Denny Chuba is one of five people being honored Oct. 27 by the Three Rivers Community Foundation. The other honorees are:
by Joni Astrup
Through many years of volunteering, Denny Chuba has found an old cliche to be true: “The world belongs to those who show up.”
For years he’s been showing up everywhere from the Elk River Community Theatre to the Elk River Energy City Commission, the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce to the National Association of Home Builders Board of Directors.
On Oct. 27, Three Rivers Community Foundation will recognize him for his contributions.
Chuba said it came as a surprise and is humbling.
“I haven’t done anything special,” he said.
His list of community involvement, however, is long.
He is being honored for his leadership in the building industry, the chamber, local service clubs and the community theater. He serves on the Elk River Energy City Commission and the Elk River Area Arts Alliance, and has been president of the Elk River Community Theatre, the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce and the Elk River Lions Club.
A recovering alcoholic for many years, Chuba has been president of the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter and supervised the building of the organization’s facility in Otsego. “We’ve helped a lot of people there, I think,” he said.
A builder, Chuba has also had leadership roles in that field. He was president of the local builders association in 1991 and of the Builders Association of Minnesota in 1996. He also was a national representative to the National Association of Home Builders in 1993 and later served on the National Association of Home Builders Board of Directors.
He also is on the St. Andrew’s Church Finance Council.
The city of Elk River proclaimed Dec. 4, 1995, as “Dennis Chuba Day.”
Learned construction working with his dad
Chuba grew up in Brooklyn Park when it still had gravel roads. He attended a one-room school through the fourth grade and then went on to graduate from Osseo High School.
He was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam era and finished at the top of his class in psychological warfare school in Fort Bragg, N.C. He scored 995 points out of a possible 996.
Chuba was initially sent to Okinawa, Japan, and then eventually to Vietnam. There he was involved in psychological operations like dropping leaflets from planes and putting on shows in villages to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.
He found it to be a confusing war in a beautiful country.
After getting out of the service he finished college. He has a degree in journalism and advertising with minors in history and chemistry.
His first job out of college was selling advertising for the StarTribune, but in 1972 he started his own construction business. The Chuba Co. will mark its 40th year in 2012, with Chuba and three partners at the helm.
“We all know we’re not perfect, but we strive to do the best we can,” he said.
They also try to use local subcontractors and suppliers when feasible.
The company has done projects such as Heritage Landing in Elk River, Burnside Trails in Burns Township (now Nowthen) and Heritage Hills in Otsego. The company also took down some buildings along east Main Street in Elk River and built several new buildings there.
Along the way The Chuba Co. has developed a reputation as an energy-efficient builder. As Chuba puts it: “We were green before they had a name for it.” He said it just makes sense to save as much energy as possible.
He learned the construction business from his dad, who built aircraft hangars in Greenland during World War II and later did home remodeling and construction.
Chuba moved to Elk River in 1977, and expected to be here no more than six months. It’s now been 34 years.
“Really it’s the best thing that has happened to me,” he said. Elk River has been a great place to live with “lots of fine people,” he said.
He builds boats
Shortly after moving to Elk River, Chuba went to a community theater meeting, where he was encouraged to audition for a role in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
Doug Johnson was the director and Chuba ended up being cast as Mortimer, the lead.
“It was the start of a lot of friendships,” said Chuba, who remains involved in Elk River Community Theatre today. He’s been in a dozen or so productions over the years.
Chuba also has been involved in the Arts Alliance, and is a proponent of having a regional arts center in Elk River.
He doesn’t consider himself an artist, but he does build boats. In fact he has built nine of them including a sailboat, two power boats, a paddle boat, a row boat, two hydroplanes and a pontoon boat.
Chuba also likes gardening, golf, playing with his two dogs, playing the piano and spending time with his wife, Marilyn Van Patten. He and Marilyn have participated in the Wisconsin Convertible Classic, a road tour of Wisconsin, for the past 16 years driving mostly their 1966 red Cadillac convertible. They use it for local parades sometimes, too.