Robert Dean McLean – July 16, 1936 – November 16, 2017.
Dean slipped peacefully away on November 16, 2017 while his daughters held his hands. Dean is survived by his wife of 51 years Wendy, his children Alison (Andrew), Heather, and David (Lia), and the pride and joy of his life, his five grandchildren Amy, Iris, Emmett, Desmond and Grace.
Dean was born in North Vancouver, B.C. in 1936, an only child in a large extended family of uncles, aunts and cousins. He spent his early years in North Vancouver surrounded by family, and his teens at the beach in White Rock surrounded by friends, sports, and Scouting. Despite making zero effort in high school, Dean’s natural intellect squeaked grades good enough to be accepted into UBC.
Dean loved his years at UBC. He joined the Beta Theta Pi fraternity where he made life long friends, and accumulated hours of excellent stories that put Animal House to shame. He worked his way through university as a “Road Scholar” on a crew building highways throughout remote parts of British Columbia. Dean earned his BA in 1959, and then later his B.Ed.
In the Spring of 1965 he met his future wife Wendy on a life-changing blind date to play bridge. They were married in 1966, and in 1969, they moved to Kamloops where Dean began teaching at Ralph Bell Elementary. Dean loved everything about Kamloops: the landscape, the history, the people. He soon became very active in Kamloops life: the local branch of the Liberal party, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, curling, skiing, and golf, and later the Kiwanis and the Masonic Order. Dean also developed a circle of close friends, many of whom had been part of his life in his UBC days.
Dean was a natural teacher. He was smart, funny, well-spoken, a natural story teller, incredibly curious, and genuinely interested in his students. He loved coaching sports, especially basketball, and he loved seeing kids succeed. However, in the early 1980’s, Dean’s bi-polar illness forced him to leave teaching.
Being a Stay At Home Dad in the 80’s wasn’t always easy. But he was very busy, tutoring students with disabilities, helping new immigrants, volunteering in his kids’ school, coaching teams, cheering at every game or track meet, and ferrying his children to every activity. In the summers Dean loved to camp, hike and swim, and the winters, Dean would pull us out of school to ski.
Dean was always interested in our friends, and much to the embarrassment of his teenaged children, would talk politics, philosophy, sports, the environment, and the tell the occasional totally inappropriate joke. That so many of our childhood friends have written to us to say how Dean was a big part of their teenage and young adult lives has been an incredible source of comfort.
In 2011, his kidney function collapsed and he started dialysis. Every week for more than six years, three times a week, for four hours a day, Dean chose to have dialysis so that he could keep doing what he still could: talking politics with friends on the phone, having coffee or lunch with friends, and drives in the country. Most importantly, he chose to stay alive because he loved his family and friends, and wanted to be with them as long as he possibly could.
Throughout his adult life, Dean was blessed with close friends – our extended chosen family — who stood by him during the ups and downs of his bi-polar illness. We cannot thank you enough for your love and support throughout the years, and especially in the last few weeks.
Thank you to the staff of the Kamloops Community Dialysis Unit, and the RIH Dialysis Unit for over 6 years of care and friendship. Thank you also to Dr. Hanna Ritenburg, Dr. Conley, Dr. Prystawa, our long-time friend Dr. Jennifer Takahashi, the kind staff at Active Care, and the staff of 4 North for keeping Dean comfortable and supporting us during his last days. Donations may be made to the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation and the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
Dean loved nothing more than to be surrounded by people, stories, and laughter. We will be holding a Celebration of Life in honour of Dean to tell some of those stories on Thursday, December 28, 1 p.m. at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kamloops, followed by a reception in the church hall.
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