When Dennis and Coralee Wolfe were looking at places to retire, Scotia Village stood out. “We visited other communities, like in Charlotte,” Dennis recalls, “but we decided we wanted the more rural life. It was also a little smaller. So, we liked this environment the best.” It’s easy to understand that desire to retire to a community that’s quiet and easy going when you consider how Dennis spent his career. For over forty years, he was in the dangerous and high stress field of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).
Dennis entered the Army right after high school in 1962, hoping to expand his horizons. “There was very little opportunity where I grew up [in Port Treverton, Pennsylvania], and I always had this dream of seeing the world,” he says, “and the way to do it was to join the service.” He initially signed up for airborne training, but an injury to his knee made that impossible. He was assigned to a garrison unit and convinced to go to explosive ordnance disposal school. “I, of course, had no idea what I was getting into,” he says.
It proved to be the right decision. He had a talent for the work, and within 10 years had become a mentor in the EOD field, teaching future Army EOD specialists. It was around that time that he met his wife, Coralee.
Coralee was teaching school in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Dennis’ niece was one of her students. Dennis’ sister, Patty, was one of the few parents who came to the PTA meetings, Coralee remembers, and she told Coralee about Dennis. He had been stationed in Hawaii but was back home awaiting another assignment. The timing was right – they met and began dating.
Eventually, Dennis was sent to Germany. Coralee followed, and they were married there in 1973. They lived in Germany for three years, and then Dennis was stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. They were there for a little over two years when Dennis got the call that brought them to North Carolina.
“I got a call to come to Fort Bragg for an assessment and selection process for a unit that was starting up,” he says. The mission of this new unit would be hostage rescue and counterterrorism. As part of that unit, Dennis participated in a number of highly dangerous missions, including the invasion of Grenada and the failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages.
Serving in that unit, Dennis became known for his ability to stay calm even in the most stressful situations, and to keep his fellow team members calm as well. He also developed exceptional leadership skills and rose to be the sergeant major of the selection and training detachment.
Dennis retired from the Army in 1987, but not from serving his country. He became a civil servant, and for the next 25 years used his expertise to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures that are used to protect our country from weapons of mass destruction.
As a result of his five decade career in the military and civil service, Dennis was awarded the U.S. Special Operations Command’s 2018 Bull Simons Award in April of this year. This lifetime achievement award recognizes recipients who embody the true spirit, values, and skills of a special operations warrior. (To learn more about the award and Dennis’ career, watch this video.) And the honors don’t end there. In 2019, Dennis will be inducted into the Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame and will receive his high school’s Distinguished Alumni Award in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. He has also had a building named after him! In 2009, a rapid deployment building at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico was named Wolfe Gate in his honor.
Eventually, of course, Dennis did retire, as did Coralee. (After their daughters, Carrie and Sarah, started school, Coralee worked as a teacher’s aide in Fayetteville for twenty years.) They moved into Scotia Village in July of this year. “We’re very pleased with our decision,” Dennis says. It was an easy adjustment because the couple had lived in nearby Fayetteville for the last 40 years. “It was moving across town, essentially,” Dennis says.
Though they have only been here a few months, they’re already active in the Scotia Village community. “Being military, we don’t take a long time to get involved in things and meet people,” Coralee says, “because in the military you never know how long people will be your neighbor or your friend. So, once we were here, we jumped right in.”
They take part in water volleyball, chair volleyball, water aerobics, bocce ball and tai chi, and were enthusiastic participants the recent PHI Olympics. “We have a great time and laugh at how awful we are sometimes,” Coralee says. And they tried acting, with minor roles in Scotia Village’s latest theatrical production, Double Take at Beatrice’s Boarding House.
Dennis has also been happy to see that there are several other retired career military in the community. “There are ten or twelve retired military folks here,” he says. “A couple of nurses, retired colonels, a brigadier general. The other day I had lunch with a retired judge advocate. The Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force are all represented.”
Having people like that around has helped Dennis and Coralee make friends quickly, which is important to them. “We eat dinner every night with different people,” Coralee notes. “I feel the social aspect of life is very important as we age, so we’re not self-contained in a home. And there is so much more here to do there than we had in Fayetteville,” she says with a smile.