Three months after receiving a diagnosis of Glioblastoma Multiform, Grade IV, Joseph Dentice participated in the Walk to Mary, a 21-mile trek from Old St. Joseph Church at St. Norbert College in DePere to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion in Champion.
According to Mary, his wife of 42 years, at the time, Joe was already struggling with confusion, feeling invincible and had difficulties with some of the mechanics of dressing, but he was insistent that he would do the walk.
“He did 18 miles of walking, though there were times we insisted he get in a wheelchair because we were on a timeline and he wanted to make it back for the Mass,” Mary Dentice said.
Because Joe had a tumor on his brain, coupled with hundreds of cancerous nodules inside his brain, surgery was not an option. He utilized conventional treatments to slow the spread but struggled with severe headaches throughout his cancer.
“I had to convince him to let me take him to the hospital so they could provide him with a cocktail of medicine so he could get some relief, but it wasn’t something we could do often, as the medication was too potent,” said Mary.
Joe remained in his Muskego home for most of his diagnosis, and throughout the months, the men from the Dynamic Men’s Group from St. Leonard Parish, Muskego, would come to their home and pray the Rosary with him each week. Even on the last day, when Joe died, the men came and prayed for him.
On Monday, April 17, Joe died just 14 months after his diagnosis. The St. Leonard Parish member was a leading advocate for the development of Dynamic Men’s Groups within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and around the country. Last September, he was honored at the annual Men of Christ Holy Hill 5K Run/Walk.
An avid supporter of Men of Christ, Joe helped establish dozens of Dynamic Men’s Groups in parishes in southeastern Wisconsin, explained Jerry Voors, who was a close friend of Joe and Mary.
The two met at their parish, St. Leonard in Muskego, many years ago, and through Joe’s insistence, Voors attended a Men of Christ Conference and their friendship deepened. Voors joined the leadership team for the Dynamic Men’s Group at their parish, which brings together 40-60 men each week.
“This is all because Joe tapped me, and most of these other men, on the shoulder. Thousands of Catholic men can track the path of their rekindled faith to the seeds planted by Joe Dentice over the past 15 years, including me,” Voors said. “In fact, Danny Abramowitz, host of the EWTN show ‘Crossing the Goal’ shared that, ‘there are only a couple men in the country that have had as dramatic an effect on establishing Catholic men’s groups as Joe did.’”
Voors compared Joe to the apostle Paul, as he helped to spread the joy of Christ’s gospel through both actions and by the way he lived his faith.
“Joe recognized that the key to building strong families, a strong Church and a strong country was tied to making men stand up and be responsible leaders. That starts with being prayerful, faith-filled men, and us leading our church and our families,” he said. “He leaves very big shoes to fill.”
On a personal level, Voors explained that Joe taught the men how to have fun, but at the same time, keep faith and family first.
“Once diagnosed with the rare, terminal brain cancer in February 2022, Joe accepted the cross with his typical positive attitude. As his health declined in the past few months, he kept his smile and positive attitude,” Voors said. “Although he and his family aggressively treated the disease, Joe offered up the suffering and pain, particularly offering his suffering up in honor of the vocation of our parish seminarian, Charles Luke, who was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, April 22. I honestly am not sad about Joe’s death … he knew he was reaching the goal he had worked hard towards his entire life — eternal life in heaven, hanging out with Jesus. He taught us by example how to live and die with faith and grace. I am sad for Mary, (and the) kids and grandkids who will miss the great man who was the leader of their family.”
At Joe’s funeral on Friday, April 21, Mary saw a friend talking with her children, she was sobbing, and recently lost her daughter, so Mary expected that her husband’s funeral was too difficult for her since it was so close to her loss, but that wasn’t the case.
“She told me that she had a dream the night before and that Joe came to her, put his arms around her and said he saw her daughter, and told her everything was going to be OK. She could barely speak when she told this to me. It really touched my heart.”
Joe, age 66, is survived by his wife Mary; children, Anthony (Krista) Dentice and Danielle (Mike) Manders; grandchildren Donnie and Joey Dentice, and Max and Lexi Manders; siblings, Laurie (John) Gomez, Kathy (Tom) Easter and Tom (Jodi) Dentice; and brother-in-law, Ted Peelen.