First Responders 04


Dennis A. Niven

June 6, 1953 ~ March 3, 2019 (age 65)


            Dennis A. Niven, age 65, of Chatham, died Sunday, March 3, 2019 at his home under the loving care of his family and Lake Superior Home Hospice.  He was born on June 6, 1953 in Saginaw, MI to the late Robert and Norma (Sian) Niven.  Dennis attended Douglas MacArthur High School in Saginaw.  Dennis loved music and played guitar in a couple of rock bands, Infinity’s End and Ugly Pudding.  Although the bands broke up his love of music never ended and he continued to play his guitar. Dennis married Carol J. McDougall on November 8, 1975 and together they raised their three children.  He started working in a mechanic shop at an early age sweeping floors and learning from the mechanics, and became a full time mechanic and worked for Auto Haus in Saginaw.  His love for working on cars carried out to his home life, souping up his own vehicles.  Dennis loved to go fast, and won trophies in multiple stock car drag races.  When he and his family moved to the Upper Peninsula, he continued working as a mechanic.  Dennis appreciated his bosses and took pride in working for both Don Lucas – Volkswagen and John Veiht at Public Service Garage in Marquette. 

            In 1980, after a neighbor’s home was lost in a fire, Dennis and a number of other Onota Township residents came together to start the Onota Township Volunteer Fire Department. Dennis immersed himself into learning and training in fire prevention and firefighting.  He continued his training and became a certified instructor for the State of Michigan and went on to teach and train many firefighters and fire stations across the state, and as an adjunct instructor at NMU.  Dennis was volunteer fireman and then Chief at Onota Township, and then when his family moved, served as the Assistant Chief in Rock River Township.  Though his training, Dennis was vetted by the state and became a Certified Fire Inspector for the State of Michigan in 1990.  This position brought Dennis into the prison system where he was in charge of primarily Alger Maximum Correctional Facility’s fire protection for fourteen years and then traveled across the U.P. servicing many of the state prisons until his retirement in 2010. 

            Dennis was an avid outdoorsman.  He loved hunting and fishing across the U.P., traveling out west in pursuit of mule deer, antelope, and pheasant, to Canada hunting black bear and fishing, and boar hunting in the south.  Dennis also loved his time working on his farm.  It started as his project but quickly became a family affair, raising cattle, chickens, goats, and his favorite horse named Hawk.  Dennis was a family man who cherished his family and especially loved his grandchildren.  He took every opportunity to talk to, teach, and tease his grandkids any chance he could. 

            Dennis could talk to anyone, and it seemed like often times people knew that and would seek him out to visit.  He had a way to embrace those who didn’t always have someone to talk to, and would treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserved. 

            Dennis is survived by his wife of over forty-three years – Carol Niven of Chatham; children – Gabriel Niven of Chatham, Denise Pokela of Marquette, and Charlie (Emily Tongusi) Niven of VanMeer; nine grandchildren – Caleb, Natalie, Jacob, Isobel, Matthew, Nora, Tyler, Wyatt, and Charlotte; sister – Rosemary (John) Golobisky of Saginaw; mother and father-in-law – Mabel and Charles McDougall; brothers and sisters-in-law – Lynne (Roland) Shorkey, William McDougall, Roger (Linda) McDougall, and Karen McDougall; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins; and dear friends - Donne Bender and Walt and Joyce Sleeter.  He was preceded in death by parents – Robert and Norma; siblings - Robert Niven, Martha Fry, and David (Chantal) Niven; and brother-in-law – Gary McDougall.

            Visitation will be at the Salvation Army at 1009 W. Baraga, in Marquette, on Saturday, March 16, 2019 from 10:00 until 11:00 a.m.  Captain Doug Winters and Walt Sleeter will conduct Dennis’ memorial service at 11:00 a.m. 

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