Robert Lee Denny, of Wilson, died July 28, 2014 in his native Wilson, one day shy of his 97th birthday.
A Celebration of Life will be Saturday, September 27, 11 AM, at First United Methodist Church. Inurnment will be in Maplewood Cemetery. The family will be at Wilson Memorial Service, Friday, 6-7 PM.
He was a pioneer in the establishment of North Carolina’s Developmental Disabilities Program, serving as the first director of the North Carolina Council on Mental Retardation – now the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD).
Mr. Denny’s professional life was devoted to advancing the quality of life for the developmentally disabled. He was at the center of new approaches by North Carolina state government that resulted in better education and training for the developmentally disabled, greater integration of services to them, educating the public about their needs and unique abilities, and engagement of the developmentally disabled in the broader community.
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Following World War II, Mr. Denny’s was a NC Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor working with former servicemen. In 1962, he began his career in the field of mental retardation at the Caswell Center in Kinston, N.C. In 1964, he was appointed by Governor Terry Sanford as Director of the new NC Council on Mental Retardation, a legislatively-created planning and advisory body that coordinated state mental health planning activities. Its reports identified specific issues for attention, including prevention programs, social services and training programs and facilities for those with developmental disabilities, as well as state funding for these individuals in the schools, and greater support to community vocational programs for those with mental retardation.
After leaving the Council in 1975, Mr. Denny became the first Director of Planning and Development at the new Baddour Center for the developmentally disabled in Senatobia, MS, where he also encouraged the inclusion of arts in the life of the developmentally disabled.
Mr. Denny collected numerous honors over his career, including a Presidential Award for Meritorious Service for his work in the field of employment of the handicapped; the Alumni Achievement Award (Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College); and recognition from the United Cerebral Palsy Association for his contributions in his field.
Mr. Denny was married to the late Amy Leslie Harris Denny of Wilson.
He is survived by his son, Robert Lee Denny II, an environmental consultant living in Lithuania; his daughter, Eva Gayle Haley of Boiling Springs Lakes in Southport; two grandchildren, Rebecca S. Meacham, an art educator in Burlington and E. Kendra Denny, an artist in Camden, Maine; and Bottom of Form two great grandchildren, Sophie and Faith Meacham, also of Burlington.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to First United Methodist Church, PO Box 1423, Wilson, NC 27894-1423.
Arrangements by Wilson Memorial Service, 2811 Fieldstream Dr, N, Wilson, (252) 237-7171, www.wilsonmemorialservice.com