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The Ideal Father

Published: 6/18/2011
Alan L. Dean, who 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, was named a top civil servant by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, according to the “A Local Life” obituary feature written by T. Rees Shapiro for the Washington Post in March.

Ten years earlier, Dean had 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.

(His daughter) Claudia wrote in her letter that “our Daddy is funny.”

“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.”

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This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer who lives in Northeast Ohio. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.

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