Mr. Dennis Robert Westergaard

  • Born: February 9, 1931
  • Died: July 10, 2014
  • Location: La Quinta, California

Rose Mortuary & Crematory

44-650 Monterey Ave.
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Tel. (760) 773-6500

Tribute & Message From The Family

Dennis (Denny) Robert Westergaard passed away at home on July 10, 2014 in La Quinta, CA surrounded by family. He was born February 9, 1931 in farmhouse near Viborg, SD to Robert and Anna Marie Hansen Westergaard. A child of the depression years, Denny studied in a one room school house for 8 years before attending Viborg High School where he played football and in his senior year was homecoming king and student body president. He attended the University of South Dakota (USD) where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon as well as the Scabbard & Blade Honorary Military Fraternity for advanced reserve officers training.

He left USD in 1952 to pursue his dream of flying when he was accepted into the U.S. Naval Aviation Cadet Program at NAS Pensacola, FL. During flight training Denny qualified from the USS Monterey flying the F6F Hellcat. In 1953 Denny graduated as a Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant having earned his navy wings of gold and went on to serve his country during the Korean War. He was first based in MCAS El Toro, CA assigned to the VMF-214, the Black Sheep squadron flying the F2H-4 Banshee. In the Spring of '54 he transferred to Kaneone Bay, HI, then to the VMF-311 based at K3 Korea in 1955. Over the years he flew the FJ-2 Fury, the FJ-3, the F9F-6 Cougar, F9F-8T and the AH-4B Skyhawk, Denny could fly them all. He was transferred to NAS Atsugi, Japan flying the FJ-2 before returning to the US. He remained on active duty through 1959 and then with the Reserves until ending his service to our country in August 1967 with the rank of Major.
Denny continued flying when he became a co-pilot for American Airlines in 1959 as part of a group of 100 pilots hired that year (the 59ers) and was based in New York, Dallas and Boston flying the Convair 250, DC-6, DC-7.

Denny transferred to Los Angeles International as a Captain in 1969, where he flew 727, 707, 747, DC-10's. In 1972 Denny met his best friend and lifetime love, Charlene Ann Van Derwater of Liverpool, NY. She was a ticket agent for American Airlines at Los Angeles International and they were married on August 30, 1975.

After 32 wonderful years and 25,000+ flying hours doing what he loved, he retired from American Airlines in February 1991. Denny and Charlene settled into retirement at PGA West in La Quinta, CA. They continued to travel the world by plane, car and cruise ship making new friends along the way and introducing friends and family to amazing adventures with their favorite destination being Maui, HI. Their travels to meet the American Airlines "59ers" pilots and wives were especially fun! Denny and Charlene enjoyed "playing at" the game of golf, and entertaining family and friends.

Denny is survived by his loving wife of 38 years, Charlene; his son Chris; his older sister Shirley Westergaard; brother-in-laws Gary vanderWater (wife Judy) and Dale vanderWater and several nieces and nephews. Charlene would like to thank their nephew Scott Kramer & wife Teri for many fun memories over the years and their compassionate care over the last few weeks for her Denny. She would also like to thank Visiting Nurses for their kind hearts and gentle care.

"To fly west, my friend, is a flight we all must take for a final check." Author Unknown

Denny's memorial service and internment with Military Honors will take place at Riverside National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Wounded Warrior Project or the American Cancer Society in Denny's name. Semper Fi, my love.