Robert “Bob” Dean, Jr.

 

 

    

Class of 1965

February 2021

I was born in Queens and like many others during the post-war era we eventually migrated to the Long Island suburbs. We moved to my maternal grandparent’s home in Westbury in 1954 when my father contracted polio and was sent to a rehab hospital in upstate NY for nine months. He was able to go back to work a few months later after which my parents purchased a Levitt home in Hicksville in time for the start of school in 1956.

I attended Dutch Lane Elementary School for three years before going on to Hicksville Junior and Senior High Schools where I graduated in 1965. Following that I enrolled at Nassau Community College and received an A.A.S. degree in Business Administration in June of 1968, having lost some time stemming from injuries I suffered in a motorcycle accident in October of 1965.

I then transferred to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I earned a B.S. degree in Business Management in 1970 and thereby became one of the few non-Mormon graduates of that institution. Upon returning home that year I began what became a lifelong career in the commercial insurance business. My first job was in lower Manhattan’s Financial District where I worked for a large national insurance brokerage firm.

In 1971 I married a girl from Brooklyn, and we had three daughters born in 1974, 1977 and 1987. In January 1978 we moved to New Haven, Connecticut as the result of a job transfer with a large property/casualty insurance company that I was working for at the time. In April 1982 I changed employers and moved to New Mexico. By coincidence I went back to work for my first employer that had a branch office in Albuquerque. Our relocation was due in part to the fact my parents had moved to New Mexico in late 1972 but also because I had enjoyed my time in the west and wanted to live there.

We bought a home in Rio Rancho just northwest of Albuquerque and I soon realized what a small world we live in. The neighbor who lived behind us had a street sign on a pole in his back yard that read “Broadway/West Marie Street”. His name was John Econopouly and he had owned the Sweet Shop in Hicksville. He grabbed the sign when Broadway was widened in 1967 and took it with him when he moved to New Mexico and started a new career. 

In my new job as an insurance agent, I inherited and further developed a niche market providing professional liability insurance primarily to architects, engineers, surveyors and environmental consultants.

By the mid 1980’s I had built a significant client base and tried to convince my employer to sell its accounts to me so I could start my own business. I met a lot of resistance from the corner office but since I had an iron clad non-compete agreement, I had no choice but to wait it out.

My wish was finally granted and on July 1,1991 I established my own business known as R. J. Dean & Associates. My agency became the largest provider of professional liability insurance in New Mexico for architects and engineers.

No life is without some tragedy and my share came in April 1987 when our third daughter was born almost ten weeks before her due date as a result of several pregnancy complications that afflicted my wife, not the least of which was severe pre-eclampsia, or toxemia. After a long and difficult C-Section my wife so sick she was placed in ICU on a ventilator for two days. Our daughter came in at just over three pounds and was in newborn ICU for four weeks until her weight reached four pounds and she was otherwise in good health.

My wife’s recovery was going well and a few days later she was transferred to a private room in preparation for discharge in the next day or two. The morning after she was placed in the new room, she suffered a cardiac arrest while she was alone and unmonitored. She was clinically dead when the CPR team arrived and was not responding to their efforts to revive her. Just prior to giving up they tried one last time and her heart started beating again.

My wife was placed back in ICU, this time in a deep coma. She gradually came out of the coma, but it was clear that major, permanent brain damage had occurred from the lack of oxygen. She sufficiently recovered to the point where she was sent to a neurological rehab facility in a local hospital. She was discharged almost two months later but was a shadow of her former self.

She knew who I was and remembered our two older daughters but had no idea why there was a baby in the house or who it belonged to. Her mental processes were largely gone, and she was unable to take care of herself. Her long-term memory was largely unaffected but her short-term memory was very poor. She had the problem-solving capability and reaction to emergencies equivalent to that of a four- to five-year-old child.

I now had to take care of her, a little preemie, and our two older girls, who were about to enter their teen years, almost entirely by myself. A few years later the social workers tried to convince me to have her institutionalized, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. By March of 1994 I was completely exhausted and made the extremely difficult decision to place her in a nearby nursing home. Not too long after that I contacted an attorney and reluctantly began divorce proceedings knowing she would never get better.

I needed to get on with my life, but I also knew I had an obligation to continue to manage her care. My wife’s family, consisting of five younger siblings, had done nothing over the years to help with her care as they all lived in other states.  One of her sisters became her legal representative during the divorce and I lost almost everything except for the equity interest in my share of the business. That however turned out to be a tremendous blessing in disguise.

When the divorce became final, they moved my wife to her sister’s home in Colorado with the intent of taking care of her there. Instead, she was placed in another nursing home where she is to this day.

Divine Providence smiled on me in June of 1995 when I re-connected with a woman from Long Island whom I had known since 1971. Both of us had gotten married six weeks apart that summer and met a few months later in church. Our families became casual friends although she and my wife were the ones who really maintained the relationship. She had kept in touch with us through occasional letters over the years and was familiar with my difficulties.

In June of 1995 she mentioned in a letter how bad her marriage had been from the very beginning and that she was also in the process of getting a divorce from an abusive husband. This came as a complete shock to me as I had no idea of her circumstances. She was living in poverty, trying to raise six children on a small salary after being forced to go to work while being separated from her husband. He had been out of work for three years and refused to look for a job, so he wasn’t supporting their children.

We soon began trading letters on a weekly basis (no email back then) and never saw or talked with each other for three months. In September I made arrangements so we could finally meet for the first time in almost 18 years. I bought her a plane ticket to south Florida where my mother lived, and we spent the weekend at her house. We realized then that we were destined to be together. There were some loose ends that had to be tied up first, however.  

She left Long Island with her three minor children and took a train to New Mexico in June of 1996. In May of 1998 we moved from Rio Rancho to Placitas which is in the foothills on the north end of the Sandia Mountains about 25 miles from Albuquerque.

My wife is the former Greta Dixon who was born in Paris.  Her parents were temporarily living there at the time as her father was doing post-graduate work at the Sorbonne. They came back to the U.S before her first birthday and settled in East Patchogue. Greta graduated from Bellport High School, Class of 1971. We have a combined family of nine children (seven girls and two boys) and now have thirteen grandchildren.

Unfortunately, we lost one of our daughters when my middle daughter died of cancer in Seattle in November 2019 at the age of 42.  Five of our children now I reside in other states (FL, PA and AZ). I fully retired in January 2019 and continue to play twice weekly in a senior softball league. We are also using this time to travel and be with our children and grandchildren as much as we can, the pandemic notwithstanding.  Life has its ups and downs, but we are certainly grateful for all that we have.