Remembering Daniel Dean, Berkeley school counselor who led push for city’s landmarking law

He was also a supportive husband to Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, and worked in her political campaigns. He died at 93.

Daniel Dean. Credit: First Congregational Church of Berkeley

Daniel Dean, 1928 – 2022

Daniel Dean, known simply as Dan, of Berkeley, passed away at the age of 93 on Feb. 17, 2022, from COVID-19-related pneumonia. 

While born in Oakland, he lived 86 years of his life in Berkeley during which he was deeply involved in improving the lives of children and their families through counseling and education. For 56 years he was the beloved husband of former Berkeley Councilmember and Mayor Shirley Dean, loving father of Daniel and John, and grandfather of two.

Dan had a lifelong commitment to education and counseling. He attended Hillside Elementary School where he was a member of the fledgling Junior Traffic Control, attended then-called Garfield Junior High and Berkeley High School and on to UC Berkeley where he was a member of Theta Xi fraternity. As his life goals began to become more focused, he went to work as a counselor in the California Youth Authority facility, Fricot Ranch School in San Andreas, California. At that time, Fricot housed boys as young as eight years who had been committed to the CYA for crimes as serious as murder. He worked there for about two years when he decided he wanted to do more to prevent children from entering a life of crime, so he enrolled at San Francisco State University where he obtained a master’s degree and met the requirements that enabled him to work as a teacher and as a state-certified guidance counselor.

At that time, it was rare to have a man be an elementary school teacher, but in spite of that, he went to work at the Harvey Green Elementary School in Fremont and loved it. He would go to work each day to a class that literally hung on his arms and hugged his legs, so happy they were to have a father figure in their lives. 

Dean skiing. Credit: Dean family

But Berkeley called and he wanted to be part of the desegregation of the schools which was happening here, so he went to work as a teacher/counselor at Longfellow Elementary School with the goal of promoting the assignment of counselors to each school in Berkeley starting with the beginning of a child’s education. In the effort to desegregate, that goal got lost by the school district and he ended up as a counselor at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and then on to Berkeley High School where he worked for some 22 years. He loved every second of it and the happiest moments he had were when some parent or former student would stop him on the street and talk with him. He always seemed to remember each student by name.

Dan and Shirley were married in 1956. They both became deeply involved in city matters when they helped form the Bonita Berryman Neighborhood Association in response to a developer demolishing two historic homes and replacing them with a “ticky-tacky” undistinguished apartment building. They soon discovered that Berkeley didn’t have a landmark preservation ordinance so they worked with a group of like-minded residents to get one approved. Busloads of architectural heritage officials who were attending a major national conference in San Francisco were organized to tour Berkeley’s historic homes and the first-ever annual calendars were published featuring Berkeley’s architectural heritage. It took at least two years, but the city’s first Landmarks Preservation Ordinance was approved and remains in place.

Dan was always a worker in Shirley’s political campaigns. From their neighborhood work, Shirley was elected citywide to the Berkeley City Council in 1975 on her first try for office mainly because Dan organized a citywide campaign that called for placing at least one of her signs on every block in the city. 

He never wavered in his support.

When the council adjourned for the month of August, the whole family would spend that month at a cabin in the Sierras. When Shirley was called back to Berkeley for an emergency council meeting, he willingly would drive four hours back to Berkeley, wait through a sometimes long meeting and then drive four hours back to Alpine County. Sometimes he would do this more than once during the month! 

At the cabin in 1954. Credit: Dean family

When Shirley received a special appointment through the National Mayors’ Conference, he loved talking with the mayors and people he met in Israel and Palestine. He was a vital part of the Berkeley delegation that was invited to visit Hunan Province in China and along with the relationship discussions, he assisted a farmer with his overloaded donkey-driven cart that had blocked a major road. He calmed mayors from various U.S. cities as they rode in Big Balloons which dipped from ground to floating high in the sky in Boise, Idaho. On behalf of Berkeley, he graciously hosted a member of the New York City Fire Department who had survived the Sept. 11 attack on the Twin Towers.

Dan had a real gift as a walking oral historian who had many stories to share. He loved to talk to any and all, and on a moment’s notice, he would paint vivid word pictures of life from decades past and frequently tell about living in Berkeley, like how his aunt’s house was saved by UC Berkeley students in the 1923 fire that burned down much of Berkeley, and when it snowed in Berkeley in 1933 and 1976. 

He was so proud when Lahainaluna High School in Maui, Hawaii, presented him with a poster celebrating its historic past when Dan’s ancestor, Lorrin Andrews, was its principal. He wanted people to know that Lorrin Andrews refused to take promised monthly pay from the group that sent missionaries to Hawaii because they accepted donations from slave owners. Also, that Rev. Andrews was a teacher who worked to preserve the Hawaiian language by writing the first Hawaiian-English Dictionary that is still in use today, and that he rose to become a circuit judge, a member of the Hawaiian Supreme Court and a member of the Hawaiian King’s Privy Council.

Dan’s service in the military was very important to him. Though he never served overseas, he was very proud of the time he spent in the army as an MP that provided security to visiting presidents.

Throughout all, he was fascinated by nature and the outdoors. He had the gift of finding joy and happiness in the simple items, features and oddities in vegetation and animals and sharing his observations and the beauty of nature with others. Simply put, Dan loved to be outside.  Fishing for native trout. Celebrating the sunrise at Haleakala in Maui and “tubing” down swift irrigation canals for a wild ride in Kauai, snorkeling, whale watching on the Napali Coast and enjoying spectacular sunsets over Hanalai Bay. Hiking and camping adventures along the Pacific Coast and Emigrant Trails. Taking official snow surveys in the Sierra. Climbing Round Top (10,381 feet). Building a sturdy cabin at 8,000 feet. Visiting polar bears up close and personal on the shores of Hudson Bay and dog sledding along the tundra. Skiing on Mt. Shasta, Dodge Ridge, Kirkwood and cross country. Enjoying the redwoods and just walking along the many trails in Tilden Park.  

Dan Dean (right) at the top of Mt. Tallac. Credit: Dean family

Dan had the rare gift of finding joy and happiness in the simple, almost irrelevant, items and sharing those times with family and friends. Memorials in his memory are greatly appreciated by the family and it is suggested that anyone so inclined might consider making one in the following manner. Please purchase a California native milkweed plant and place it in your garden in a sunny location that is free of pesticides now and in the future. These plants are selected by Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs on and provide food for the resultant caterpillars during their annual western migration in February and March. The Monarchs will remember that place and come back to you year, after year.  They will bring beauty and happiness to you, your neighbors and all of Berkeley, but also serve as a reminder and memorial for not only Dan, but for ALL those that were victims of COVID everywhere that we will forever love and miss.