Pamela “Pam” Denno 71, was born, February 17, 1949 in Newton, Kansas to Albert Miller & Elizabeth (Shultz) Miller.
Pam attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and graduated from Newton High School in 1967. She loved to dance and spend time with her friends.
Pam and Keith have lived in Newton most of their married lives. Pam was a mother, softball coach, housewife, and waitress at Chong’s Restaurant for 13 years. She was always involved in the lives of her daughters. She found joy coaching softball with her friend, Lupe Llamas. Their team became the one to beat for several years. Pam would drive around from house to house to pick up girls that she coached and they all loaded into the back of the truck for early morning practice at Centennial Park. After practice, many times she would take the girls to Chong’s for lunch. As her daughters played sports she was their biggest fan in the stands. She was loved by many of their friends growing up and to this day many people know her as “Mom Denno”.
As Pam raised her daughters – they realized she was a “hard ass” –she had rules and if you disobeyed you knew you would have consequences – from standing in the corners of the house for an hour, to being grounded for a week, to not going out with friends, and many more.
She loved music and when you would come over many times she had her stereo blaring to whatever tunes she was in the mood for.
As her daughters started dating people – one thing she was known for was to always have fun and also be intimidating to those that were in her home. Many young men would know that she used to throw food at meals at her house and it became such a joke that even the grandchildren have experienced her orneriness. She wasn’t even embarrassed when doing this at a public restaurant.
Her health began to change in late 1990 when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. She became physically disabled in 1993 due to these debilitating diseases. For many years she was able to remain active, but at the same time experienced pain she tried to hide from everyone.
Her first grandson, Brian, was born in 2000 and she was able to provide care to him daily when Amy went back to work. She became his constant support. She and Brian had a bond like no other – she took him to Storytime at the library weekly and frequent lunches at McDonalds. Brian is the only grandchild to remember when she was able to walk.
Pam was able to be with her daughters as her grandchildren were born. Mom stood by and supported Melanie when she lost her daughter, Maddie.
The grandchildren remember coming to grandmas and spending time together hanging out in the basement, playing basketball or with the pretend guns. They recall their favorite snacks being her Rice Krispy treats with sprinkles or Graham Crackers with pink frosting.
Pam loved each of her grandchildren and you would see her attending their events, whether it was Brian singing in Railaires, Gehrig playing in the orchestra, Hallie & Gehrig playing basketball or Brian and Anthony playing hockey. She was there and proud of everything they were doing.
As time passed, she continued to need more assistance, it became more difficult for her to attend activities. Keith would help her get up in the morning while he was still working full time. When he would come home from work – they would typically go out to eat evening meals – they made many friends over the years at area restaurants. She loved frequenting Casa Fiesta and the staff there became a part of her family. Keith was her caregiver as well as her husband. He provided the most compassionate and supportive care to her.
The time came when she was falling more at home and she needed to have more assistance than Keith could provide. They decided she would move into Schowalter Villa in Hesston. Mom was younger than the majority of the residents and this made her transition there somewhat challenging. She found herself drawn to the staff – she listened to them and shared with them her stories about life as they did with her. The connection she made with staff from every department was undeniably what made her experience at Schowalter Villa meaningful. Over time she realized that she could be helpful to the residents that resided there. She would wrap silverware for every meal – something she had done for years working at Chong’s. She helped hand out the menus and assure that the residents had what they needed.
She found her comfortable place at the “men’s table”. She sat with 5 different gentlemen. They became her family. She spent time helping them all complete their menus, she knew what they would and wouldn’t want to eat. She even became a referee at times when things got out of hand. Overall, she was realizing that the place she lived may have changed, but she found a much larger purpose in helping others. She felt such friendship with all of the staff and truly cared about what was happening in their lives. I think her family size grew exponentially. To know she was truly happy is what made all the difference. She had made lifelong friendships with both staff and residents. She was really living her best life.
When COVID-19 came on the scene, she never thought how long this would draw out. She was used to seeing Keith twice a day. As time went on she became more depressed. It was difficult for her to not be with Keith. She began losing weight and not eating much. Then she experienced a horrible fall that resulted in cognitive and physical changes that could not be reversed. As months past, she became more difficult to understand – she tried to communicate the best she could and we all learned to adapt. Eventually God decided she was needed much more in heaven than here on earth. On July 17th a little after 8pm she was called to her heavenly home – much sooner than any of us would have wanted, but we know that she is pain free and walking with all of the angels.
Survivors include: husband, Keith; daughters Amy (Michael) Wedel, Melanie Babbitt; niece Kim (Jay)Hardy; grandchildren: Brian Wedel, Anthony Wedel, Hallie Watkins, and Gehrig Watkins. Brothers Bill (Debbie) Miller and Michael (Dianna) Miller; Sisters: Pam Waltner and Paula (John) Flaming;
She was preceded in death by: son, Brian Denno; granddaughter, Maddie Watkins; her parents; brother, John Miller and brother-in-law Gordon Waltner.
A graveside committal service will be 10:00 a.m. Friday July 24 2020 at Greenwood Cemetery Newton, Kansas with Pastor Hope Flask officiating. Mask and Social Distancing are kindly asked of friends and family.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers memorials be sent to Schowalter Villa in care of Petersen’s Funeral Home to help establish an Employee Appreciation Fund that will be a way to leave a legacy to the many staff that mom loved.