Warren Dean Obituary Photo

Warren E. Dean Sr.

Warren E. Dean Sr. passed away peacefully on May 19 at age 97. 

Warren was born to Chester M. Dean and Pearl Williams Dean on July 17, 1923 on his family’s farm in Smith Hollow near Bloodland, Missouri, a town that is now part of Ft. Leonard Wood. His grandmother, Alice Woods Dean, was a mid-wife and delivered him at home.

Warren´s family bought a farm in Hazelgreen, then moved to Waynesville because it had electricity. His father opened a filling station in Waynesville, on Route 66, with the first flush toilet. Warren and his brother pumped well water by hand to fill the tank.  

When Warren was seven years old, his family moved to Lebanon, Missouri where he worked in his father´s farm supply and feed store. He played basketball for Lebanon High School and excelled at team sports. He was a well-liked student but not a studious one. 

Warren served in the Army during World War II. His only combat was in Golden Gloves Army boxing tournaments that left him with a crooked nose. 

Upon returning to Lebanon after the war, Warren won a bid to buy a truckload of wool blankets from the Army. He convinced his brother Lester to drop out of college and join him in the war surplus business. The brothers shook hands and formed Dean Government Surplus.  They moved to Kansas City, where they opened a wholesale outlet and warehouse. They opened retail stores in Warrensburg, Blairstown, West Plains, Lebanon, Osceola, Clinton and Waynesville. Their company became one of the nation’s largest war surplus store chain.  

On August 4, 1946, Warren married Julia (Judy) Faye Jacobs of Stoutland, Missouri, at the Lebanon First Baptist Church.     

Dean Government Surplus expanded into heavy equipment, cranes, jeeps, and ships. They operated from Guam and Saipan to purchase war surplus in the Marianas Islands. Warren and Judy moved to Guam. 

From 1948 to 1954 the Dean brothers won most of the major salvage contracts to clean up war surplus remaining in the islands.  They opened blocks-long equipment lots in Houston, Texas and Oakland, California to store the equipment and they smelted metals they shipped to the mainland. Their largest purchase was the battleship USS Oregon which they cut into scrap and sold to the Japanese.

    After six years in the islands, the brothers ended their partnership. Warren and Judy returned to Lebanon. 

In 1956, Warren´s cousins, Ed and Lester Williams, asked him to build a supermarket for them in Rolla. Warren saw great potential in Rolla so when building the supermarket, he added hardware, variety, clothing, and drug stores. Hillcrest Shopping Center, near the junction of Highways 63 and 72, was Rolla´s first shopping center. Warren continued to buy government surplus that he stored near and far.

Warren and Judy had four children – Ed, Jake, Ginny and Chessie. Jake died at three weeks of age. Chessie died at age two years, seven months. 

Warren was a member of the Rolla Kiwanis Club and chairman of the Brothers of the Brush, all members of which grew mustaches and beards because they were forbidden to shave during Rolla’s 1958 centennial celebration. Warren enjoyed playing poker with his friends, canoeing local rivers, hunting in Colorado, fishing in Canada, water skiing at the Lake of the Ozarks, and snow skiing in Sun Valley and Aspen. He owned three planes during his life – one of which he crash-landed in a corn field south of Rolla.

In 1967, Warren began buying and selling property at the Lake of the Ozarks, retaining what eventually became a family camp in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. In 1969, on a foundation of missile storage racks, he built an aluminum-roofed A-frame cabin out of disposable fuel tanks from military transport planes with walls and floors he salvaged from portable Army Air Corps radar huts. His children and grandchildren enjoy the camp to this day. 

Warren´s wife Judy died at age 93 in December 2019. He outlived his older brother, Lester M. Dean, and his younger sister, Virginia (Ginger) Dean Ralston. He is survived by his son, W. Edward Dean and his husband, Valentino Ortiz, of San Francisco, California, his daughter Virginia Dean Wetterau and her husband, Mark, of Laguna Niguel, California, his grandchildren, M. Stephen Wetterau of Dallas, Texas, Elizabeth Wetterau Bakman and her husband, Shaymus, of Fresno, California, and Olivia Wetterau Luce and her husband, Bryn of Laguna Niguel, California. Warren lived long enough to meet his great-grandsons, Dean and Cole Bakman and to learn of the birth of his great-granddaughter, Lily Faye Bakman.

    Warren will be buried next to his parents, Chester and Pearl Dean, and his wife and sons, Judy, Jake and Chessie.

A visitation will be held at noon on Saturday, May 29 followed by a memorial service at 1:00 p.m. at Null & Son Funeral Home located at 1010 Kingshighway, Rolla, MO 65401. A graveside service will be held at 3:00 p.m. at the Lebanon Cemetery in Lebanon, Missouri. 

In lieu of flowers, Warren’s family requests that donations are made in Warren’s memory to The Russell House, P.O. Box 2259, Rolla, MO 65401. The Russell House was established by a dear family friend as a shelter for women and children suffering from domestic abuse.

This article originally appeared on Lake Sun Leader: Warren E. Dean Sr., 97