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Friends remember Peppers owner Denny-O

(Compiled by Ocean City Today Staff)

(Oct. 3, 2014) Dennis King, more affectionately known as Denny-O, died at age 63 Monday, Sept. 29 of heart-related illnesses.

The owner of Peppers Tavern on the Boardwalk and Peppers in West Ocean City, Denny-O cut a large swath through local folklore as a hard-partying, hard-working and affable person.

“Let’s pound one down and go get a Irish Car Bomb” (a questionable alcoholic concoction of high potency) was a frequent rallying cry he was known to issue.

Having moved to the Eastern Shore from the Washington D.C. area for business opportunities in this area, Denny-O found his way to Ocean City in 1979 and to what was then the Irish bar McGee’s under the Shoreham Hotel, where he began a lifelong friendship with owner Buck Mann and set about creating his own legend.

As huge as he was honest and occasionally profane, Denny-O became one of those people who no one, upon meeting him, would forget.

Here is what some of them had to say on Facebook this week and passed along to Ocean City Today.

Doug Rupple: I’m gonna miss you, Denny. Heaven just got one funny dude! Just everyone loved Denny. He always had a story and a smile for you.

Al Haley: You were one of a kind, buddy, and touched many with your kindness, humor, generosity and love of life! Rest in peace Denny-O, you will be sorely missed my friend!

Jen Judd and Dawn James: We have very heavy hearts today as we heard of the passing of a local icon here, Dennis King, Denny-O from Peppers Tavern West OC. We hadn’t seen or talked to him recently, but he is definitely someone once you met with him you would never forget.

One of the last times we ran into Denny he was stuffing the Peppers truck for charity in front of Super Fresh, which showed his big heart. He was a very funny and passionate man. We only barely knew you and you impacted our lives but we know you will be missed by so many in OC…

Ron Gunther: Incredibly saddened by the sudden loss of our friend Dennis King, owner of Peppers Tavern in OC and West OC. The first time I met Denny, I commented that I had never gotten such a heartfelt “thank you” from a bar/restaurant owner. Denny’s friendly manner and his awesome food made Peppers in WOC our “go to” spot. You knew Denny was in a great mood when he bought the house shots of fireball.

I’ll miss your jolly laugh and our Towson football conversations. Rest in peace. As much as I love the food at Peppers, a visit there just wasn’t complete without seeing Denny.

David Cooke: God bless and rest in peace my good old friend. Always a good, hardy laugh from you. No one can deny Dennis was one of the good ones! Even though I haven’t seen Dennis since our HS and a couple reunions long ago, he was such a friendly character that stays with you forever.

I wish I could be there for his sending off. He would’ve only wanted people to smile and be happy, not sad. He only lived for that, his death should not change it. God bless him!

Bev McCloskey: RIP Denny-O. You leave behind many fond memories of our times together but one that sticks in my mind is when you walked in Peppers Tavern many times and yelled “the Pells are here, let’s pound a Guinness.” You will be truly missed!

Kathy Panco: He had the biggest heart of any man I know and was the funniest person I have ever known. Will never forget the trip to the Bahamas, two planes of OC characters, and all the fun we had, particularly at the Gong show when you did Hambones and then the big scuttle at the bar. You are an Ocean City legend and we will miss you!

He was a gentle giant who had the biggest heart in the world and made me laugh so hard that my eyes would leak with joy.

Kimberly Pierce Greenway: It won’t be the same coming down to OC. You were always so kind and generous to everyone. So very sad that such a wonderful man died way too soon. We will miss you Denny. He was just an incredible person that I very much looked forward to seeing every time we came down to the shore. We tried to get down as often as we could, even in the winter, and Peppers was first on the list so we could see Denny. A very special person who will be very much missed by all.

Eileen McFaul Gunther: He was a wonderful man who touched so many lives with his gentle hands. He will always be remembered. The Shore Sisters’ hearts are broken, and we will never forget the man who knew us by name and thanked us every time we came to Peppers for his amazing food. Surely, we will meet him in heaven and it will be our turn to buy him a fireball shot. Rest in peace, Denny-O.

Dave Szimanski: You were part of making Ocean City a fun place to visit. You loved your customers and they loved you. You left way too soon and yes, Denny-O, you will be so deeply missed my friend. R.I.P. We are all so sad for the loss of this gentle giant Ocean City icon!

A few weeks ago, we were having drinks at the bar, Denny-O called from his hospital bed and told the bartender to pour shots on the house from the owner! What a great guy he was.

John Parker: RIP Denny-O and our condolences to his family and friends. A visit to Peppers to see Denny-O was a must on every trip to Ocean City. In fact, multiple trips to Peppers for every trip to OC. A great guy, business owner and human being. You will be missed my friend. Here is to you, cheers.

Jim Backoff: Denny-O made me feel like Norm on Cheers every time I walked into Peppers on 611. We became friends and he will be missed. I worked two years at Castaways RV OC and spent several days a week at Peppers with him and Amy and the best chef in the world.

Renee Kleindienst Sechrist: Denny-O was one of the kindest business owners/friends we have known. He was always happy to see us when we walked in the door at Peppers in West OC. Always offered to buy us a drink. He will be so missed by many.

Dorie Sheldon: Denny, you will be missed by Bob and I and our family. You were a part of our family. Great personally and a wonderful friend and a warm and friendly bar and restaurant. We are in shock! RIP.

Ryan Abbott of the band, Phantom Limbs: I’ll say this about Denny-O: When we’d be cleaning up Peppers Tavern after an evening of epic consumption, we felt like he was our dad. On one hand, we were afraid of him and his judgment because of the bacchanal affair the night before, evidenced by the scattered pieces of mic stands and tangled cables.

But on the other hand, we shared an acknowledgment that fun happened and fun was the most important thing. He did right by us. And his place, the legendary Peppers Tavern, is a testament to that.

He may not have been punk rock, but he trusted J. Frank to build a temple for those of us who didn’t fit in with the vanilla cover scene that is the rest of Ocean City. Without “The Tavern,” so many of us would still be lost misfits. And even though we still are those lost misfits, because of the Tavern, we’re proud of it, because we had a place to share it, and a place to scream it.

Thanks, Denny-O, you jolly old bastard, you. Make sure you open up a nice country western breakfast place on the other side, and we’ll come class it up for you when we get there. Until then, I promise to grab all the gear tomorrow.

Friends may visit with the families at Burbage funeral home in Berlin, on Monday, Oct. 6, from 6-8 p.m. A church service will be held Tuesday, Oct. 7, at noon at Holy Savior Catholic Church on 17th Street.  A reception will follow at Peppers Tavern, 15th Street on the Boardwalk.

Dennis King (photo courtesy Dave Szimanski)
Lisa Capitelli, Ocean City Today
Managing Editor Lisa Capitelli, a New York native, entered Salisbury University (then Salisbury State) in the fall of 1998 and graduated in the spring of 2002 with a Bachelors of Arts degree. She majored in communication arts, and minored in art, with concentration on photography. Lisa began her career at Ocean City Today as a staff writer in February 2003. She was promoted to Assistant Editor in August 2011 and Managing Editor in May, 2013. Editorial responsibilities include covering sports — from local high school games, to fishing tournaments and recreation and park programs, the business community and weekly happenings, events and activities.

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