At 5-foot-3 and three quarter inches tall, Denny Bates doesn’t sound like he would be very intimidating. But his larger-than-life personality and occasionally huge beard made him seem like a man well over 6 feet. But he would never say he was 5 foot, 4 inches, because he didn’t want people to have false expectations — he was very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy.
Denny Bates was brutally honest. He loved inappropriate jokes and stand-up comedy, teasing his wife and children, especially his own two daughters. Which is part of the reason why it came as such a shock when he died by suicide in March.
If you ask 3-year-old Winnie Bates where her daddy is, she’ll tell you he’s in heaven. Winnie’s mom, Dani Bates, said Winnie had nightmares for a week after her dad died.
Denny Bates died a week after Winnie’s birthday. His obituary, written by his wife, explicitly states the cause of his death, and has been viewed thousands of times. Dani Bates has been open about the aftermath of her husband’s death on Facebook, and even started a blog sharing her experience and how her two young daughters, Winnie and almost-1-year-old Piper, have been after their father’s passing.
Dani Bates said her husband grew up with an abusive father, and struggled with anxiety and depression throughout most of his life. When they got married almost five years ago, everything seemed to improve for both of them. Dani Bates has also struggled with anxiety most of her life.
“We gave each other stability,” Dani Bates said.
Dani and Denny Bates met online, a fact that Denny Bates didn’t like to share. Dani Bates said he would joke that they met on BlackPeopleMeet.com or FarmersOnly.com, to cut tension and avoid explaining that they had actually met online. Despite the mild subterfuge, one of the things that attracted Dani Bates to her husband was his brutal honesty.
“He was so brutally honest that it was sometimes offensive,” Dani Bates said. “He had no problem telling you exactly what he thought ... if you didn’t like it, he didn’t care.”
That honesty worked for Dani Bates, who told Denny that she wanted to have kids and be a stay-at-home mom on their first date, and if that’s what he didn’t want he shouldn’t ask her out again.
However, it so happened that Denny Bates loved kids. Although he came off as a tough guy — “But as soon as you put a kid in his hands, he turned into a puppy,” Dani Bates said.
She added that at 18 years old as a single man, Denny Bates actually had gone to an adoption agency to see if he could adopt a child. They didn’t let him.
“I knew he’d be a really good dad,” Dani Bates said. “Once he actually had kids, they were everything to him.”
When Denny Bates would come home after work in the evening, Dani said he would just take care of everything having to do with the kids — feeding, bathing, brushing teeth — because he just loved it. He would take Winnie camping with his extended family (Dani Bates said she is not a camper), and would take Winnie out on daddy-daughter dates at least once a week.
“Denny was actually the best dad ever.”
But being the best dad ever didn’t mean Denny Bates was super sweet all the time. Alongside his brutal honesty was a wicked sense of humor to match. For example, proposing to his wife with a flashmob in Target.
“His goal in the proposal was to embarrass me,” Dani Bates said. “He didn’t want to be romantic, didn’t want to be sweet, didn’t want to say anything nice. His purpose was to embarrass me.”
Denny Bates’s weapon of choice for embarrassment was belting “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon while his family popped out of the aisles at Target. Dani Bates said she didn’t love the proposal, but it didn’t deter her from wanting to marry Denny.
It appears their love was strong enough for Denny Bates to get over one of his pet peeves as well — he’s a stickler for time, the kind of stickler who believed “if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late.” He later confessed to Dani Bates that he showed up 15 minutes early for their first date and drove around her neighborhood so he wouldn’t be too early to pick her up.
So when Dani Bates was 45 minutes late on their wedding day, she was certain Denny would be upset.
“But I got there 45 minutes late, and he was the happiest I’d ever seen him. He was so happy,” she said. “He teased me about being late, but then he was just excited and walked me in and went and talked and signed the marriage license and just was so happy.”
He teased her about being late to their wedding for the entirety of their marriage, of course.
Another quirk Denny Bates had was his love for growing a beard. Normally, he had a closely trimmed beard, but occasionally, his wife said, he would just decide to see how much it could grow in a few months.
“He told me that he wasn’t going to cut it until we had a son,” Dani Bates said. “That beard was so obnoxious.”
Denny Bates also let his mustache grow past his lip without trimming it. It got to the point, Dani Bates said, where he had to lift up his mustache to kiss her goodbye in the morning.
“It was so gross,” she said. “But of course, now that’s like one of my favorite things. It’s funny ... (the) things that you hate. And then as soon as they’re gone, you’re like, wait, I would take that back.”
However, she did make sure Denny Bates’s beard was trimmed down to its usual, respectable length before he was buried.
Since Denny Bates’ passing and Dani’s posting about it on Facebook, she said she’s been shocked at the overwhelming response from people, including people she’s never met before.
“People have been reaching out from across the country, like people that I’ve never met that no association with me or Denny,” she said. “I’ve had people reach out to me and tell me ... that they were suicidal, and it changed the way they feel about everything.”
Being open and honest about her experiences is therapeutic for her, Dani Bates said, but she’s also glad to know others find it helpful as well; whether it makes them reconsider suicide, or to reach out to a loved one struggling, or to know how to comfort somebody who has lost a loved one to suicide.
“That’s the way I’m going to heal from this, is one, focusing on my daughters, but two, being able to stop it from happening to anyone else,” she said.
But one of the most important takeaways Dani Bates said she wants people to have, is knowing that Denny’s choice wasn’t selfish. After experiencing abuse at the hands of his own father, Dani Bates said Denny felt this was his only way of stopping the cycle of abuse.
“It was completely out of love,” Dani Bates said. “It was not a selfish choice. Me and his two girls were everything to him, and he only did it because he thought he was protecting us from abuse ... in his mind, it was the most unselfish thing he could do.”
In honor of Denny Bates, Wiseguys Comedy Club is holding a live show at 7 p.m. on May 9 at their Jordan Landing location to raise money for Dani, Winnie and Piper. Tickets are available at its website. Proceeds from Life Fest, a suicide prevention music festival on June 13, will also go to support the Bates family. Life Fest is sponsored by GLUE MVMT and tickets can be bought online.
The Bates family also have a GoFundMe, which can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/71tvj1k. Read more about Dani Bates’s journey in the aftermath of her husband’s death at her blog, https://danibates.com, and read Denny Bates original obituary at https://www.warenski.com/batesD.php.