Some of you will have already heard the tragic news that lifelong Hammer Dennis Lepine sadly passed today.
Dennis was a wonderful man and a good friend. He held old -fashioned values and principles, honesty, truth, loyalty and out of all the thousands of West Ham fans Dennis was perhaps our ‘greatest‘ fan. He would do anything to help a fellow Hammer and helped out so many of us. Nothing was too much trouble for him.
I was trying to work out how long I had known him since meeting him at Derby (46 years ago?) . It didn’t stack up, if my counting was right, that would have made him about 12 years old. In fact, I was bang on. Dennis started going to away games regularly when he stated senior school. He actually went to Reipas Laati (Finland) to see us play when he was 12!!
Like so many of us Dennis felt badly let down by West Ham’s current owners and I must thank him for his work on the Hammers United Committee. We will keep fighting Den, we won’t let you down.
Dennis spent his final days at home with his wife Jackie, who was the love of his life and soulmate and also a passionate Hammers fan. Their children Billy Hammer and Penny are of course Hammers fans.
Dennis worked some time for the club driving the youth team around and picking up trialists from the airport. Jackie worked for a while doing the refreshments for the Academy at Little Heath.
In his final days Dennis sat in his garden chatting to the many friends who visited. With typical humility he said how overwhelmed he was with the outpouring of love towards him. There was a steady steam of visitors from his West Ham family including Declan Rice and some of the youth team. Video links were also sent by Ian Bishop, Frank McAvennie and Trevor Brooking. Tony Cottee phoned him and the first team players sent a wonderful card with tributes and good wishes. It seems that Dennis was the only one who didn’t know how much he was loved.
Amongst his friends from the West Ham family were some of Dennis’s closest friends who travel on the Hornchurch Coach to away games. Dennis started the coach around 10 years ago. These boys and girls travel to every match. I only went 6 or 7 times a year but have to say it is a privilege to travel with these people, they are the salt of the earth and make sure everyone is looked after on their coaches. They are a family within a family and Dennis is their inspiration.
Dennis’s house is of course a shrine to West Ham. Even the slates on the roof are arranged to form 2 giant hammers. Cabinets are full of memorabilia with scrapbooks of cuttings from the last 50 years and every programme since 1962.The whole house has a feeling of love with an overriding affinity to West Ham, it’s traditions and it’s supporters.
When leaving I had mixed emotions. It was absolutely heart breaking to see this wonderful man and good friend so ill. Yet uplifting to see his incredible courage and the dignity with which he carried himself. Self-less to the end. There was so much good and humanity there. Dennis, his family, and all his friends are such good people.
So goodbye Den. You barely missed a game, home or away, for over 45 years. Not to mention numerous youth and reserve team matches. Your stories, comradery and friendship will be desperately missed by so many. Have a rest now pal, spend some time speaking to Bobby, and your friends already in Hammers heaven.
‘Fortunes always hiding, I’ve looked everywhere. I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.’
God bless you mate-and thanks for so many memories.