My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Knife Maker Dan Dennehy, RIP

Dan holding the knife he made for G. Gordon Liddy, its sheath hand-tooled with "G.G.L." Like many veterans, Dan was not a fan of the Oscar-winning actress.

I just learned of the death Dan Dennehy, a long-time custom knifemaker. I met Dan in the early 1990s at the Jeff Cooper Reunions at the NRA's Whittington Center. He cut quite a figure: thin as a rail, wearing a buckskin mountain-man outfit, and sporting a ponytail and a small earring in the shape of a shamrock. Dan entertained us with a demonstration of tomahawk throwing and the recitation of a poem he knew by heart, "The Lure of the Tropics.

In the course of my research on bowie knives I came across several mentions of Dan in books on knives. For example, from William Cassidy's The Complete Book of Knife Fighting (1975): "Many veterans of the Pacific Theatre in World War II may recall purchasing knives from then-Chief Petty Officer Dan Dennehy, who has since retired from the Navy to pursue the knifemaking profession in earnest. Dennehy's Recon Special model is a particular favorite with many service personnel, and warmly recommended."

Paul Kirchner, Dan Dennehy, and Dennis Tueller at Whittington in 1994.

Here is his obituary:
Daniel John Dennehy, 88
Posted: Tuesday, Jan 18th, 2011
DEL NORTE - Prominent custom knifemaker Daniel John Dennehy, 88, died Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, in Del Norte.

He was born Jan. 15, 1923 in New York City, the youngest son of Irish immigrants Daniel Francis Dennehy and Nora K. Hally. He attended Catholic schools in New York City. In 1940, he joined the U.S. Navy, serving during World War II in several Pacific campaigns, including Saipan, the Philippines and others. He also served in the Korean War and during Vietnam. He retired from active duty in 1970 as a chief petty officer. Dennehy made his first knife during World War II, selling them to Marines before their invasion landings. One of his achievements in the late 1960s was donating, to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the first Bowie knife on display at the Alamo in San Antonio, where it still is located in the gift shop museum.
 Dan grinding a knife in his Del Norte workshop.
In 1970, he was one of the 11 founders of the Knifemaker's Guild, along with prominent knifemakers and friends, Bob Loveless and A.G. Russell. Dennehy championed the use of Micarta, a prefabricated material that most custom knifemakers use today for their handles. He helped to spread the popularity of the material by telling his friend and foremost knifemaker of the time, Bo Randall, about it -- and it caught on quickly throughout the industry. For that and other achievements, he was inducted into the Cutlery Hall of Fame in 2007.

Dennehy also was an expert knife and tomahawk thrower, gaining entry into the Knifethrowers Hall of Fame, and demonstrating his skills at knife shows nationwide. He taught hundreds of people how to throw knives, including his sons, John and Kevin, who joined him at many of the demonstrations.

His Dan-D knives were featured in many national publications such as Sports Illustrated, Field & Stream, Gun World, Sports Afield and many others.
 A Dan-D bowie knife.

Among the many owners of Dennehy knives were John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Carlos Hathcock, Barry Goldwater, G. Gordon Liddy, musician Steve Miller and many other celebrities.

His knives, adorned with the Dan-D shamrock logo, have been used by U.S. military members in every war since World War II. Dennehy was proud that his knives were used by many elite forces including the Navy SEALS, Marine Force Recon and the Army's Special Forces. Dennehy was an avid hunter and fisherman -- and often could be found pitching a tee pee at local mountain man rendezvous. He was an author and editorial writer, who was published in many newspapers and magazines. He loved to argue politics through his editorials and was a voracious reader.

Dan Dennehy at Whittington.
Dennehy had many friends in the San Luis Valley, who would spend hours at his home listening to his recitation of long poetry and stories. His friends knew he loved his dogs Sheila and Jody. He was also very fond of his 15-year employee, Deb Lindsay, who worked tirelessly as a caregiver. Lindsay's son, Neil, also worked for Dennehy for many years as an apprentice in his knife shop.

He also was a volunteer deputy sheriff for the Rio Grande County Sheriff's Office in the 1970s. Dennehy was a graduate of several shooting courses, ranging from shotgun to pistol, operated by friend Col. Jeff Cooper, who was an expert on pistol craft and an editor of Guns & Ammo magazine. He frequently was a guest on G. Gordon Liddy's national radio program.
Dan Dennehy and knife-throwing champion Joe "Brokenfeather" Darrah at the Mountain Man Throw in Creede, Colorado. On the table in front of Dan are throwing knives he made.
His five older sisters, Eileen McGoldrick, Mary Frances Burger, Mona McCann, Shirley Mack and Justine Meehan preceded him in death.

Survivors include by his sons, John D. Dennehy, Loveland, Colo.; Kevin B. Dennehy, Denver; Daniel F. Dennehy, of Phoenix; daughter Nonie J. Rauen of Corpus Christi, Texas; eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Cremation was chosen and a memorial service will be scheduled for a later date. Contributions may be made to the Conour Animal Shelter in care of the Upper Rio Grande Animal Society Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 369, Monte Vista, Colo. 81144

Funeral arrangements are by Strohmayer's Funeral Home, Monte Vista. Updated information is available at the Daniel John Dennehy Facebook page.

7 comments:

  1. This is John D Dennehy, Dan's son. We have set up a Dan-D page on our website www.thewildirishrose.com
    We will be doing something to take over production of Dan-D knives and are looking at a Commemorative limited edition model. My Dad taught me to make the knives years ago. Plans are only in the formative stage at this time as can be imagined. Feel free to contact us.

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  2. NEW POST - This is John D. Dennehy. With the passing of my father Dan-D, we are creating a newly renovated website with a page dedicated to the history of my father and his knifemaking background. We will also have a page of available for sale knives with the Dan-D stamp that have been made under his direction that were passed onto me at his death. Additionally, my current business “the wild Irish rose” will be changing its name to “J.D. Custom Leatherworks and Knives” as we merge with Dan-D Custom Knives. www.thewildirishrose.com will redirect you to the new website when it is completed. Until then you can visit our current site...I will be creating and designing a custom leather piece to mount a commemorative limited edition model knife honoring my father. This is only in the formative stage.

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  3. The new name of John's company will be J.D. Dennehy Custom Leatherworks and Knives... This has been a hectic month with his dad's passing and all the transition it presented.His post had the incorrect name (my fault). If you have any questions for John - you can email him at JDDennehy@yahoo.com or call him at 970-218-7128... Thank you for all your support as John makes this transition in his career and with upholding the Dan-D Custom Knives reputation and quality.

    Sherilyn M. Dennehy

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  4. Dan was a great guy. He stayed with me when he came to L.A. to visit with Bob and the Loveless shop. He was always very good to me and I'm proud that I was privileged to know him. I'm thankful for his life and his work!
    Steve Johnson

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  5. I have come across a custom made knife by Mr. Dennehy. I am wondering if this might be a place to start to sell it? There is a hand tooled sheath that goes with it. driftless@me.com

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  6. The Wild Irish Rose is up again, you can contact John for your custom knives or leather works at; jddennehy@yahoo.com or visit our website thewildirishrose.com. Our pleasure of serving you with your custom orders, or call 970-218-7128 with your orders as well. Deborah Rice

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  7. Hello Everyone, John D Dennehy here. I hope you all have enjoyed a great Christmas 2013 and are looking forward to an outstanding 2014. I am finishing the last of the 25 Commemorative Dan-D Green Beret Models and still have seven of the ten Dan-D Commemorative Alamo Bowies available. As we enter 2014 I am excited to carry on making knives and doing leatherwork as my Dad would have wanted. Feel free to contact me at 970-218-7128 or via the website. www.thewildirishrose.com

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