When Dennis Hermey first came to the beach at the end of the 1960s, the Vietnam veteran found a may to make a living doing glass work around the area. Work soon became art, and Hermey branched out to create many of the intricate glass murals that appear in a number of noted North Beach locations.
As a painter, he was a muralist, as evidenced by the legacy of Sharky’s building or the south wall of the Porthole in Ocean Shores with the beached Catala, or the mural at the local VFW Post. He has pieces at the Convention Center, the Green Lantern, the back bar of the Home Port lounge.
Hermey died at the age of 69 on Dec. 28 after a long battle with complications from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
His Facebook page summed up his profile as “self-employed former artist at chainsaw carving and general insanity.”
“He had a glass company, and then he was doing artwork, sand-blasting art and painting,” recalled Ivan Hass of the Ocean City Marketplace who lived just down the road from the multi-faceted Hermey.
After a few years, Hermey befriended some of the chainsaw carvers and then learned the craft himself.
“He introduced me to all the right people, and everything has been good ever since,” Hass said of Hermey’s impact on his wood art studio and public gathering spot. “He just tried to help everybody.”
Friends and family gathered last week to remember him at an impromptu gathering at the Porthole, and his official obituary appears on page 5. The North Coast News asked some of those who knew Dennis to recall his creative and lasting legacy.
“I love the old guy,”said longtime friend and fellow chainsaw artist Tony Robinson of Native Beach Accessories.
When he started carving at the Ocean City Marketplace in 2013, Robinson and Hermey became friends. At the time, Hermey’s health was beginning to fail and he had a hard time mustering the strength it takes to pull the chainsaw and carve.
“He was still working every other form of art. There is a totem that is still unfinished in his shop. I carved a totem for him and he was finishing it. But he was still doing his glass cutting and creating images within the glass, and he was still doing his painting,” Robinson recalled of Hermey’s final days.
The last work he completed was for Voss Acres, a sign that shows the old railroad running through what eventually became the home of Steve and Sharon Voss, which used to be a station on the route to Moclips.
The piece was commissioned in part by funds received by the Chocolate on the Beach Festival’s Historical Grant of 2014. Sharon Voss recalled, “On a sunny day, Dennis and I walked the perimeter of the house and while he gazed at its details, I told him the complete story of our house that once traveled the rails at a roadhouse when the rail line was built and landed in Copalis Crossing to be the train depot in the late 1800’s. He then looked at me and with a spark in his eye and a smile, “I know just what I’m going to do.”
Hermey worked on the piece (from the butt cut of the cedar tree used to create a Quinault canoe) for three years while he was in and out of the hospital with health issues.
“Dennis stayed committed to completing it. At times when his creativity was high but, his energy was low, his wife Andrea would assist him in handing him heavy carving tools to make the most of his work time. The man loved to create,” Sharon Voss said.
“Steve and I feel honored beyond words to have received such a beautiful piece crafted by Dennis, especially since Steve and Dennis have been friends for so many years. Dennis’s story of dedication to his art and community is now joined to the story of endurance our house tells.”
Robinson tells the story of “a great friendship” who sort of gave him his tutelage.
“We’d get together and laugh and talk about life, about the beach, about everything. He had a saying about the beach: times change but the people never do,” Robinson said.
Until he met Hermey, Robinson said he had no awareness of the impact of exposure to Agent Orange. The herbicide was used in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971 as a defoliant in the jungles.
“His health records even confirmed he had Agent Orange,” Robinson said.
Hass enjoyed the recent Porthole gathering where so many locals came together to celebrate Hermey’s life.
“He was honest, trying to help everybody do everything. He was just an outspoken, fun guy to be around,” Hass said.
Dennis Hermey, official obituary in the North Coast News and The Daily World:
Dennis Charles Hermey, 69, well-known North Coast area artist and friend to many, passed away Dec. 27, 2017, at TacomaGeneral Hospital, after a long fight with a syndrome he acquired during his service in the Vietnam War.
Dennis was born to Walter and Elizabeth Hermey at Fort Dix, N.J., as the third of seven siblings, with four brothers and twosisters, Dennis went to school in Hendersonville, Tenn., and enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving two tours with the 101stAirborne Division in the Republic of South Vietnam. Dennis came home in 1969 and was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Wash. andafter his discharge from the Army, he moved to the North Coast, settling in Ocean Shores, Wash., where he opened an artgallery, “Glass Gallery”, and a glass shop. Dennis’ art can be seen in many area businesses and homes. He was active incommunity affairs.
Dennis is preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Elizabeth, and his older brother, Woody. He is survived by his wife,Andrea, his son, Jon and his grandsons, Jon Jr., Joseph, Caleb and Oliver; sisters Betsy of Ocean Shores, Wash. and Marti ofBoise, Idaho; and brothers Michael and Aaron of Clarksville, Tenn., and Kevin of Rochester, N.Y., and special friends SandraHermey, Jim Donahoe, nephews Woody and Pat Hermey, and nieces Stephanie Thomasson and Hillary Smith.
Dennis will be cremated with a memorial service to be held at a later date. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations bemade in Dennis’ name to the North Beach VFW Post # 8956.