Bishop Herman Dean led churches for 65 years.
As his 100th birthday approached in 2010, he sat with grandson Kevan Dean to write his life story. The book, Ezekiel, Yuma's Native Son: A Journey Through the Eyes of a Centenarian: Bishop Herman E. Dean (AuthorHouse; 2011; $17.64), opens with four generations chewing over great-grandson Koen’s puzzlement over the word longfidgety.
The word, of course, was longevity, and Dean, born Nov. 3, 1910, in Mortimers, Long Island, Bahamas, defined the word. His own mother, Harriet, died when she was 100 and seven days.
From the book: “‘I’ll be long gone before then,’ Herman said while rocking back and forth in his chair.”
Herman’s daughter Anna joined the conversation in the Liberty City neighborhood her father had lived in since the early 1950s.
‘“Dad, you know that you will live to be older than your mother was when she died,” she said.
Dean died at age 104 on Saturday. Five years ago, while reacting to his daughter’s prophecy, the family members sat in silence “as if everyone were thinking of how much Herman Ezekiel Dean had seen in his nearly 100 years on earth,” according to the autobiography.
In the Bahamas, as a teen Dean worked as a farmer and raised livestock. Later he worked as a pastor there for 17 years. He arrived in the United States in 1952. Later, he worked for the Florida Juice Company on Northwest Second Avenue from the early 1950s to the late 1960s until a car crash in the Keys put him in a body cast for a year.
He served as pastor at six churches in South Florida — from Belle Glade to Homestead, Fort Lauderdale to Opa-locka.
A memorial and visitation are planned for Dean at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Church of God of Prophecy Miami No. 1 at 4528 NW First Ave. — the church Dean spent 31 years leading until his 2000 retirement. At that church, Dean and its members, along with his late wife, Maggie, paid off an $80,000 mortgage in five years and established a child-care center that ran for 17 years.
Writing his autobiography at 100 was a particular treat.
“Intriguing, the things he had done over his lifetime,” said his son Bishop Noward E.C. Dean, who took over pastor duties at the Church of God from his father.
At one point, for preaching the gospel, his father, the local police officer, briefly banished him from the family home. Dean survived in the woods in that small settlement in Mortimers. His mother secretly sent meals to him through his siblings. The twinkling stars around a half moon, he wrote, seemed to communicate a message from God as he huddled under a sapodilla tree. “Don’t worry sonny boy, I have my eyes on you.”
Said his son: “He always tried to tell me, whatever I wanted to be I could be. All I needed to do was put my mind to it.” Education was scarce for a little boy growing up in a remote area of the Bahamas before and after World War I.
“He was always encouraging us to get as much education as you can learn. ... Soon as he reached a certain age he had to discontinue school and go to work. So those things he didn’t have the opportunity to do, he wanted to encourage in us,” Noward Dean, 73, said.
In addition to his son, Herman Dean is survived by his daughters Audrey Rolle, Eloise Pratt, Irene Beneby, Lula Thompson and Anna Dean, stepdaughter Dorothy Bastian, 23 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren, and sisters Harriet Minot and Virginia Major.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.