Denise Elizabeth Penick Basham ‘DeeDee’

Published 5:39 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

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Denise Elizabeth Penick BashamDenise Elizabeth Penick Basham “DeeDee,” 72 of Virginia Beach, passed away unexpectedly on May 11. 

Denise is survived by her husband, Richard Basham of Virginia Beach; her son and daughter-in-law, Kevin and Tanya Penick of Gretna; her daughter, Joanna Penick of Richmond, as well as her two step-sons, Brian and Brandon Basham, (Brandon’s wife Kelly and their daughter Hailey Truitt.) She is also survived by her two brothers, Darrell and Gary DiVito and their families.

She is predeceased by her first husband, Walter Penick; her parents, Anthony and Doris DiVito; her sister, Lisa Facemire and niece Emma DiVito.

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Denise was born in Pennsylvania to Anthony and Doris DiVito. She spent most of her childhood in Virginia Beach, graduating from Bayside High and Longwood University in Farmville, graduating with a degree in education. An exceptionally talented artist and teacher, Denise soon started working in elementary art and found herself at what is now known as Fuqua School. Over her career she taught every age, sharing her love of creativity and artistic expression to generations of students. In “Mrs. Penick’s classroom,” art was just fun to be had, not a serious ordeal. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t draw a straight line, she encouraged each student to find a way to express themselves. After many years of teaching, Denise began work on her Master’s Degree in Art Education from Virginia Commonwealth University, still teaching fulltime and traveling back and forth from Farmville to Richmond. During her teaching career, she was named Virginia Art Educator of the year and a Fulbright Memorial Teaching Fellow, the latter earning her a month-long trip to Japan to explore the culture of that country. After receiving her Master’s Degree, Denise worked as the Museum Educator at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, allowing her to extend her reach further into the community and spread her love of art and creativity. Later, she was an adjunct professor at Longwood, teaching education majors how to incorporate art in their classrooms. She would return to teaching at Fuqua School, where she would end her career, retiring in 2013.

While a student at Longwood, Denise met her first husband, Walter Penick. Walter, a lifelong farm boy, was proud of how a city girl like Denise adapted to life in the country. She picked the vegetables they grew and learned to can, never shying away from getting her hands dirty. Walter and Denise had two children, Kevin first and then Joanna. They raised chickens and cows and gave their children a place to grow up where they could roam and explore and let their imaginations truly run wild. Making every celebration something special and turning the mundane and ordinary into something to celebrate.

Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and more, Denise would create elaborate tablescapes and beautifully wrapped presents with specially-themed meals to match the occasion. While teaching and raising her children, Denise continued to grow as an artist, working mostly in oil paints and later making beautifully handcrafted jewelry that she sold under her business, Personal Adornments. Walter and Denise remained married until Walter’s death in 2012.

A few years after she retired, she began splitting her time between Farmville and Virginia Beach, helping to care for her mother. While in Virginia Beach, she met Rich Basham, who would go on to be her second husband and whom she called the love of her life. They went on to get married and lived together, happily making his house into their home. They doted on each other constantly, him bringing her flowers for no reason at all and her continuing to make every day a special occasion. They went on many adventures together, with their two rescue beagles, Mikey and Molly and their rescue kitty, Mitzi.

A lifelong animal lover, she gave every pet, from goldfish to pony, the best care possible, showering them with love and treats. She cherished her pets and treated them like family. To honor her, Rich will continue to care for and love their three, just as she did.

In retirement, she twiddled and toiled in her vibrant and verdant gardens of flowers and vegetables. Continuing to make and exhibit her jewelry, Denise never stopped learning new skills to expand her craft. Rich built her a workshop out back that was her creative hideaway, a place to keep all her supplies and inspirations and where she could bring her ideas to life. She left every space she entered more beautiful than she found it. Often turning them into what she called disaster zones before the final magic was to be revealed. Her lifetime was spent making others feel accepted and included. She forever championed the underdog, rooting for whatever team was predicted to lose. Always happy to lend a hand, expecting nothing in return; Denise did the right thing and followed her heart no matter what. She stood up for what she believed in, even if it made her unpopular. She lived her life with an open mind and open heart and never once did she regret that. A quote attributed to one of her favorite artists, Henri Matisse reads, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them,” and Denise always saw the flowers. In fact, she was probably the one who grew them.

In lieu of flowers, Denise requested that donations be made in her memory to the Southside SPCA.

Funeral services will be held Friday, May 17, at Puckett Funeral Home in Farmville. Visitation begins at 11 a.m., funeral service at noon and graveside service will follow the funeral.

Puckett Funeral Home is serving the family.