Cover photo for Dennis Rohlfs's Obituary
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1949 Dennis 2024

Dennis Rohlfs

May 29, 1949 — June 17, 2024

Bismarck, formerly of Pick City

The day after Father’s Day, career aviator and career father/grandfather Dennis Rohlfs took to the welcoming skies like so many times before throughout his life but did not return for landing.

Born and raised on a small dairy farm near Milbank, South Dakota (Corona to be exact), Dennis was one of three children to Roland “Red” and Blanche Rohlfs. Not only did Dennis excel as a record-setting high school athlete at Corona High School, “Denny” also had a gift and love for music. Growing up in a very small community filled with loving, resilient, hard-working, God-fearing friends and family was one of the key foundational pillars to his successes and achievements in life.

During his school years while at home, Dennis had the many daily chores of a small dairy and hog farm, delivered milk and dairy goods to neighbors in town, trapped and tanned hides, played in four-piece cover band at school dances and managed to have a little small-town fun when time allowed.

Upon graduation, Dennis moved to Redfield, SD to work as an orderly at the SD State School. Through a chance introduction, fate walked in, and Dennis was introduced to a young future nurse by the name of Joann Lambert. The two of them faithfully dated for a short time until Dennis proactively enlisted in the Army amid the draft for the Vietnam conflict to avoid the inevitable. Joann was steadfast during their time apart with dreams of marriage upon his return as a Medevac pilot in the US Army’s 571st Dustoff Unit based Phu Bai. Then on Sept 5th, 1970, their dreams came true, and they were wed. Although defending and helping others in Vietnam left a dull haze on Dennis’ young life, his perseverance and ambitions took full advantage of his military aviation experiences as the platform for his future aviation career. 

As he moved his new wife to Bismarck, he took up a few early jobs as a salesman for Lorillard Tobacco Co., selling suits at JC Penney’s and a part-time skate guard at Wheel-A-While…yeah, he was the cool dad with his own black skates! These early steps were only to subsidize his now young family as he pursued a relentless love of aviation and truly become a visionary and pioneer of General Aviation at the Bismarck Airport. 

Circa 1973, at the kitchen table of their rented house on North 28th street, Dennis and Joann threw all their chips on the table and started a fledgling airplane charter company called Executive Air Taxi Corp. With the support of a couple start up power companies and a key hospital partnership, Dennis turned a single airplane into a leading fixed-base operation and a national air medical helicopter service based right here in Bismarck, ND. His vision and leadership were pivotal for many local businesses to expand their presence throughout the region through safe and reliable air transportation while many career aviators built valuable flight time to further their aviation dreams as well. In addition, countless human lives across the United States were either improved or saved by his air medical helicopter company called Med-Trans Corporation. Both aviation organizations continue today under new ownership and are leaders in their respective industries. Prior to his retirement, Dennis was awarded with the North Dakota Small Businessman of the Year award.

While his accomplishments and accolades were frequent, his personal life produced a wealth of successes as well. When Dad wasn’t literally flying around the country to support his company, he and Mom were taking their two children camping and fishing on big Lake Sakakawea where they would later build their forever home near Pick City. He volunteered by coaching youth basketball teams, sitting in stands cheering for the Demons, active in the church, hunting, playing music, woodworking, and God can only count how many “Do-It-Yourself” projects and home repairs this man completed. Both Dennis and Joann were also quietly generous in their philanthropic gestures as well. 

It was always so fascinating to see Dad in social settings. They say the quietest in the room is the smartest…he was genius. He had the perfect comedic timing when adding a witty joke to a conversation, as he kicked back in a chair making everyone around him feel comfortable and was warm and welcoming to all walks of life around him. The guy had the kindest blue eyes that added to his charming and warm energy he permeated around people he would come in contact with. Even in his later years, laying in a hospital bed…he had that “It”! Don’t get me wrong, if you poked the bear, he would bite too. But I can count on one hand how many times he raised his voice to the two of us. Which now looking back on it over the years, he had this James Bond vibe of “Never let them see sweat” no matter what personal or professional situation he was in.

Towards the end of his days, Dad frequented Prairie Knights Casino… ’cause he could! They took such great care of him while he added to his bag of gold coins with the passion of Uncle Scrooge McDuck. He would sit at the airport with his scanner listening to ATC and Tower hand off aircraft back and forth. And most importantly, he made darn sure that his immediate family was harmonized and ready to continue their journey without him.

Dennis’ legacy is honored by his family: his loving children, Tom Rohlfs (Kelly) and Jodi Herslip (Zach); his adored grandchildren, Brody Rohlfs (Cloey), Kade Rohlfs, Savanna Herslip (Riley) and Kaj Herslip. He is also survived by his mother Blanche Rohlfs and brother Larry Rohlfs.

Dennis was predeceased by his loving wife, Joann (Lambert) Rohlfs, his father, Roland Rohlfs; and sister, LaVonne Smith; his father-and-mother-in-law, LJ and Vernie Lambert; and brother-in-law, James Lambert. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be sent to one of the following: Corona (South Dakota) Fire Department, PO Box 123, Corona, SD 57227; or the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, 4606 Hwy 1806, Mandan, ND 58554.

A memorial service will be held 12:30 p.m. Friday, June 28 at Parkway Funeral Service, 2330 Tyler Pkwy, Bismarck. Family will greet guests one hour prior.

Burial will be held at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan. 

 

Service Schedule

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Visitation

Friday, June 28, 2024

11:30am - 12:30 pm (Central time)

Parkway Funeral and Cremation Service

2330 Tyler Parkway, Bismarck, ND 58503

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Memorial Service

Friday, June 28, 2024

Starts at 12:30 pm (Central time)

Parkway Funeral and Cremation Service

2330 Tyler Parkway, Bismarck, ND 58503

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