John A. Dean, 89, of Farmington, passed away on March 3, 2014. John, "Big Daddy Dean," was born May 31, 1924, in Breckenridge, Texas.
He was the third son of Ben J. and Helen Dean.
John was preceded in death by his parents and his two oldest brothers Ben Jr. and Beale.
He had an active and exciting life as a child in the small west Texas town of Breckenridge. He was an exceptional athlete while in high school. He excelled in football such that he, with the support of his coaches, intentionally failed English so that he could play football one more year. He was selected to play in the all-star football game the Oil Bowl. John was elected Senior Class President his senior year. Following graduation he attended Baylor University on a football scholarship. The year was 1942 and after one semester of college and a trip to Mexico, John and several friends joined many others and enlisted in the armed forces.
John was in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 82nd Airborne, and served his country proudly for three years during World War II. He was a T-Sgt. and flew in the skies over South Africa, England, France, Holland, Germany and other countries. He and his crew flew three missions on D-Day. He told his family that he thought his job in an unarmored, thin shelled plane was bad until the paratroopers bailed out of the safety of the plane into the dark night over Normandy, June 6, 1944.
He participated in the liberation of Holland and supplied fuel to Patton during the Battle of the Bulge. At one point his plane attempted to land on what they thought was an Allied held landing strip when they saw German troops firing at them. Being loaded down with five gallon cans of highly explosive fuel, in a thin shelled cargo plane, they left that area as quickly as they could.
John's plane was towing gliders in the battle of the bridge at Nimagen when the plane was hit by flack. His captain Russell Rammer was killed. With John's passing his crew mate and friend Joe Beyers becomes the last surviving member of the "Stud Duck."
After the end of the war John was allowed a short furlough at home before he was to be deployed to the Pacific theater. While he was home the atomic bombs were dropped on mainland Japan, they surrendered, and John was home to stay. John received many decorations, honors and some demotions; something about a "liberated" motorcycle, for his service to his country.
John married Maxine McKinney, Aug. 2, 1946. He graduated from North Texas State University. After graduation he taught school and coached football. After several years of coaching he went to work for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company as a regional sales manager at several locations in Texas. He often told his family his most fulfilling years were those spent teaching. Education remained a core value of the Deans and John and Maxine were most proud that all of their children and grandchildren have graduated from or are attending college. John encouraged many others to attend school.
In 1958, John and Maxine moved their family to Farmington, and ran Western Tire Company, for the next 30-plus years. They survived the booms and busts inherent to the oil patch and grew the once small tire store into a bustling retail store with more than fifty employees.
While on a trip to Arizona they saw a large Paul Bunyan statue and Big Daddy, on the spot, purchased it, and shipped it to Farmington where it spent many years on top of Western Tire. "Big Daddy" was now the focus of the advertising strategy of the business and quickly became a much loved icon of the community. The first year the Big Man was taken down to be dressed in his Santa Claus outfit the store received hundreds of phone calls from concerned residents asking what had happened to him.
John respected his Native American neighbors and made many friends over decades of doing business with them. Many generations of loyal and valued customers passed through the doors of the store with the Big Man on top. Western Tire extended credit to its customers. Credit limit was a moving target with Big Daddy. It was often based on need rather than ability to pay. Many people in the community have shared with the family the benefit that this easily changed debt ceiling policy had on their lives.
John believed in serving his community and was an advocate for San Juan County. He was a founding member of Crime Stoppers and donated money for the first crime lab of the Farmington Police Department. Law enforcement officers and their families were automatically extended credit at Western Tire with no questions asked.
John was a founding member of the Farmington Industrial Development service, a precursor of the present day 4CED. He traveled with a group of business leaders to Washington D.C. to request monies for construction of Navajo Dam and the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project. He was a member of the Amigos and traveled with them on numerous trips promoting New Mexico. John was a founding member and the first chairman of the board of Farmington National Bank. He proudly served on the Interstate State Stream Commission for many years under several governors.
John was active in politics counting among his friends mayors, senators and presidents of Native American tribes. He was Democratic Party chairman and cooked barbecues with several of his friends at Democratic events all over the state.
John was an ardent supporter of the Farmington Boys and Girls Club, serving on its board and as a member of the group that prepared the food for the long running barbecue that benefits the club.
John and Maxine were founding members of Farmington's Bethany Christian Church and are members there today. He served churches in many positions during his lifetime and he and Maxine helped start a Church while living in Tucson, Ariz. He was a faithful Christian.
John and Maxine retired in 1990, and spent the next decades in Tucson, Albuquerque and Farmington. At the time of his passing John and Maxine had been married 67 years.
John is survived by his wife, Maxine; his four children, Carolyn of Albuquerque, John and his wife Gayle of Farmington, Russell and his wife Karen of Bayfield, Colo. and Andrew and his wife Diane of Farmington. John has six grandchildren and four great grandchildren. John is also survived by his brother Harry of Granbury, Texas. John also counted as part of his family all of the former employees of Western Tire Co.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, March 7, at the Bethany Christian Church, 711 E. 30th St. in Farmington, with the Rev. Ursula Messano officiating. There will be a private internment with his grandchildren V.A. Barber, Liz Hayman, Kama Dean, Kellen Dean, Kelsey Dean, and Myra Dean serving as pallbearers.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the John and Maxine Dean Scholarship Fund at the San Juan College Foundation or to the Farmington Boys and Girls Club.
John's care is entrusted to Brewer, Lee and Larkin Funeral Home, 103 E. Ute St. in Farmington, 505-325-8688. Those who wish to express their condolences may do so at www.serenityandcompany.com.
Published in Farmington Daily Times from Mar. 6 to Mar. 22, 2014
Brewer, Lee & Larkin Funeral Home
103 East Ute Street Farmington, NM 87401