Dennis James Carlson, 62, of Tolland, unexpectedly passed away on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Dennis was born in Hartford on April 2, 1961, to Charlotte (Vincent) Haman and the late Herbert “Carl” Carlson. Dennis was predeceased by his three siblings, Robert “Bobby”, Carl Jr., and Kimmarie. He is survived by his best friend and love of his life Reva and their son, Ryan Carlson, of Tolland. He is also survived by his parents-in-law, Dick and Nancy Marcham of Vernon. Dennis also leaves behind his daughters Amy Carlson (Sean McHugh – his bonus son) and Amanda Carlson, who both grew up in Tolland, and their mother Jean (Beaupre) Carlson of Tolland. To name all he leaves behind would be nearly impossible, as the impact he made on others is far too great to put into words. His family and his community are left with a hole in their hearts and the privilege of sharing in Dennis’ life.
Dennis attended Bulkeley High School in Hartford where he played on their football team. It should be to no one’s surprise that he left high school early to help take care of his brother and his family. Dennis worked many jobs and learned many trades - as an orderly at Hartford Hospital, as a truck driver and diesel mechanic for Ryder, and as a roofer and sider, but found his true passion and calling becoming a Public Safety Officer when he moved to Tolland.
Dennis “Captain Carlson” dedicated a total of 34 years to the Tolland Fire Department and the Town of Tolland. He started as a volunteer member in May of 1989 and was later hired as a fulltime career Public Safety Officer in August of 1991. Dennis was not only a founding member of the union for the career staff, IAFF Local 3954, he also served as their President for many years. As an emergency responder, he served as a firefighter, an EMT, was a rescue scuba diver and became swift water rescue certified for the Tolland County Dive Team. He developed the ATV and UTV training program for the department, was a previous advisor for the Tolland Explorer Post 142, and was selected by his colleagues to be a part of the Peer Support Team – a role that he naturally stepped into guiding coworkers and fellow responders through high stress situations, but also being a listening ear and a true light in any dark situation. Dennis is the first out of all Tolland paid career staff to have reached the milestone of over 30 years of service.
Dennis was also an educator in Tolland schools as “Firefighter Dennis” teaching “Safety Town”, fire prevention, and developed the Basic Aid Training (“BAT”), providing basic lifesaving skills to elementary school kids. To this day, his students, now adults, continue to share stories of how those skills have saved lives or stuck with them, whether it was successfully performing the Heimlich maneuver, regularly changing the batteries in their smoke detectors, looking down to check if your shoes were tied, or him pulling over on the side of the road to a kid riding their bicycle to ask “Where’s your helmet?” - memories that will always bring a smile to those who knew him.
There are so many things with ties back to the department he did and took great pride in – setting up the giant flying American flag for special events or times of loss, not just in our town, but in other communities too. Despite his “bah humbugs”, he loved playing a huge part in the annual Tolland Christmas Santa Tour. Pulling Santa’s sleigh, “Rudolph” would lead Santa around, not just to Tolland neighborhoods, but to shelters and group homes across the state, to surrounding towns’ holiday celebrations, and to the community of Sandy Hook every single year since their own tragedy.
Dennis very proudly owned and operated his own business in town, Carlson Property Management, for over 16 years, which allowed him to spend time outside beautifying the lawns of others - “his therapy”. His children worked alongside him, where he instilled an incredible work ethic in all of them at a young age. However, it is undoubted that he shared an unbelievable bond with his oldest daughter Amy, his sidekick, who soaked up everything, EVERYTHING he had to say and teach her.
Dennis acted in many roles throughout his life but nothing made him prouder than being a dad. His children’s feelings are reciprocal, how lucky they were to call him their very own hero. He found true happiness in spending time with them in the waves of Myrtle Beach and on the ATV trails in New Hampshire, patiently teaching them lessons like “don’t get yourself in a situation you can’t get out of” and “slow down, it’s not a race”, and just merely boasting about how many yards Ryan ran or how many touchdowns he scored, or how incredible Amanda is at improving the lives of her pediatric oncology patients.
Dennis – a significant other, a son, a brother, a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a husband, a dad. You will be so deeply missed; you are truly one in a million and always only one call away.
Anyone who was privileged to know and love Dennis is welcome to honor him on Friday evening between 4pm-8pm at Spring Meadow Farm at the Country Butcher, 1032 Tolland Stage Road in Tolland.
In lieu of flowers, the Dennis J. Carlson Memorial Foundation has been created to accept monetary donations. Contributions can be sent to the Dennis J. Carlson Memorial Foundation at KeyBank, P.O. Box 697 Tolland, CT 06084. At a later time, the family plans on using this money to help those in need, echoing the generosity that Dennis spread on a daily basis.
For online condolences please visit: www.pietrasfuneralhome.com