Dennis William Sweeney, born to Donald and Leathley "Lee" (White) Sweeney in Seattle on Sept. 22, 1941, the second of two children, passed away in Vancouver July 27, 2014, after a valiant struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.
Dennis graduated from West Seattle High School in 1959. He joined the U.S. Army and served in Germany as a CommuniÂ¬cations SpeÂ¬cialist and Morse Code operator. He left the army in 1962 to enter the University of Washington, where he was awarded a BS in Architecture in 1967. He then went to the University of London and earned a Masters in Architecture in 1971.
Dennis came to Stevens County in 1974. He was a founding member of the North Country Peopleâ€™s Co-op in 1975 and was instrumental in reclaiming the building on West Astor Street that became a permanent home for the Co-op. The building had been condemned and was slated to be a fire-fighting exerÂ¬cise for the Colville Volunteer Fire Department. By shoring up the floor and tying the sidewalls together with steel cables, Dennis and his crew of volunteers saved the building. It served the Co-op for many years, and continues to stand straight and true nearly 40 years later.
In 1976 Dennis partnered with other builders and tradesmen to form Just Us, a specialty retail hardware outlet. Later, he and six others formed Sun Construction. In time, Dennis estabÂ¬lished Sun Design, with offices on the second floor of the Moran Building at 107 North Main, where he continued to deÂ¬sign for commercial and residential clients for many years.
Dennis served on the Colville Planning Commission from 1989 to 1997. He became Stevens County Planning Director in NoÂ¬vember 1999, a position he held until November 2002.
He was a charter member of the Colville 2000 Task Force formed by the Colville City Council to study traffic circulation in and around town. Dennis tirelessly built support for a truck route along the railroad corridor on the west edge of the city.
Two roundabouts at the north and south end of town â€” to handle traffic smoothly and serve as gateways to the Colville business district â€” became innovative lynchpins in the proÂ¬ject. Dennis had first proposed a truck route to the Colville City Council in 1976, envisioning a pedestrian-friendly downÂ¬town free of the noise and dust of large trucks. The plan he sketched out was prophetic, looking very much like the truck route built some 30 years later.
Dennis championed the underdog and sought to give voice to the voiceless. He was fearless in speaking truth to power, a bulldog when pushing for what he saw as the right thing to do. He was active in Veterans for Peace and served on the Family Support Center Advisory Board from 1993 through 2005.
He helped organize the "White Ribbon Campaignâ€ť to mobilize men to stand for an end to domestic violence. He helped creÂ¬ate the â€śThe Little Peopleâ€ťâ€” the wooden cutouts of children to represent victims of child abuse and neglect. He was a mainÂ¬stay of the annual October "Candlelight March and Vigil" to raise awareness about domestic violence. In the words of an old friend, "Dennis was the first truly feminist man I ever met."
Dennis was also mirthful and warm. He loved to dance and continued to shake a leg as MS took its toll. In his personal life and public life, Dennis worked hard to make the world a litÂ¬tle more beautiful, a little more just, a little more free, and a little more fun.
Dennis was preceded in death by his parents and by his sisÂ¬ter, Cathy Swanson.
He is survived by his son, Jason Sweeney; daughter-in-law, Tamera Sweeney; daughters, Tanya and Jessica Sweeney; grandsons Zach and Loren, as well as many extended family members and friends.
He will be missed by all who were touched by his big heart, sharp mind, and steady perseverance.
Crown Memorial of Portland is in charge of arrangements. Tributes may be left there or at www.anewtradition.com/obit.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to any domestic vioÂ¬lence advocacy program or shelter.