Culture and Trends ›

The Ideal Father

Shutterstock / Mongkol Rujitham

The Ideal Father

Civil servant Alan L. Dean began working for the federal government in 1941 and became the first assistant secretary of the newly formed Department of Transportation in the late 1960s, and was named a top civil servant by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, according to an obituary feature written by T. Rees Shapiro for The Washington Post in March.

But that wasn’t Dean’s only honor. In 1956, Dean won The Post’s “Ideal Father” contest based on letters his two daughters wrote outlining why he merited the honor.

His daughters “told The Post that their dad ‘combines the qualities of civic leader, bricklayer, fruit grower, songleader, storyteller and camp counselor,’” Shapiro wrote.

Dean “regaled his daughters with passages from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Middle English and fed the girls plump blueberries from the back yard.”

“Our Daddy is funny,” wrote daughter Claudia in her letter.

“Sometimes he sings songs,” she wrote before noting parenthetically that “his voice is terrible.”

Dean downplayed his “Ideal Father” title, attributing it to his daughters’ letter-writing talents.

“Children seem to think an ideal father should be a source of kind encouragement, ice cream, candy and baseball games,” Mr. Dean said in 1956. “There’s more to being a father than that.”

Share your condolences in Alan Dean’s Guest Book.


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She was the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers before she passed away in 2015.