EULOGY FOR GEORGE DEAN
Died 10 January 2003
15 January 2003, Trinity Episcopal Church
Thank you for joining us this afternoon. My name is Bruce Berckmans. I’ve
known George Dean for
fifty-four years. As teenagers, George and I went down to Princeton together
in the fall of 1948. We
roomed together at Lockheart Hall with Peter Cowles, and later lived at the
Colonial Club, of which
George was Vice President. In spite of our wildly differing careers, and my
many years abroad, our
close college friendship lasted. (Or, to borrow William Faulkner’s words,
our friendship “. . .not merely
endured. It prevailed.”)
Our Princeton classmate John Emery observed that one of the reasons our Class
of 1952 is so cohesive
and collegial is that we all love each other. This afternoon I am not going
to tell you about George
Dean’s many admirable traits, achievements and honors. I’m going to
try to share with you some of the
love George and I shared together and shared with our friends and Princeton
classmates. I have given
Lefty Thomas a copy of what I want to say so he can continue if it becomes too
difficult for me.
George Dean and I always seemed entertained by our own various shortcomings
and defects. He enjoyed
telling stories – often at his own expense. (I didn’t mind telling
stories at his expense, either.) We always
called him “Alden” (his given name) or “Springs” because
of his high jumping prowess. Perhaps we
loved each other and our classmates because - rather than spite - of our own
In our youth, George was much more conservative than I. At college, George
was an undergraduate
leader. I boxed semi pro in Trenton. George joined the Army ROTC. I joined the
Marine Corps. After
college and obligatory active Army service, George pursued a conventional career
in advertising. My
own Marine Corps career led to by some mercenary soldiering overseas, and service
with the Central
Intelligence Agency. Later service included corporate security direction and
security consulting. But in
spite of the disparate careers, (or perhaps because of them) Alden and I stayed
close to each other and
close to our Princeton 1952 classmates.
The intimacy George and I enjoyed with our classmates was nurtured by our room
mates, and by
George’s wife, Jane. A lot of our interaction was punctuated by good hearted
kidding and needling - and
a lot of creative tension. Our late classmate Crowell Baker was a predictable
master of this. I would put
Crowell up to some outrageous joke at George’s expense, and then enjoy
Our co-conspirator, Lefty Thomas, could also could also be counted upon. While
Lefty would consistently exploit all the chinks in George’s armor - or
put one of the others of us up to
After graduation from Princeton and some Army Reserve training, Alden was assigned
to Korea. He
arrived after hostilities had ended and served as aide to Brigadier General
Joe Canham, a division artillery
commander - a fairly cushy job. At Christmas time, Cardinal Spellman used to
visit the troops in
Korea. Upon his Eminence’s arrival in December 1953, George helped his
boss greet the arriving
Cardinal. George was unfamiliar with Roman Catholic traditions. George’s
boss, the General, knelt
down to kiss the Cardinal’s ring. Thinking General Canham was fainting,
George found himself trying to
haul the chagrinned and annoyed general to his feet. George’s Korean service
also included handling
arrangements for Marilyn Monroe’s visit to the troops. And, as they say,
the rest is history.
Before Springs (aka Lt. Dean) was transferred home, General Canham awarded
him the Bronze Star
Medal, or “BS” as it was known. At this time in Korea, Lt. Lefty Thomas
was occupying a lonely
outpost facing the Communist lines along the Demilaritized Zone. Lefty received
a rare telephone call
from an excited George Dean. “I’m getting the BS,” George said.
Replying, the embattled Lefty said,
“Alden, I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more than you.”
In a more serious vein, George and I helped each other through various marital,
career and other personal
crises. Part of what I mourn today is my own inability to be more helpful to
George during his own final
crisis last week.
George knew how to establish and maintain long, strong personal friendships.
He pursued his friendships
with the same passion he devoted to his generosity to Lawenceville School and
Princeton, and to his
attempts to help more women be elected to congress - regardless of any other
qualification than female
gender. Alden was loyal to his friends, and protective of them.
As some of you may know, some time during the nineteen eighties, George’s
politics took a sudden
swerve to the left. Peter Cowles and I will miss those opportunities we took
to berate him for his
limousine liberalism. During these last few months, I gained the optimistic
impression that George’s
political compass was beginning to swing back to the right - or at least toward
the center. I’ll regret not
being able to ask him about this.
We are sorry to have to say good-bye to you, George. But, in a way, it is no
more than crossing a river.
Crowell Baker has gone ahead to scout out the terrain for you, George.
He has already welcomed you.
And probably already chided you for taking such a long time to join him.
But in spite of the comfort we try to take from the many warm recollections
of our life with George, I
also think of George’s death in terms of the final lines of a Robert Frost’s
poem called “Reluctance.”
“When to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow, and accept the end of a love –
Or a season.”
Today, our season, too, is drawing to a close. But Spring is coming again.
And as our Princeton days
together recede ever further into the past, I am reminded of that college song
of ours which urged us so
“Let’s go down to Princeton at Reunion time.
Let’s go down to Princeton, that’s the place for mine.”
Good bye, George. We love you.
We’ll see you again at Reunion time.