Lake Placid community mourns Denny Allen

Former Olympic Center General Manager Denny Allen poses on April 20, 2018 at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena a week before he retired from the state Olympic Regional Development Authority. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The state Olympic Regional Development Authority flag in front of the Olympic Center was lowered to half mast this past weekend as the community began mourning R. Dennis “Denny” Allen, who died unexpectedly Friday at the age of 64.

A Lake Placid native, Allen retired in April 2018 as the Olympic Center’s longtime general manager. His death came as a surprise to many, including his cousin, town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi.

“It’s one of those unfortunate things that hit you between the eyes with a brick,” Politi said Sunday. “You just don’t expect these things. You can’t figure it out. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason.”

As soon as his death was confirmed on Friday, tributes began being posted by members of the community on Facebook. A post by Desperados Restaurant in Lake Placid summed up the feelings of many.

“Some people are friends, some people are community legends, some people are known for their true goodness and kindness all around the world. Denny Allen was quite literally all of these things to us, and more. To the incomparably iconic Denny, who will be deeply missed by far too many to count, may he rest in peace.”

Sue (Ortloff) Cameron, who graduated from the Lake Placid High School with Allen in 1972, posted a number of photos on her Facebook page, including images from a hockey game, the senior play and being crowned king of the 1972 LPHS Winter Carnival.

“Denny always had the best sense of humor,” Cameron wrote. “I remember the time he ‘accidentally’ threw all my books out the 3rd floor window in English class. I still to this day am not sure if he meant to or if they just slipped out of his hands. He would never divulge the truth.”

On April 27, 2018 — the day Allen retired from ORDA — his friends held a surprise party for him at the Top of the Park restaurant, where Politi handed him a key to the town of North Elba, an honor only reserved “for special people.”

“Denny was a one-of-a-kind guy,” Politi said. “Everybody loved him. He was a great ambassador for Lake Placid. He was a great supporter of all of our youth programs. He took a lot of pride in getting the kids into sport activities, especially the winter sports activities.”

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said Sunday that whenever he got a phone call from Allen, he knew he was calling for something that was worthwhile.

“He’s a guy that cared about everything,” Randall said. “He cared about the people around him. He cared about the community. He cared about our young people. I can’t say enough good about him.”

Calling hours for Allen will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 at the M. B. Clark Funeral Home in Lake Placid. A Mass of Christian Burial — essentially the funeral — will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8 at the Olympic Center’s 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.

On Friday night, from 7 to 9, there will be a Community Celebration of Life for Denny Allen at the Olympic Speedskating Oval, according to co-organizer Greg Borzilleri. There will be free admission and free skate rentals.

“Everyone is especially encouraged to attend at 8 p.m. when there will be a brief ceremony to honor Denny’s legacy,” Borzilleri wrote in an email. “A one-lap skate/walk-around, passing of the torch, a lighted lantern release and a final good-bye will be celebrated. All are welcome, whether on skates or on foot.”

Denny Allen’s legacy

Mayor Randall said that Denny Allen’s legacy is well documented for what he did for Lake Placid.

He was born on Aug. 26, 1954 at Placid Memorial Hospital, the son of Bob and Gloria (Fox) Allen, and grew up in Lake Placid.

Graduating in 1977 from St. Lawrence University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, Allen returned to his hometown. During the 1980 Winter Olympics, he was the manager of the Olympic Speedskating Oval. By 1981, he was at the Olympic Center working for the North Elba Park District and then ORDA in 1982, first as the director of operations, then director of events and finally general manager.

“I think I was one of the first ORDA employees, certainly from this venue,” Allen told the Lake Placid News in April 2018.

As the general manager, he was in charge of the speedskating oval, the Olympic Center arenas (1932 and 1980) and the new Lake Placid Conference Center, which opened in 2011.

“It’s a pretty demanding job,” Allen said. “It’s easily six days a week and a lot of times seven days a week.”

Allen said that some of his biggest accomplishments at ORDA were overseeing the construction of the Lake Placid Conference Center and the improvements at the Olympic Center. His biggest challenges on the job revolved around the age of the Olympic Center, but he credited his staff with top-notch maintenance of the facilities.

What kind of boss was Denny Allen?

“He can be a little hard to deal with at times, but he has a big heart,” Allen said. “And that sometimes gets in his way, but I think he does a pretty good job.”

In 2016, Allen joined his father and mother as a member of the Lake Placid Hall of Fame.