Michael Dennos (BS Chem Egr '43), the retired CEO of Chef Pierre and a founder of the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, Mich., died June 28, 2012, at the age of 92.
Michael Howard Dendrino was born on May 16, 1920, in Muskegon, the first of eight children born to Christos and Katherine (Holder) Dendrino. His father hailed from the Ionian island of Kefallonia, coming to the U.S. from Corfu, Greece, by himself at the age of 14. His mother was born in a sod hut on a North Dakota prairie.
On the day after Italy invaded Greece in 1940, Michael's father, Christos, went down to the courthouse to restore the "s" to the end of his surname, thus changing it back to the original Greek "Dendrinos" from the Italian-sounding "Dendrino" doled out to him when he came through Ellis Island. With their father's permission, each of his sons adopted his own preference for a surname, with Michael choosing a shorter version, Dennos.
Dennos began working at the age of 12 for Sunrise Pies, his father's North Muskegon bakery. A graduate of Muskegon High, Michael became the first in his family to attend college when he won a scholarship to Michigan State University, where he studied chemical engineering so that, in his words, he would "never have to make another pie again."
Michael married his high school sweetheart and fellow MSU student Barbara Mae Hansen on Sept. 25, 1941. After graduating from MSU, Dennos served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Following up his training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and officer's school at Columbia University, Lt. Dennos was assigned as a communications officer to the battleship USS Wisconsin, where he spent much of his time making pies for the captain.
After his service ended in 1946, Michael moved his young family east where he worked for 20 years at Schenectady Chemical Co. Dennos moved back to Michigan in 1962 to help run the family pie business that had been started by his father in 1922 and moved to Elk Rapids by a brother, Peter Dendrinos. They moved the pie company, which was rechristened Chef Pierre, to Traverse City in 1963, where it became the largest employer in Traverse City and the No. 1 provider of pies to the U.S. food service industry. Dennos became president of Chef Pierre in 1973 and CEO in 1981, after merging Chef Pierre with Consolidated Foods, the parent company of Sara Lee, in 1980. Michael retired in 1986 as vice president of Consolidated Foods.
In 1973, Dennos endowed the M. Larian Scholarship Fund for deserving chemical engineering students at Michigan State in honor of his chemical engineering professor, Doc Larian. Dennos was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Hellenic Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Claud R. Erickson Award from Michigan State University.
Dennos was preceded in death by his siblings Peter Dendrinos, Spiros "Bud" Dendrino, and Ange Dennis. Michael is survived by his wife of 70 years, Barbara, of Traverse City; daughters Anne Marie (William) Shuyler, of Alexandria, Va., and Mary Christine Dennos, of Traverse City; grandchildren Michael (Veronica) Demmer and John Demmer, Christina Shuyler and Alexandra Shuyler; and his siblings, Angeline (Spencer) Ketchum, Athena (Joe) Gabriel, George (Jan) Dendrinos, Georgia (Charles) Zorn, sisters-in-law Peggy (Peter) Dendrinos and Dorothy (Bud) Dendrino, and many nieces, nephews, and second cousins.