Bonnie Davidson / The Courier
Dennis Garsjo holds up a get well card sent to him after a recent surgery. Those who signed the card didn't sign the card with their names, they simply signed with their birth dates. Garsjo was able to go through those signatures and place the initials of each individual next to the birthday.
It's an unusual talent. Some may call him a "freak," and others have used him to perform party tricks. Many of the kids who have grown up poolside will remember him as a big supporter of the Glasgow swim team, and some might also have noticed his uncanny talent to remember people by their birthdays.
Dennis Garsjo might not remember your first name, but he will most likely remember your birthday after the first time meeting him. Garsjo said that he usually only uses his talents for entertainment purposes. He's memorized around 1,700 birthdays.
His technique for memorizing so many numbers is something he attributes to a college. Connection, Association and Repetition (CAR) were ways he remembered numbers, and important information. But he said it's also a knack that runs in the family.
"My mother was that way," Garsjo said. "There were 53 kids with cousins. She remembered them all."
He added that even while fighting dementia she was able to remember a birthdate to one of his cousins on the way to a funeral. He also attributes some of his talents to a brother who started giving him numbers to memorize in the second grade. He didn't always understand what the numbers were, but he could remember them. It helped him grow his love for math and numbers.
This memory has caused Garsjo to visit with people around town, and sometimes he will remember their birth dates more than their names. The dates are associated with others who may have the same birthday, or be from the same family. He said that if there's no one with the same date, he has a harder time remembering the date. He can also be thrown if someone gives him the year instead of the month and day. He has been challenged a few times to know everyone in the room, and he's won.
"It takes some concentration. I may ask more than one time and repeat the number and date and say it many times," Garsjo said. "A few people get weirded out by the talent."
He explained that certain names throw him off as he associates dates with certain names, such as his wife's name. It's hard for him to get a name and date to stick. Other than being known as the birthday guy, he also has a knack for remembering phone numbers and can perform card tricks. He's been invited to house parties just for his unusual talents and he said that it's just something he does for fun.
His involvement with the swim team started in 1979. Over the years, hundreds of kids have come through. His two daughters and son are now involved in the swim team as adults and one thing that many of the kids have realized is Garsjo will remember their birth dates, and often will call them by their birthday over their name.