A talented and respected man was lost when longtime Tehachapi resident Dennis Wahlstrom, 67, passed away on Aug. 25, which happened to be the anniversary of his father’s passing years earlier.
Dennis was well known in the Tehachapi area as he worked for the City of Tehachapi for more than 28 years. He started as a maintenance worker in the Public Works Department, and worked his way up to the highest position as director as a result of his extensive knowledge and his ability to manage people calmly and support his work team.
Dennis was born on May 29, 1953 in Detroit, the son of Charles “Bud” and Janice Wahlstrom. They had six children: Fred, Dennis, John, Charles, Thomas and Polly. The family moved to Las Vegas where Dennis was mostly raised, and he attended Valley High.
After school, Dennis worked for a number of years for an airline catering service, then went to work for TAB Construction, a large construction company that did major infrastructure projects like roads and airport runways. Dennis was in charge of painting and refurbishing their extensive fleet of equipment, and he was later able to put these skills to work and save the City of Tehachapi money by painting equipment in-house.
Dennis married Catherine Lubawy in 1971, and they had a son, Aaron, in 1972 and daughter Leslie in 1977. Dennis was a family leader, and was always there when his family needed him. He mentored his younger brothers, and over the years all of his younger siblings lived with him and Catherine. Even his parents lived for a time with Dennis. His calm, even demeanor served him well in negotiating family relationships and problem solving.
Dennis came to Tehachapi in 1984 and worked in the renewable energy industry on wind turbines. He and his second wife, the former Nancy Mercer, had their son Gene in 1991. Dennis later worked in construction with local contractors Dave Hubbard and Steve White.
Dennis and Nancy were involved in attending rendezvous and participating in living history encampments of the fur trapping era. Dennis hand-stitched countless items of leather and canvas, and made all of the items that they used. His youngest son Gene, a “rendezvous kid,” was dressed in clothes entirely made by his Dad. Dennis shot black powder rifles and threw tomahawks and thoroughly enjoyed his participation in that lifestyle.
Employees who worked under Dennis during his many years at the City of Tehachapi recall him as a boss unlike any other: he didn’t scream or yell or berate people, he did his best to teach and encourage. And he always owned up to his mistakes. His son Aaron recalls that very important life lesson: “Dad always said if you screw up or make a mistake, admit immediately. Own it. Accept responsibility and try to correct the problem.” Those who knew Dennis know he didn’t just give that advice to others, he lived it himself.
Dennis retired from the City of Tehachapi in 2012 and later served a term on the Tehachapi City Council.
He was an avid reader and sourdough bread baker, and one of his main hobbies was fixing and restoring vehicles, including helping others with their projects. He gave very generously of his time and his extensive talents. He was close friends with Perrin Cowan for many years and helped him with vehicle restoration, and helped Jon Hammond restore a 1956 Ford tractor.
Dennis spent the remaining seven years enjoying happiness with Barb Reynolds-Wahlstrom, who help clear $100,000 legal obstacles from his life to make more time for his rendezvous activities he dearly loved and the much-loved father he enjoyed being to aerospace manager Ryan Reynolds and daughter-in-law Cynthia Reynolds and step-grandparent to All Stars (Junior Alaniz Reynolds) and Gymnast, (Aaliyah Reynolds).
“You’re our Huckleberry” Gus. Love you, Peach (Barb TeachBlade Reynolds, Tehachapi Court Services.)
Additional survivors include his son Aaron and his wife Rhonda, his daughter Leslie and her husband Erik Teeter, and his son Gene. Also grandchildren Brittney, Markie, Bryan, Nick, Morgan and Allison, and great-grandchildren Rachelle and Saylor. Dennis is also survived by his appreciative siblings.