A Life Lived: Dennie Ensor was a coach at heart, enjoyed sports

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023

BY ROZELLA HARDIN
Editorial Director
rozella.hardin@elizabethton.com
Dennie T. Ensor’s name will long be remembered on Stoney Creek, where he lived all his life and raised a family. He was well-known for his love for basketball and the scores of kids he coached on the ’Creek.
He coached for years at the old Midway Elementary School where had a state championship team. When he was a student at Unaka High School, he played basketball, averaving 16 points a game and earned All-Conference honors.
His son, Donald, said his dad taught numerous kids the fundamentals of basketball including him and his brother, Danny. When Donald coached at Unaka High, the Rangers won the state championship and that, no doubt, “was one of my Dad’s happiest moments in life.”
“Basketball consumed him. I remember when Coach Ronnie Snavely’s son, Derek, was just a boy, his dad would bring him and his brother to the school. Derek knew Dad and admired him, and one day as they were riding down the hollow, Derek, speaking of Dad, exclaimed: ‘He’s the biggest winner I’ve ever known.’ And, that summed it up for a lot of us,” said Donald.
When Ensor wasn’t coaching or watching basketball, he enjoyed fishing and hunting and watching the Boston Red Sox play baseball on television. “He was a Rex Sox fan through and through and bought a satellite dish just so he could get the games,” said Donald.
But, aside from coaching basketball, his biggest enjoyment was watching his boys coach. “He never missed a game,” said Donald.
Other times he enjoyed possum hunting and fishing. “He was raised in Hurley Hollow, so he did a lot of hunting in that area. Other times he enjoyed fishing for crappie and horney heads. He did a lot of fishing in Watauga Lake, Stoney Creek, and sometimes, in Shady Valley,” said Donald.
When it snowed and he couldn’t fish, Ensor tied flies to catch crappie. He usually fished in early spring. And, the fish he caught, he fixed them. “He could fix really good fish,” said Donald.
He also enjoyed gardening and grew a lot of vegetables in the summer.
In his working days, Ensor worked at Inland Container and later worked for Carter County Maintenance until he retired.
“My dad was a great guy. I remember when my brother and I were little, a family lived in Big Sandy that didn’t have much. Every Christmas my dad would buy gifts – toys and food – for them and he would take Danny and me with him to deliver the gifts,” said Donald.
Donald said his dad had a lot of love for other people. He was an active member of Dungan Chapel Baptist Church until later in life when his health began to fail him.
Dennie was 83 when he died Sept. 7. In addition to his two sons, he is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ruby, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
He was the last of his brothers and sisters to die.
Chris Mathes wrote on the funeral home tribute page: “Denny was a legendary basketball coach…a very wise and wonderful man, and an example for all fathers and husbands and everyone else in the community…He was simply the best of what we have in East Tennessee.”
Judy Veeneman wrote ”…He fought hard along with my dad to keep Midway School open, even visited the governor of Tennessee at the time, Winfield Dunn. He gave a lot of his life to teaching young boys and men the joys of competitive sports and how to be a man.”
Perhaps Donald, his son, summed it up best: “He was tough on us. He made sure we knew how to take care of ourselves, get an education, and to live right. He taught us well.”
Dennie Ensor will not soon be forgotten.

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