Denny Stong, 20, was an avid model-airplane flyer and builder who loved motorcycles and was preparing for his first big Civil War reenactment, according to interviews with friends and Stong’s social media accounts.
The 20-year-old Boulder resident was the youngest of the 10 people fatally shot Monday at a King Soopers.
Stong’s Facebook page identified him as working at the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive, where he started on Dec. 25, 2018, according to a post. On March 22, 2020, he posted, “I can’t stay home, I’m a grocery store worker” — a note shared in solidarity with other frontline retail and service workers during the early days of the pandemic.
“Our friend Denny Stong’s life was stolen during the shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado,” wrote James Noland on a GoFundMe page for Stong’s family. Noland grew up with Stong in Boulder and attended elementary and high school with him.
“He was a kind soul with a funny sense of humor and unique interests. It was only ten days ago that we were all hanging out at Bianca’s house, talking and laughing together,” Noland wrote. “This is the last thing I would have ever expected.”
Noland also identified Stong as a King Soopers employee.
“I feel angry on top of the sadness,” Noland wrote. “Some people make decisions that lead to their deaths, which allows me to process it more easily. He did nothing wrong and deserved this in no way at all. He made no choice that led to this. He simply showed up to work, and was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Stong’s social media included images of model airplanes and drones, dirt-bike meetups, LBGTQ-solidarity photos, firearms and silly faces. His most recent photo showed him with a shock of unruly orange hair and a calm smile. Stong was a music fan, having attended the July 6, 2019, Dead & Company show in Boulder, according to videos and photos on his Instagram account.
Stong was a 2019 graduate of Fairview High School, Boulder Valley School District superintendent Rob Anderson said. He bought a motorcycle with the money he saved from working at King Soopers, said Lisa Siciliano, who had photographed Stong in the past, and whose children attended school with him. She also said Stong was training to be a pilot and loved hunting.
In 2018, Stong began putting lots of time into the Boulder Aeromodeling Society, where he was a member until December 2020, president Aidan Sesnic said. Stong’s Instagram shows him and club members flying their planes at an airfield specifically sanctioned for model aircraft west of Boulder Reservoir, where Stong’s father Nick often joined him, members said.
“Speaking both personally and on behalf of the club, my deepest sympathies go out to the victims of yesterday’s reprehensible and horrific attack,” Sesnic said. “Both myself and the club are grieving this tragic loss, 10 lives taken far too soon.”
Stong was preparing to take part in his first large-scale Civil War reenactment as part of Ford’s Independent Company, 2nd Colorado Volunteers, according to president Rob Barnes, who vetted and admitted Stong last fall, but never got to meet him in person.
“He was an old soul,” Barnes said of his phone and text conversations with Stong. “He had a big sense of love for history, his country and a very passionate love of firearms. And I want to say, (he was) a very responsible young man. You don’t meet many young people like him.”
Stong’s friends agreed. Bianca Porter, who met him four years ago as a new student at Fairview, said Stong was the only classmate who would talk to her at first.
“He liked a lot of stuff no one else was interested in, and that’s what caught peoples’ attention,” Porter, 19, said. “I know that when everything was going down, he was trying his best to help out.”
Another classmate, 18-year-old Nicholas Novak, agreed. He called Stong “one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met.”
“He never hurt anybody and never made anybody mad,” Novak said. “He always tried his best at everything he did.”