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Physician remembered for going above and beyond





LAWRENCE -- Patricia Denning and her husband, Dale, were the life of the party.

Both doctors, they liked to dress up for an annual costume ball fundraiser, said Kathy Clausing-Willis, vice-president and chief development officer at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

"We have an annual breast cancer dance," Clausing-Willis said. "Every year, people would look forward to what type of costume they were going to wear.

"It was really something, much more than anyone else ever did."

Patricia Denning, 56, chief of staff at Watkins Memorial Health Center, was killed late Monday morning in Lawrence when she was struck by a train. Dale Denning is a 1974 graduate of Russell High School, while Patricia Denning grew up in Topeka. They were married 30 years, with three children.

"We're all mourning, devastated with her loss," Clausing-Willis said.

Clausing-Willis remembers the couple fondly.

"They loved to dance," she said. "They always participated when we had a dance competition."

Clausing-Willis remembered Patricia Denning as a determined person, doing what it takes to get the job done. When Patricia Denning served on the hospital's endowment board, there were improvements planned for the birthing center and in the nursing areas. That wasn't enough; Denning also wanted improvements for the surgical center. She made sure donations covered it, too.

"So, long story short, we now have a beautiful surgery center," Clausing-Willis said.

The couple also knew how to lead a balanced life, even as busy physicians.

"They were together all the time," Clausing-Willis said. "They were very happy, a role model as far as a family and a couple. They figured out how to balance their careers and being parents and being philanthropists.

"A lot of us have a hard time figuring that out."