3:43 PM / Thursday June 1, 2023

9 Sep 2012

Obituary: Reelblack matriarch Helen Dennis passes at age 94

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September 9, 2012 Category: Local Posted by:

By Michael Dennis

Founder/CEO Reelblack


As those of you who follow Reelblack on social media are already aware, my grandmother, Helen Frances Dennis, made her transition Sunday afternoon, September 2, 2012 around 1PM. She was 94 years old.


Many of you got to know her through my 2008 short documentary THE 13TH AMENDMENT, which captured her energy the day she voted for Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary. The film “went viral,” playing major festivals, was licensed by YouTube (where it has over 400,000 views) and won the CNN IReport Film festival, giving Helen an unexpected 15 minutes of fame at age 90.


But she was much more than that. She was an inspiration–the product of a teen mother, she quit school after the 8th grade. She was a matriarch–a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother to our clan. None of the family is on drugs or in prison. All have had the opportunity to become educated and are successes in life. She had an amazing sense of humor and always kept it real.


She was the silent partner in Reelblack. Without her support, this simply wouldn’t exist. Her unconditional love gave me the belief in myself to pursue my dreams. She also helped financially, investing in my films, my education and travel. Occasionally she underwrote expenses like Reelblack buttons and t-shirts when the membership dues were not big enough to do so.


She was full of wisdom and she helped shape my worldview. Movies weren’t necessarily her thing but my love of music and comedy come directly from her.


We made three short films together and she has a cameo in my 2004 short, ‘Next Tuesday’. I was looking forward to making another film with her in November, when she voted again for Barack (she had a LOT to say about PA’s voter ID law), but alas, there was a greater plan at work…


In short, any success you see in me is directly attributable to her. I used to grimace when people would say we looked a lot alike. Now I wear it like a badge. I wish everyone could be as lucky as me to have a Nana in their lives. It’s hard for me to believe she’s gone.


Our loss is heaven’s gain. I intend to keep doing her proud.

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