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METROLINK COLLISION: PORTRAITS OF LOSS / DENNIS ARNOLD

He lived for his family

September 15, 2008|Duke Helfand

Dennis Arnold was a family man.

The longtime aerospace engineer gave up a promising career as a folk musician in the 1960s because he didn't want to leave his wife and two young children for life on the road.

Nearly half a century later, Arnold, 75, enjoyed the fruits of the tight-knit family he had always wanted.

Arnold's two adult children, Scott and Jeannette, lived within a mile of the Camarillo home he shared with his wife of 53 years, Maria. Every Sunday evening at 5, his children and their families -- 10 people in all -- would gather at their parents' home for dinner.

"He would say, 'This is the highlight of my week,' " Scott Arnold, 48, recalled. "There is a lot of love in the family."

The Arnold clan also vacationed together, visiting Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada and another favorite spot along the Snake River in Idaho, peaceful places where Dennis Arnold could indulge one of his favorite pastimes -- fly fishing.

Known as "Bunk" to his wife and good friends, a nickname from his older sister, Arnold was a musician at heart. He belonged to the group Shenandoah Trio in the 1960s, cutting an album and appearing regularly on "The Jimmie Rodgers Show," his son said.

But Arnold, who had been senior class president at Venice High School, made a practical choice: He became an engineer, working for years in aerospace in the San Fernando Valley. He was taking the train home from his job in Chatsworth on Friday.

Maria Arnold recalled that her husband had a lifelong fascination with trains. He spoke Spanish and French fluently, and was a sergeant in the Korean War.

All along, his wife remembered, he never gave up on his music.

Arnold continued to play bluegrass. He could play guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass. With his son, he played in a group called the Antique Music Company at parties and a pub in the Malibu Hills.

"He was also my favorite Sunday school teacher when I was a teenager," nephew Geoff Arnold recalled. "He had a calm assertiveness about him that seemed to draw out the respect of the students. He treated us with respect, and we returned it."

-- Duke Helfand

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