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What a character

GAYS MILLS - Remember that feature in Readers Digest called ‘My Most Memorable Character?’

I used to read that and wish I could  meet the people being described. The people were either heroic, funny, colorful, creative, wise, kind, hardworking, honest, or had some other enviable quality, or maybe all of them. Reading those brief characterizations of people gave me a peek into the different ways a life could be lived.

We all have or have had memorable characters in our lives. The Kickapoo Valley is, of course, a treasure trove of such memorable characters.  I’ve been fortunate to live in several locations in my 74 years and in each place there were many well-qualified candidates for ‘memorable.’  Trying to pick one to write about this week proved difficult.  

But here’s one: Dean.  I didn’t know Dean very well, in fact I’m not even sure that was his name.  My dad would know, but he’s no longer with us so I’ll go with Dean. Dean worked with my dad; they taught junior high together in Artesia, California.  I met Dean only briefly at one of the faculty’s frequent parties, when I was home from college on an infrequent visit.  

Dad filled me in later on Dean’s background and I never got to talk with Dean about it, but it has stuck with me.

What Dean did was attend a different college every semester as he studied to be a teacher. Think of that. That must have been a nightmare between  applying for admission, coordinating course credits, moving, settling in and succeeding at eight different colleges in four years. His college transcript must have looked like a patchwork quilt.

But think, too, about the education that Dean got just by living all over the country.  He no doubt met hundreds of people, sampled different parts of the country, and had a blast. He attended colleges in California, Ohio, Florida, Idaho, and four other far-flung states.  I’m sure his journey was made easier since an education degree is offered just about everywhere so his credits were easy to transfer. However, the boldness and ambition of his education path really impressed me and probably looked good on his resume, too.

Dad also told me about Dean’s sideline business, another bold venture. In the late 1950s when Dean started teaching, he also started buying houses. At that time, houses could be bought for a fraction of what they turned out being worth. Dean bought and rented houses and later apartment buildings as the westward movement of Americans picked up steam.  Dad mentioned to me that Dean had 25 or 30 units in the early sixties and was adding more, as he continued to teach. Housing in southern California was appreciating rapidly and has become very expensive. 

I never heard how long Dean stayed in teaching or how his dual career worked out, but I have a hunch he did alright. He certainly was a memorable person.