Joseph Louis Denest
July 8, 1926 – March 31, 2020
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Joseph Louis Denest, our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend to so many. Joe is survived by his wife, Doris (Carozzo), sons Michael (Diane) and Mark (Carolyn), daughters Lisa Bell (Jeff Bell) and Linn DeNesti (Greg MacDonald) and her children: granddaughter Molly Stack, and grandson Eric Sutherland (Asela Ongarbayeva), and sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Born on July 8, 1926, Joe was welcomed by four older siblings: John, Dominic, Theresa, and Catherine. His father Anthony Denest (Antonio DiNesta) came to the US with his parents in 1900 and settled in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe’s mother, Victoria Scarano was born in Wilmington to her Italian immigrant parents, Angelo and Nicolina, in 1900 and married Anthony in 1917. Their lives during those times in Wilmington were a complex mix of hard work, family togetherness, the Great Depression and eventually, World War. Through it all, Joe learned what it meant to make the most of going without, and devotion to family, all of which had a profound influence on how he conducted his life.
Joe’s father was highly resourceful during the Depression and taught Joe about grit, pride, and determination. With a dump truck he purchased then modified using his metal working skills, Anthony started a hauling business to help move materials for road building. Joe learned about metals and fabricating from his father, a skilled machinist, and often shadowed him in the shop and rode in the truck cab on deliveries. While in high school Joe studied drafting, an ability that supported him through his early career years, and opened the doors to a variety of jobs that expanded his knowledge and helped him build his confidence and adaptability. Joe knew how to pursue what he wanted and found every means possible to push himself to succeed.
The Denest family lived on Lincoln Street in Wilmington, Delaware, in an Italian immigrant neighborhood where a livery stable was also located. Joe literally fell in love with horses and befriended the local veterinarian so he could learn all he could. His parents realized his newly-discovered interest wouldn't end any time soon, so his father bought a mare they called “Midnight” for her deep black coat. Unaware of the mare’s previous history, she emerged from the stable one morning with a newborn foal. That sealed it for Joe. He was determined to work with horses and got his first job as a stable boy then as a rider in local horse shows. Eventually thoroughbred racing caught his interest and he and his father bought their first racehorse, “First Question.” For nearly 25 years afterward, Joe trained horses for other owners, and traveled between mid-Atlantic racetracks with his small stable of thoroughbreds. He once told this story: “A Baltimore Sun reporter came up to me before a race and asked, ‘how’s your horse going to do?’ I told him, ‘if you go to bet and decide not to and the horse wins, you’ll kick yourself! If I tell you to bet and the horse loses, you’ll kick ME!’” Joe wasn’t in it for the gamble. He was in it for the love of the horse and the challenges he faced to help them, and himself, be the best they could be.
Because he worked with animals for so long, he understood that a day-off was not possible. With horses, Joe was always on-the-job and developed a tireless work ethic that put obligation over all else. Devotion to and being able to provide for his family was the main reason he worked so tirelessly—the hard times of his youth taught him to go after the opportunities when they showed up, rather than miss out on them. For Joe, missing out was never an option. This work ethic became the fabric of his being and stayed with him for the rest of his life.
During the early years of his horse career a 23 year-old Joe laid eyes on the woman he would eventually marry. Doris and Joe saw each other often at all the local dances and were well-paired on the dance floor. He was smitten, but as Doris was the oldest of four daughters, her father was wary of this handsome young man, but eventually accepted his daughter’s choice of husband. They dated, became engaged, and then married on May 26, 1951. Once married, Joe, his bride, and his parents moved to a small farm in Pennsylvania where Joe could pursue his horse training career. It was on this idyllic family farm where the kids, horses and any number of barn cats were raised – a big, three generation household.
Eventually, Joe tired of the “politics” of horse racing – for him, his love for horses and their well-being was more important than breaking them down for the sake of a winner’s purse. It was time to move on so he re-employed his drafting tools, practiced, studied, and entered a different job market with determination. He took positions in procurement for a number of companies between 1971 and 1979, and became adapt at seeking out materials for projects, a knack that would serve him well in his airplane ventures. According to Joe, the “best real job” he ever had was with the General Electric Corporation, from 1979 until his early retirement in 1992. As the Critical Material Specialist/Expeditor, he was responsible for procurement of materials needed for the Defense Satellite Communication System military satellite program.
And then there were the airplanes. His earliest flying experiences were with scale model radio controlled planes he built from scratch and flew, crashed, then re-built. He fell in love with one model plane in particular and decided he’d had enough of toys and went on a search for the real thing. Joe purchased his first PT-19 trainer in 1972 and spent the next five months restoring it at New Garden Flying Field. Around this time Joe began his flight training with pilot and friend Joe Leonard. When he began his restoration project, he knew virtually nothing about the aircraft, but studied photos and original documents. During this time he continued to fill his days at his job, but devoted every available hour to his passion. He gained a wealth of knowledge and practice, and brought his sons in to learn as well. In 1989 Joe purchased his second PT-19 which he painstakingly restored from the bottom up. This airplane would become the Fairchild trainer to which all subsequent restorations would be compared. The seeds were planted for a long lived and successful career in war bird restoration.
New Garden Flying Field was Joe’s second home for over 45 years. Over this long history, he formed deep friendships with like-minded people of all ages. In his hangar, which turned into a gathering spot for friends, Joe restored over a dozen Fairchild primary trainers, and participated every year in the New Garden Air Show. Frequently, he received calls from Fairchild owners all over the world asking him for help and advice. Joe became the “go-to guy” for anything related to Ranger engines and Fairchild trainers. Through the years he received numerous silver wrench awards at the annual EAA AirVenture Convention at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, then came home and kept on working. It wasn’t always hard work for Joe—he made time for people in his life and loved spending time with his airport friends, especially at the “ghetto hangar.” Joe loved nothing more than to share his work and knowledge with anyone who showed an interest.
As a husband and father, Joe saw to it that we all had what we needed…it’s what his father did for him and he was determined to do the same. He was very proud of his family and said so often. During his final years and especially the months before his passing, family was always on his mind. Every visit closed with “See you soon!” and never “Goodbye.” Joe will be greatly missed by all of us, but we feel assured that he lives on in all of us in so many ways. His life of determination, accomplishment, and devotion is an example of someone who took life seriously. Joe has made his way to the winner’s circle a true winner, and now he’s flying. That’s how he planned it.
With love from Joe's Family
Doris, Mike & Diane, Linn & Greg, Lisa & Jeff, Mark & Carolyn, and Joe's grandkids Molly, Eric & Asela.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Joe’s honor at a future, yet to be determined date. We will be sure to give you plenty of advance notice as soon as we can.
If you would like to honor Joe AND Doris and family, we have created the “Joe Denest Future Aviators Scholarship Fund.” Future Aviators is a summer camp program held at New Garden Airport in Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania. The scholarship fund is intended to benefit children who are interested in aviation but cannot afford to attend camp. Donations can be made by cash, check, or credit card. Anyone wishing to donate by credit card can call the airport office and ask for John Martin (610) 268-2619. Checks can be made payable to “New Garden Flying Field” with a reference to the “Joe Denest Future Aviators Scholarship Fund” in the memo area, and mailed to New Garden Air Field, c/o John Martin, 1235 Newark Rd, Toughkenamon, PA 19374
You can click on any photo in the gallery below to see photos in full size. I will be updating the gallery with additional photos.