In Memoriam

Daniel Densch '87
He valued good friends, good soccer—and good garlic.

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When Arilda Elskus introduced herself to Dan Densch '87 at a contra dance, he startled her by rattling off her address. Turns out that during a brief stint as a substitute postman, he had memorized the names and addresses of everyone on his route. A few days later, he slipped a note into her mailbox asking for a date. Spontaneity and charm were typical of Densch, says Arilda, who later became his wife.

From 1997 to 2009, the couple were caretakers for the historic Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine. The property's expansive gardens gave Densch plenty of room to grow his favorite crop—garlic. "He had a mania for it," says Arilda. "He ate it daily, and usually raw." One year, the couple threw a garlic festival and invited close friends; within a few years, they were hosting more than 100 guests. They once handed out garlic soap as party favors; another year, garlic martinis proved more popular. Densch always organized a raw garlic tasting, complete with comment cards. "Everyone went home reeking," says Arilda.

The main attractions each year, though, were garlic-themed short films, produced by Densch, who freelanced as an editor and graphic artist. "They really show the fun-loving Dan and his talent as an editor," says Arilda, who often starred in the films, along with Densch and a host of friends.

Adopted as an infant by his uncle, Densch moved to Germany with his adoptive mother after his parents divorced, returning to the United States at 17 to enroll at UNH. During his years in Germany, he became an avid soccer player, and he enjoyed the game throughout his life. "He was talented," recalls his friend Stephan Mayeux, "but it was never about making goals or who was winning or losing. He just wanted everybody to have a good time."

After a lengthy search, Densch met his birth father for the first time at age 42. Although they knew each other for only five years before Densch's death on Nov. 15, meeting him answered questions Densch had had all his life. He learned that he was born when his birth father had recently immigrated from Greece and that the two of them shared a love of Greek food and a passion for garlic.

In September 2011, an MRI for a nagging backache revealed aggressive cancer that had spread from Densch's esophagus. To help as expenses mounted, Mayeux and Steve Sanger, for whom Densch had worked, as well as friends from other parts of Densch's life, started "Friends of Dan," establishing a website for contributions. The group even organized a "Garlicpalooza" fundraiser, auctioning off a week in Spain, a week in France, and other donated items. Refreshments included Densch's famous garlic toast. The circle of friends expanded further when the Densches became the beneficiaries of an event called the Harvest Raiser at Old Fields Farm in South Berwick, Maine.

Despite his pain, Densch remained upbeat and determined to enjoy life. He did not want to talk about dying, says Arilda. "Look at all the good that's coming out of this," he insisted, encouraging others to do the same and taking comfort in the circles of friends who came together—friends who plan to continue the Harvest Raiser to help others in need now that he is gone. Watch the Garlic Harvest Movies at vimeopro.com/user4030908/garlic.


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