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Dr. Dennis Keith Smeltzer

April 17, 1948 - December 26, 2022

Dr. Dennis Keith Smeltzer, 74, of Springfield, passed away at 6:55 PM, Monday, December 26, 2022, at Springfield Memorial Hospital.

Dennis was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 17, 1948, the son of Richard Dale and Colette Marie Swyndro Smeltzer. When he was young, his family moved to Paris, Illinois where he spent his childhood years. They later moved to Springfield, Illinois where Dennis attended Springfield High School, graduating in 1966.

Surviving are Dennis’s children, Christine Hansen (Tim Schachtschneider), Bloomington, IL, Michael Smeltzer (Lauren Hughes), Lovettsville, VA, a brother, Richard Smeltzer (Roxanne), Cedar Rapids, MI, and two grandchildren, Nolan and Mara Hansen. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Dennis attended Eastern Illinois University where he received Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Specialist in Education degrees. In 1976, he was awarded a Doctor of Education degree from Northern Illinois University, where he specialized in the emerging field of Instructional Technology.

Dennis’s career in education spanned over four decades. He was employed in a variety of professorial roles at Black Hawk College, Moline, IL; Purdue University-Calumet, Hammond, IN; University of North Texas, Denton, TX; Olney Central College, Olney, IL; St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis, MO; University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, MO; Monroe Public School District, Monroe, WI; Kankakee School District, Kankakee, IL; and Springfield Public Schools, Springfield, IL. During his career, Dennis served as a university department chair and had the pleasure of being the dissertation advisor for many doctoral students.

Dennis possessed many passions, some lifelong and others discovered later. In his youth, he was actively involved in Boy Scouting, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. He inherited an interest in photography from his father, who had a love of both the mechanical and compositional aspects of the craft. During college, he discovered a love for botany and regularly expressed interest in different flora from around the world. His lifelong commitment and appreciation for learning was evident in his YouTube queue, which ranged from videos explaining historical battles to examinations of various organisms under an electron microscope. He also loved to read and watch movies, particularly within the action-adventure, horror, and war genres. One of his most treasured activities was going to the movies with his children, which he did until the very end.

Dennis found immense joy and comfort in the time spent with his family. His love for his grandchildren was absolute, and he spoke about them with abundant pride. He was thrilled to see both grandchildren show an interest in STEM fields, and he went to great lengths to support and nurture their talents. Dennis was also particularly fond of basset hounds and adopted several throughout his lifetime. Most recently, he rescued a basset hound named Brenda, and she provided years of gentle companionship.

Over the years, Dennis developed a deep and personal understanding of justice and injustice, fairness and unfairness. As he struggled with mental illness for much of his adult life, Dennis was acutely aware of the many ills and inequities that so many face in society. Dennis was a proud, card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a donor to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Owing to his parents’ life examples, Dennis sought out opportunities to serve and give back in kindness to those who treated him with respect. Like his mother, Dennis was not shy about giving gifts of candy or kind words to service industry employees and volunteers. One of Dennis’s final wishes was to have his body donated to science, so that the world might learn more about and prevent the difficult mental health issues that he struggled against.

Dennis’s family will remember him for his love of knowledge, his desire to see a more just world, and his perseverance in the face of life’s many challenges. His family would like to thank all those that helped, advocated, and fought for him as he navigated his final battle with glioblastoma, in particular the support staff, nurses, and doctors at Springfield Memorial Hospital and Springfield Clinic.

To honor Dennis’s memory, the family suggests memorials be made to the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, Eastern Illinois University’s Biological Sciences department, and the Guardian Angel Basset Rescue.

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Memorial Information

To honor Dennis’s memory, the family suggests memorials be made to the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, Eastern Illinois University’s Biological Sciences department, and the Guardian Angel Basset Rescue.


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