Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dennis Mahar Remembered

Above: A talented and articulate master of ceremonies, Dennis Mahar prepares to introduce Robby Stern of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA) at the Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby Fall Conference in October 2015 in Tacoma.

By Janine Gates

A determined advocate for all, Dennis Mahar will be remembered as someone who was a “go-to” guy, always going the extra mile for seniors, children, family, friends, co-workers, and dogs alike.

Hundreds were in attendance at a celebration of life for longtime community leader Dennis Mahar on Sunday afternoon at The Olympia Center in downtown Olympia.

Mahar, 63, the executive director of the Thurston Mason Lewis Area Agency on Aging, died of esophageal cancer on June 7.

Staying true to his well-known, meticulous attention to detail, Mahar organized his own service with friends and family.

In his own words, read by his friend Dale DeGabriele, Mahar asked that we “celebrate our lives together, make significant impact and pledge stronger engagement, do everything for the better, and always do what you know is right, based on what you know is wrong.”

Above: As Congressman Denny Heck holds the microphone, City of Lacey councilmember Virgil Clarkson remembers Dennis Mahar at the celebration of life for Mahar on Sunday. Heck, in his remarks, credited Mahar with pulling together the people needed to produce Washington State’s first ever written strategic plan for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. A culmination of numerous public and private partnerships, the recent report was developed by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

The afternoon was filled with music, slides, poetry, and stories, as family, neighbors, friends and colleagues shared their memories and told numerous stories about Dennis’ passion for life and genuine love for others. 

Through laughter and tears, the words and phrases used to describe Mahar included tenacious, wise, patient, loyal, organized, humble, articulate, respectful, visionary, “encyclopedic” smart, a true change agent, the “ultimate friend,” a mentor, an outstanding role model “at the ground floor,” a “natural born leader who possessed unbelievable negotiating skills and was able to find compromise in any situation that required it,” a second father to many who was often present at sporting events, birthdays, and holidays, and “someone who cared about how you felt, and tried his best to be for everyone.”

A world traveler, music lover and dog lover, Mahar was also a loving husband to his wife Lorrie, for nearly 40 years. A community member since 1979, Mahar actively served in a variety of leadership capacities with the United Way of Thurston County, the Thurston County Food Bank, Leadership Thurston County, and more.

“He paid attention to virtually everything that was important…and he always wanted to help in the background, with the physical work, even loading up the truck for events,” said Jack Kiley, coordinator for the Washington State Senior Games.

Lois Sauvage, who served as a past member of the Area Agency on Aging Council, said she knew Mahar as a devoted husband and public servant, financial whiz, music lover, and baseball fan. 

....He enjoyed service to others. His mind was a veritable operating system, always balancing, managing, and organizing. He could have managed any major corporation in the country, but to our benefit here in Thurston, Mason, and Lewis counties, he gave us the best leadership any citizen could ask for. Hats off to his moral integrity and boundless energy. I will miss him very much.

Above: Dennis Mahar, in just one of his best elements, at the podium.

For more information about Dennis Mahar’s involvement and advocacy for senior rights and issues, read “Senior Group Examines Statewide Progress, Challenges,” written by Janine Gates in October 2015 at the Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby website,  The article was also reproduced in the January 2016 issue of the Thurston-Mason Senior News, a publication of the Thurston County Council on Aging.