If you have ever had the pleasure of traveling into the West Desert with Utah Cultural Site Steward Dennis Weder, you will be amazed at how quickly the barren landscape around you comes to life. Dennis is one of those individuals who has the ability to paint for you through words the story of the landscape and what took place on it. You will begin to see in your mind a picture so vivid that it is like you are part of the story.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Dennis holds an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Denver and a masters in Anthropology from the University of Utah. He moved to Utah in 1973 working as an Environmental Engineer conducting pollution testing at the Tooele Army Depot. Over the course of Dennis’s career, he worked on a variety of interesting projects from nerve agent deactivation, munitions (military weapons, ammunition, equipment, and stores) clean up, to archaeology.
Dennis’s true passion has always been archaeology, even from a very young age. In his career he was able to weld archaeology with his expertise in Environmental Engineering when working for the Tooele Army Depot and Hill Air Force Base. Dennis’s wife, Renae, introduced him to site stewardship. She was working at the time for the State Antiquities Section and helped to recruit Dennis. As the program evolved into the Utah Cultural Site Stewardship Program, Dennis and Renae were among the first to volunteer their services to help get the program up and running.
Some of Dennis’s favorite things about being a site steward are the opportunities to get back out into the field and to make sure that sites and their history are preserved. When asked what he would like to see if he had the opportunity to go back in history, Dennis responded that he would like to see a mammoth hunt (I think many of us would also be interested to see that).
Dennis brings a unique interest to the UCSS Program. He is an expert in the World War II and Korean War era bombing and munitions sites, and the important role that they played in those conflicts. Many of the bomber crews who trained over Utah’s West Desert never came home after they were deployed overseas to utilize the skills that they honed here in Utah. These sites hold a significant national story that must never be forgotten. It was at these bombing ranges that glide bombs, B17 guided crash bombs, and Ground to Air Pilotless Aircraft missiles were tested. The atomic bomb delivery system tests were even conducted over Utah’s West Desert.
Outside of stewarding, Dennis enjoys camping, ice skating, and reading. If you ever go out into the field with Dennis and he offers to bring the grub, be advised that his favorite field food is smoked oysters and Vienna sausages, and he is always willing to share! When asked if he had any words of wisdom, Dennis said this: “Do your background research, keep your mind and eyes open. Lots of strange things have happened out there and it’s not always what you expect.”
Thank you Dennis for a lifetime of commitment to the preservation of Utah’s past!