The 30 junker cars that regularly crammed his front yards just didn't tell the whole story of Charles (Denny) Blue, 66, who died Feb. 14.

The Nebraska native who raised three kids in Coon Rapids "was definitely a different character," said son Dennis Blue. "Everything he owned was for sale. And he could not drive by a garage sale. But he never paid full price. If the tag said $1, he offered 50 cents."

He bought the mystery contents of abandoned storage lockers at auctions just for the thrill of the treasure hunt, said Gary Semmel, whose daughter married one of Blue's sons.

He'd end up with couches, refrigerators, collectable guns and lots of drills, saws and hammers and bring them all home to the yard, basement or trailers. It's why "everybody knew Denny," Semmel said.

"We were disturbed over some of the stuff he would bring home. Lots and lots of stuff," Dennis recalled. "He'd say, 'It was free. We can use it.' We'd say, 'No we can't.'"

It came home just the same.

The former Lino Lakes correctional officer who ticked off Coon Rapids officials with his messy yard, also taught his daughter and two sons to fish and hunt, that your handshake was a contract and that Sunday nights were made for popcorn and movie watching at home with the family.

When he died on Valentine's Day from complications from diabetes and heart disease, Denny Blue was the proud owner of 500 videos. Blue was preceded in death 12 years ago by his wife, Judy, a vivacious 90-pound woman whose children recalled that she doted on Blue from the moment he came home from work and shed his uniform on the floor.

Blue loved the tiny and hard-to-find lakes from which he frequently plucked northern pikes. An avid hunter, he bagged many a deer and loved the thrill of chasing down bear. He made a bear rug from one of his trophies.

Blue's family and friends said he was ready and willing to help people who'd had hard luck or taken a wrong turn in life. Even some of the kids at Lino Lakes ended up under his wing.

"Anybody who was a decent person and honest, he would help," son Dennis said. "But they had to be decent. If they lied to him once, he didn't bother with them again."

From his front yard in Coon Rapids and later in Garrison, Minn., Blue sold many a fixer-upper car to ex-cons and friends. He arranged for small monthly payments if money was tight. Only solid, well-tuned machines went to ladies in need. "Over the years, he helped hundreds of people," his son said.

After Blue retired and later became frail, those he had helped returned the favor, picking him up and driving him to the store, to the doctor or to the Hinckley or Mille Lacs casinos, where he became a regular after moving to a lake house in nearby Garrison.

"He just loved to gamble," Dennis said.

His passion for bartering was never far behind.

"His home on Mille Lacs Lake was on Hwy. 169 and he always had a yard full of things for sale, a trailer, a boat, a car. Something," recalled Joyce Semmel, whose daughter married Blue's son. "You name it, he was out there trading it."

He is survived by sons Dennis and Mike, a daughter, Julie Hoopman, brothers Richard and Ronald and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725