STURGIS — Dennis Levin is a superfan of his grandkids.
He says he has incredible admiration for all 24 of them.
“I like to make the grandkids feel important and talented and confident,” he said.
But he realized he needed an outward sign to show his affection.
“You know everybody always wants an autograph from these big superstars. I feel that my grandkids are a lot more important than any big superstar athletes,” he said.
So, after events in his grandchildren’s lives, Levin began asking the youngsters for their autograph. He has been doing it now for years and he has a cardboard box filled with grandchildren autographs to prove it.
Those 24 grandchildren are spread around the country from Wisconsin to Nebraska and closer to Levin and his wife, Jessie, in western South Dakota. Their activities have included everything from football, basketball, track, softball and soccer to school music concerts and more.
The autographs are keepsakes for him now, but he’s thinking more long-term about their value.
“Someday I want the girls, our son and our grandchildren to all sit down at a big table and rustle through all of them,” Levin said.
His granddaughter Olivia Jolley, a standout basketball player for Sturgis Brown High School, said he has been asking for her autograph since she was in kindergarten.
“All the way up through high school and even into college he has asked for my autograph. It was one of the things I looked forward to most following a game,” she said.
What makes the collection of autographs special is that “Grandpa Dennis” would use any available paper he could find to get the autograph.
“It was always a black pen and either the program from the game or really anything he could find with our name on it or the school mascot on it,” Jolley said.
What made it special is that the autograph session was a special time with grandpa and the grandchild, Jolley said.
“He would find me when I came out of the locker room. Most of the time it was just me and him. He’d give me a hug and tell me, ‘good job.’ It was definitely special,’” she said.
Jolley said she couldn’t hazard a guess as to how many autographs she’s given to her grandpa over the years, but says he certainly has gotten the point across by the gesture.
“He’s definitely special to all of us and we love him a lot,” she said.
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