Tributes to popular Hartlepool driving instructor

The family of the late Dennis Wilson have been paying tribute to the former soldier turned driving instructor, who was a prolific letter writer to the Mail. Dennis with his Open University degree.
The family of the late Dennis Wilson have been paying tribute to the former soldier turned driving instructor, who was a prolific letter writer to the Mail. Dennis with his Open University degree.

TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known former Hartlepool driving instructor and committed member of the community.

Dennis Wilson, died peacefully in hospital after a short illness, aged 88.

The family of the late Dennis Wilson have been paying tribute to the former soldier turned driving instructor, who was a prolific letter writer to the Mail.

The family of the late Dennis Wilson have been paying tribute to the former soldier turned driving instructor, who was a prolific letter writer to the Mail.

Dennis taught thousands of learner drivers to get their licence in his 22-year career.

The proud ex-serviceman was also a lifelong learner, much-loved dad, husband and grandfather and dogged campaigner on road issues.

Dennis’s daughter Susan Ketteringham described him as “a true gentleman”.

He was a regular contributor to the Mail’s letter’s pages for over 30 years and featured in numerous articles about his campaigns on road safety and success in adult learning and community award schemes.

He was a true gentleman. I don’t think there was anybody that didn’t like him

Dennis’s daughter Susan Ketteringham

As a young man Dennis worked as an apprentice die-sinker at engineering firm Head Wrightson before getting the sack for ‘cheeking’ the general manager.

But it led to him joining the Royal Signals Corps and being posted to Hannover, in Germany, just after the end of the Second World War in 1946.

There Dennis met Edith Meier who was to become his loving wife for more than 65 years.

The couple had three children; Susan, 64, Peter, 56, and Marian, who sadly died when she was only 15.

Dennis and Edith Wilson on their wedding day in 1949

Dennis and Edith Wilson on their wedding day in 1949

Dennis service in the Army took him to west Africa’s Gold Coast, France and the UK, reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant.

He left the Royal Signals after 16 years in 1961 and moved back to Hartlepool.

But Dennis was a proud member of the Royal Signals Association and received an award for 50 years of service.

After spells working as a postman and at local steelworks Dennis started his own driving school Denwil in 1975.

In 1981 he and fellow town driving instructor Kevin Hopkins set up the Hartlepool branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and in the mid-90s Dennis became the first instructor in Hartlepool to offer the Government’s Pass Plus driving safety scheme.

Kevin said: “Dennis was the person who got me into driving instruction and I knew him for many years.

“He will be sadly missed by many people.”

On retirement, Dennis showed you are never too old to learn by achieving an Open University degree with honours, aged 77.

He was also a regional award winner for Adult Learners Week.

“He was always learning something,” said Susan, 64.

Dennis was also awarded a Champion of the Community Award by the council in 2002 and a Pride of Hartlepool writing competition winner in 2005.

He was also a member of the 50 Plus Forum for older people and member of the Kensington Court social committee for which he arranged trips and called bingo.

His letters appeared regularly in the Mail on traffic and transport issues, parking and road sign inaccuracies.

Susan added: “He was like a terrier when something was not correct.

“He was a true gentleman and a lovely father.

“I don’t think there was anybody that didn’t like him.”

Dennis is survived by wife Edith, 85, and also leaves two grandchildren, Maya and Lilly.

His funeral will be held on Thursday at St Patrick’s Church, at noon.

Anyone who knew him is welcome to attend.