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.


Condolence & Memory Journal


Posted by DARLENE MCGREW - LAXDE, CA - Coworker   July 09, 2017

Dennis was great gentleman , with good taste in woman.....loved the family.....Dennis sure will be missed.
Very truly Steve G

Posted by steve gurtman - CANOGA PARK, CA - old friend   August 06, 2014


Remembering years of those '59ers gathering across the USA. The shared commradory of military and commerical aviation stories were unique and special.

Charlene, may remembering all the blessingswmkjx you and Denny shared help you go forward. May the smiles and laughter you shared help to heal your heart.

With respect, Dick and Bev Stevenson

Posted by Richard and Beverly Stevenson - Henderson, NV - '59er's friends   July 29, 2014


Posted by steve gurtman - CANOGA PARK, CA - old friend   July 24, 2014

Dear Charlene,
We are so sorry to hear of Denny's passing. We send our love and prayers..
Jim and Susie

Posted by Jim and Susie Lindley - Westlake Village, CA - Friend/Coworker   July 20, 2014

Our heartfelt sympathies to you. Hugs and prayers.
Cheryl and Jesus

Posted by Cheryl and Jesus Gonzalez - Eagan, MN - Friend and co-worker   July 19, 2014

Being friends and neighbors for the past 13 years with you and Denny has been very enjoyable. The neighborhood dinner parties, our watchful eyes on your place when you and Denny traveled. And the reverse when we traveled. Visiting with both while you were taking your daily stroll, or the chats in your backyard while the dog played on the golf course.
You two were made for each other. Denny will remain in your heart, and ours, forever.
Love, Nancy and Bob Morrison

Posted by Nancy and Bob Morrison - Indio, CA - Friends   July 19, 2014

I remember with fondness both you and Denny. You both lent a joy to the job at AA. I pray for your comfort and a peace in your heart. Those we love are never really gone. They may leave this planet but can never be taken from our hearts. I am a believer that we all reunite. Take care of yourself and honor your feelings. With sincere sympathy, Katherine (Ramer) Teissere

Posted by Katherine Ramer Teissere - Santa Rosa, CA - American flight attendant   July 19, 2014

Please accept my most heartfelt sympathies for your lossmy thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time. I flew with Denny for many years and have fond memories of those days.

God Bless you,

Posted by Harry Kuehn - Las Vegas, NV - Friend/co-worker   July 18, 2014


My deepest sympathies to you during your time of sadness. I'm very thankful I got to see both of you so recently at the reunion.

Thoughts of peace and courage...


Posted by steve gottschalk - TARZANA, CA   July 16, 2014

Greetings and condolences from a friend from the past
I can't remember when I saw you last
However, I wanted to let you know
My thoughts and prayers are with you, so...
As you cherish the memories of all those good years
Knowing your friends support you may soften the tears.

Charlene, I was so sorry to get the news via email today, but I remember you and Denny as such a vibrant and happy couple, and I can see that you had a great life together! I know times can become difficult when you lose your best friend and if it helps, I would like to add my name to your circle of support.
Judy Hunter (Benson, as you knew me)

Posted by Judy Hunter - Tucson, AZ - former co-worker at LAX   July 16, 2014

I am so very sorry about your Denny......I always remember as a very nice Charlie I only have great memories of you great couple. I will always consider a great and very close friends.
So all my best regards and love.
Steve G

Posted by steve gurtman - canoga park, CA - old friend from american airline   July 16, 2014

Our Dear Charlene:
We are so very sad to lose Denny. He was an inspiration and we always were amazed by his wonderful stories of both his past and your travels.
We were looking forward to spending time with you both in our new home in the Desert. We know he will always be with us and we look forward to being with you soon.
We send our love and our prayers.

Posted by Diane And Ron Trudel - soon to be LaQuinta, CA - Friends forever!   July 15, 2014

Charlene, I am deeply sadened to hear of Denny's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this most difficult time. R.I.P. Skipper.

Posted by Stephen Hansen - Phoenix, AZ - Friend and former co-worker   July 15, 2014


Posted by DARLENE MCGREW - RPV, CA - FRIEND   July 15, 2014

Denny was always so friendly and had a smile for everyone. We especially liked seeing him on his walks around the neighborhood. He will be missed.

Barbara & Bill Savery

Posted by Barbara Savery    July 15, 2014

What a great privilege to have known Denny as a neighbor and friend. We will always remember his warm smile, his humor and the many stories of his childhood and flying adventures. His was a life lived well. We will all miss him. We send our love to Charlene. Ruth and Bill Poulton

Posted by Ruth & Bill Poulton - La Quinta, CA - friends   July 14, 2014

Great friend and co-worker at AAL. Will miss him at the 59'ers gatherings.
Don Allen

Posted by Donald G. Allen - Las Vegas, NV - Friend and co-worker at AAL   July 14, 2014

I remember him as a very interesting man. He had a great sense of humor and a big smile. He will be missed by many people. My prayers go out to Charlene and his family.

Posted by Diana Westergaard Jones - Eugene, OR - 2nd cousin   July 13, 2014


Thank you for being a good brother in law and a great Marine. Thanks for everything, Dale

Posted by Dale vanderwater - Brother in law   July 13, 2014

Rest in peace. Denny lived a great life and we will miss him.

Posted by Larry mcnabb - Danville, CA - Friend   July 13, 2014

Charlene, our deepest sympathy to you and the family. The "59er" reunions will always be remembered.We will cherish the memories of the times we had with you and Denny.

Judy and Wesley Westmoreland

Posted by Wesley Westmoreland    July 13, 2014

Dearest Charlene, our prayers for comfort and peace are flowing. We grieve with you, and, at the same time, we celebrate Denny's life: his warmth, his wit, and his steadfastness. You two shared a blessed life together and you have so many special memories, as do we. Love, hugs, and aloha, Margo and Jim

Posted by Margo and Jim Sorenson    July 12, 2014


Great sadness and our sympathy on Denny's passing. It seems as though the 59ers are getting smaller every day. We have many fond memories of the times we spent together. God Bless you and Denny.

Steve & Marilyn Falusi

Posted by Steve & Marilyn Falusi - Titusville, FL - Friend & 59er   July 12, 2014

Dear Charlene,
My deepest sympathy on the loss of Denny.
I know what you are going through as i lost my Diane 2 1/2 months ago.
My prays and sentiments are with you.
Best Regards
Warren Weinstein

Posted by warren weinstein - westlake village, CA - Friend   July 12, 2014

Dearest Charlene,

Our deepest sentiments are sent to you during this sad time. So glad we got to spend some time with you and Denny at the AA reunion. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely, Bill and Anne Charrett

Posted by Anne Charrett - Thousand Oaks, CA - Friend and former co-worker   July 12, 2014

We are thinking of you and want you to know how sad we are that you have lost your precious Denny. Our prayers are with you.
Love to you and your family. Janet & Bob Heller

Posted by Janet & Bob Heller - La Quinta, CA - friend   July 12, 2014

Our deepest sympathy for you Charlene. We are so saddened by Denny's passing. Hugs, prayers and love to you.

Posted by Sue & Steve Cooper    July 12, 2014

Military Album was a dark and stormy night...
a boy's life on the prairie
The farm where Denny grew up.
Denny, his son Chris and nephew Scott

Military Album

1972 Denny & Charlene in Maui, HI
1959-1991 American Airlines
1999 Denny & his great-nephew Troy

Military Album

2007 London-Athens Cruise
2009 Baltic Cruise
2012 Christmas with nephew Scott and g-nephews Brett & Troy
2013-10 Denny & g-nephew Colton Kenneth vanderWater
May 2014 with g-nephews Troy & Brett

Life Stories

Denny got me through divorce recovery, when my wife rightfully through me out.
He knew the right words to cheer me up and set me straight. I was able to do the same for other fellow pilots later on. he was a good teacher.