Dennis C. Kearns

1941 ~ 2023

Obit Photo Dennis Kerns.jpg2

   Captain Dennis C. Kearns, age 82, passed peacefully at home on November 16, 2023. Dennis was born on August 22, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio to Jack and Lucille Kearns. He had one sibling, his younger brother Tom Kearns.

   Denny was a graduate of Independence High School of Independence, Ohio. As a high school student Denny enjoyed participating in school theater and general aviation flying.

Obit Photo Dennis Kearns school play

 He began flying in an Aeronca Champ in high school and earned his FAA Private Pilot license before his state driver’s license.

When he enrolled at Miami University of Ohio, it is no surprise that Denny also enrolled in Air Force ROTC. The path toward aviation was preset long before he entered college. The photo below is of Dennis in his early teens with his father and his collection of airline brochures, models, and aviation maps.

Obit Photo Dennis Kearns young


While it is not unusual to delay entering college for a year, in Denny’s case the gap year was a bit unusual. With his general aviation experience, he acquired a job as a ‘line boy’ at Catalina Island Airport, a private airport on a 1600’ bluff above and ten miles northwest of Avalon. Denny would often shuttle people arriving in private aircraft down to the coast towns in a VW bus. One of his strange duties at the Catalina Airport was picking up buffalo and cow chips off the runway and ramp. It was at Catalina that Denny acquired expert skills as a surfer, a passion that he retrained for decades.

Obit Photo Dennis Kearns surfing

  Denny entered college and completed a degree at Miami University of Ohio. Shortly after graduation was called to active duty by the Air Force. The Air Force assigned Denny to Laughlin AFB, Texas ‘Class 65-E’. After earning his Silver Wings, he was sent temporarily to Sewart AFB for C-130 transition training before permanent assignment to the 41 MAS at Charleston AFB, SC.

Obit Photo Dennis Kearns USAF

   After separating from the active Air Force, Denny transferred to the 934th Airlift Wing (C-130) at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Staton. He flew the C-119 Flying Boxcar until 1970, when the wing upgraded to the C-130. Denny retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

   Denny’s date of hire at Northwest Airlines was 11/04/1968. His initial checkout was as Second Officer on the 727 based at MSP. The remainder of Denny’s airline assignments were typical for his seniority at MSP; second officer on the 727 and 707 series, copilot on the 727, DC-10, and then captain on the 727, 757, DC-10 and the 747 classic. After the 1970 BRAC strike Denny was slow to be recalled by NWA and opted for employment by the U.S. Marshal Service as a flight marshal, armed and deployed on commercial flights.

   Dennis completed his Northwest career as a captain on the Boeing 747 classic. He was popular with cockpit and cabin crews for his unspoken leadership and professionalism.

Obit Photo Dennis Kearns NWA

   With a humorous perspective, Denny would himself describe his athletic endeavors per the decades of his life; surfing in the 1960s & 1970s, tennis in the 1980s, and golf in the 1990s. Denny enjoyed life and sharing his passions with others; including flying, surfing, holding court at the pool bar and never missing Jeopardy!

   He was a loving father to his sons and a proud grandfather who will be missed. Survived and missed by brother Tom Kearns; sons, Jeffrey Kearns, Jon Kearns; grandchildren, Samson, Chloe and Finley Kearns, mother to his sons, former wife Sue Kearns. He will also be grieved by his wife and loving caregiver, Sherry Goode; stepson Casey Goode, stepdaughter Cierra Caracci, and step grandchildren Remy, Roxy and Rocco Caracci.

   Many of us feel privileged to have known and worked with this good man.

(- Bill Day)