Donald Blair Dean
Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 6:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 6:51 p.m.
Donald Blair Dean, a Santa Rosa psychiatrist and former medical director at the old Sonoma State Hospital, has died. He was 85.
Dean came to the Eldridge facility in 1968 and led the medical team before moving on to a new assignment in 1983. The institution was renamed Sonoma Developmental Center in 1986.
He held similar positions at state hospitals in Norwalk and Pomona and the state prison in Vacaville before retiring from government service in 1993 and returning to Santa Rosa, where he worked as a traveling doctor for two decades.
“He loved his work,” said his wife of 60 years, Mary Jane Dean. “That was the biggest part of his life.”
Donald Dean was born in 1927 in Wooster, Ohio. He had two brothers and his father was a forester.
After graduating from high school, he joined the Army in 1945 and went to the Philippines, where he worked as a photo lithographer and bugler.
He returned to college at Valparaiso University in Indiana, where he met his wife. They were married in 1952 and had three children.
Dean went to medical school at Ohio State University. He was assistant team doctor to the football team under Coach Woody Hayes, his wife said.
He interned in Buffalo, N.Y., did a residency in San Francisco and then returned to work in Buffalo, only to decide the winters were too cold, his wife said.
He was drawn back to Northern California with a job offer to work as an assistant medical director at Sonoma State Hospital.
In Southern California, he worked at Metropolitan State Hospital and Lanterman Developmental Center.
His working life didn't end when he left the state. He spent the next two decades as a temporary doctor, or locum tenens, traveling the country and filling in on a temporary basis.
“He had licenses in 14 states,” his wife said.
He also volunteered as a psychiatrist for the Veterans Administration in Santa Rosa.
Family members said he read up to five newspapers a day and was an avid sports fan.
“He watched football all day Saturdays and Sundays,” said his son, Andrew Dean of Santa Rosa.
His daughter, Julie Carolan of Petaluma, said he had strong values. He wrote his father-in-law a three-page letter, asking for his Mary Jane's hand in marriage and promising to provide for her.
During the Vietnam War, he protested in front of the White House with other psychiatrists. A picture ran on the front page of the Washington Post, she said.
“He had some amazing qualities that are very rare today,” Carolan said.
Dean's health began to falter last year after a small stroke. He died Thursday at home.
In addition to his wife, daughter and son Andrew, he is survived by son Peter Dean of Santa Rosa, and five grandchildren.
Memorial services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Santa Rosa.
— Paul Payne
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