in various hotel lounges, his brother said. And while singing was Mr. Pennington’s life-long dream, he was happiest with his family.

Heather Pennington said it was her future husband’s “roaring rendition of Happy Birthday,” that she’ll never forget.

“We both worked at the Brookwood Grill in 1990,” she said. “And sometimes he’d sing it a couple of times a shift, and sometimes not at all. But when I met him, he had two daughters, and he was such a loving father and I was so attracted to that.”

The couple started dating and eventually married in 1997. They have one 10-year-old daughter, Jordan, who loved watching musicals and listening to music with her father.

“He loved a good musical,” Jordan said. “He sang a lot of Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand but when he got home, he listened to the Bee Gees and the Eagles and stuff like that.”

Doug Pennington said as long as his brother had his music and his family, all was right with the world.

“This is the only guy I can say I wanted to be like, and he was my younger brother,” Mr. Pennington said. “He lived a young man’s life, and it was a good one.”

In addition to his wife, daughter and brother, Mr. Pennington is survived by two daughters from a previous marriage, Erica Ferreira and Amber Modesto, both of DeLand, Fla.; mother, Mary Fay Pennington of Huntsville; sisters Mary Oliver of Marion. N.C., and Drinda Pennington of Woodstock; and two granddaughters.

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