I think Bobby Denton would have liked the beautiful funeral flowers from Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.
I know he would have chuckled at the wreath created in the image of “Wivik,” the frog mascot of radio station WIVK. And the mums that formed a three-dimensional football from WNML, The Sports Animal. And the black-and-white checkered victory flag in the arrangement from Bristol Motor Speedway.
He would have been touched that Shannon, his wife of 15 years, somehow had the composure to sing “How Great Thou Art” at the start of the service. And, like the rest of us, he would have been moved to tears by the beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace” performed by his longtime friend, country crooner Con Hunley.
It was a service earlier this week of which he thoroughly would have approved. From the slide show of photographs from his 73 amazing years on this planet to the recording by Dolly Parton gently mocking him as “king of the slicked back hair” in a reworded rendition of “Davy Crockett.”
I have known Bobby Denton for 30 years, since the early ’80s when Ron McMahan, one of his closest friends, became the editor of The Knoxville Journal where I was a young reporter. Ron soon became my friend and mentor and, through him, I would spend many fun days — well, evenings, mostly — with Bobby. When Ron passed away six years ago, his widow, Wanda, remained close to Bobby, and Alan and I would see him every time we visited Wanda in Naples, Florida, where both of them lived.
In Naples, Bobby, a reformed alcoholic, was always our cheerful designated driver as we explored the fabulous restaurants and patio bars Naples has to offer. Bobby never ran out of stories to crack us up. And, even though he lived in Naples most of the year, he was more plugged in to the happenings in Knoxville than I was — and I’m pretty plugged in. As we would drive around Naples, Bobby constantly took phone calls from Knoxville from friends filling him in on the politics and gossip from K-town. I would return from our visits with many new insights into the behind-the-scenes happenings in my hometown.
More than 1,000 people filled the pews of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church Monday for the “celebration of life” service. It truly lived up to its name — it was a celebration. The men involved, from the ushers to Con Hunley and the other participants, wore some of Bobby’s many orange ties, a reflection of his commitment to the University of Tennessee, where he served as stadium announcer at the football games for more than 40 years. One wore his orange blazer and Shannon clutched one of his handkerchiefs. Four colorful vans from the radio stations owned by Cumulus Media, the current parent company of WIVK, parked along Kingston Pike with their yellow bar lights flashing. WIVK is the flagship station where Bobby rose in the ranks over 36 years from disc jockey to vice president and general manager.
Bobby’s friends Jimmy Hyams and Mickey Dearstone barely held it together as they touchingly talked about their long friendships with Bobby. Talk show host Hallerin Hilton Hill knocked it out of the ballpark with his eulogy. Hallerin used the radio station call letters, W-I-V-K, to sum up the essence of Bobby’s life. But there was so much to say that he had to use each of the letters twice.
For the letter W, Hallerin said, “Bobby was a winner — he always wanted to win.” And, he added, “Bobby was a warrior.” He fought for things and people he believed in.
The I stood for “intuitive,” Hallerin said, describing Bobby’s “gut feelings” about people and things, including country music talent, which he had an uncanny knack of identifying. And “invest,” which is something Bobby did with people he believed in.
The V? Well that was for Bobby’s vision. And Vol, of course.
K was for Kryptonite, the fictional substance in the Superman comic book series that was the one weakness of Superman and others from the planet Krypton. In Bobby’s case, Hallerin said, the Kryptonite was alcohol, which Bobby eventually conquered. And, most important of all, the final K represents Bobby’s kindness, Hallerin accurately noted.
From our condo in downtown Knoxville, we could hear Bobby Denton’s voice wafting up from Neyland Stadium on the Saturdays of UT’s home football games. We could clearly hear him announce, “It’s football time in Tennessee!” and “Pay these prices and please pay no more!” referring to stadium concessions. We could hear the crowd roar its appreciation.
I dread football season.
Click here for WIVK’s tribute to Bobby.
Click here for the News Sentinel story about Bobby’s death.
Sad – great man! Knew him when I was Clayton Homes Inc. PR guy! Too many people gone too soon…
Mickey, Jimmy and Hallerin described Bobby’s spirit to a “T,” no pun intended. The minister got off a good line too. The video tribute included a photo at Hooter’s. The minister said it was the first time for a Hooter’s photo in the church, and it may be his last. There was only one Bobby. He, Ron and Wanda had a great friendship.
I never had the pleasure to know Bobby personally, yet always felt so close to him as a voice from the heavens during Tennessee football games. As always, this is a beautiful tribute, Cynthia.
Thanks, Natalie. He was one of a kind.
Very nice, Mox. Thank you from those of us who could not be there.
Thanks, Katie. It’s been a rough week. Bobby’s funeral was Monday and Robert Watson’s was yesterday. I’d rather be writing about martinis.
Wonderful post. He was such a kind and giving person. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Thanks, Susan. Yes, he was awesome. Glad you were with us in Naples.
We will miss sending the thank you letters from the scholarship recipients who annually received the Bobby Denton Scholarship at Pellissippi State. He was a great man! His great legancy will live on in so many places.
The old guard at UT looses yet another legend. After Russ Bebb, Haywood Harris, and now Bobby Denton, there are very few originals remaining.
Bobby was one of a kind! RIP. Thanks for the tribute Cynthia.
What a wonderful tribute.
I agree, Peggy.
Graham and Gay: Thanks.
Bobby was a helping person, a kind person, a fun person. Barry and I will never forget the time his little sports car decided to quit in a downpour. We were trying to push it up the driveway. Bobby was driving by. He pulled part way up the driveway, jumped out of his car, and started helping us. We counted, “One, two, three,” and when we all shoved, my shove was the hardest. This really tickled Bobby and he teased Barry about it. He left us, drenched, but undoubtedly chuckling about the experience.
That is a sweet story, Annette. Thanks for sharing.
Many thanks for this spot on tribute, Mox. It truly was a celebration of his grand life. Bobby would have loved it. He will be greatly missed by many.
Thanks so much for capturing the essence of Bobby’s celebration of life. This was and still is a very difficult time for our family. I don’t think any of us were quiet ready for his earthly departure, or any of us imagined the tight grip he had on our souls. He just had a way of quickly getting ahold of you without you even knowing it. Bobby had a lot of successes in life, after all he was a proven business winner time after time. The success of late that he was the proudest was his 8 years of sobriety. I prayed before the service that people would leave changed. I think that happened and he’s smiling down for that. I would close by saying first, thank you to Alan and yourself for being there to help the family thru this time, and second taking the time to share your reflections with our world. There are a lot of old tired cliches out there, but the one thing I think all that attended this celebration can agree on is that Leaving A Legacy is still as important as it was with the generations that went before us and the generation that are now charged with paying that legacy forward. The torch has been passed, love to break bread with you and Alan sometime. I’ll reach out soon! Thanks for the kind words.
Thank you, Ron. You are so right about Bobby’s ability to “grab” people’s hearts. He definitely did mine and Alan’s. You all did a wonderful job with the service. We look forward to seeing you.
Kim: Thanks for your comment. Agree about Bobby and the beautiful service.
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