Dean Hartley Gesme Sr., of Cedar Rapids, passed away in the loving arms of his dear Savior at the age of 91 on Friday October 9, 2020 after a long and purposeful life.
Dean was the second of six children born in Lake Mills, Iowa, December 31, 1928, to Edward and Gena Gesme. During his childhood complications of measles took the lives of two of his siblings ages 7 and 2, while Dean, 6, was comatose. After weeks in a coma, Dean recovered, and had to learn to walk and eat again.
Dean grew up in Lake Mills, where he was baptized and confirmed at Salem Lutheran Church. His mother was proud of the many years he received Sunday school perfect attendance pins. While in high school he was on the football team, sang in the high school choir, and worked with his father at the Home Oil Company. Following graduation Dean was accepted as a freshman at Luther College, but wanted to take advantage of the GI Bill that financially supported college education, so he enlisted in the army at the age of 17. On September 6, 1946, he was inducted into the Army at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. After basic training he traveled on the USS Admiral Sims to Kunsan, Korea where he celebrated his 18th birthday with the US Army of Occupation. The next year he observed his 19th birthday in Shanghai, China before boarding an old US Army Troop ship, the General M.M. Patrick, to return to California at the end of his term of duty. He entered Luther College In the fall of 1948, and in three years graduated with degrees in Business and Speech in 1951.
In 1949 he met Anna Mae Urness in Emmons, MN, where Ann was teaching. They were married on July 22, 1950 and lived in Decorah, Iowa, until July 1951, when they moved to Waterloo, where Dean became an Internal Auditor in the Controller’s Department at Rath Packing Company. In 1958 the family moved to Cedar Rapids, where Dean began his long career with Professional Management Midwest as a Management Consultant for physicians and dentists. In 1968 he became Division Manager and a partner in the firm until his retirement in 1993.
Dean joined the Boy Scouts of America in his youth and earned his Eagle Scout Award. Throughout his adult life he continued to be active in Boy Scouts, receiving several awards including the distinguished Silver Beaver Award. While attending Luther College he sang in the Schola Cantorum and was vice president of the very first Dorian Society that initiated a program in 1951 by inviting outstanding high school singers to campus. Now in its 70th year, over 1000 participate in this annual event at Luther College.
He was active in the veteran and military organization, Amvets, serving as an officer and singing in the Amvets Chorus. He was also active in leadership roles within the Lutheran churches where he was a member, and served on the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Homes Society in Muscatine, Iowa. In 2006 he was made a life member of The National Society of Certified Healthcare Professionals, was national secretary for the Society of Professional Business Consultants (SPBC), a lifetime member of the Certified Professional Business Consultants, and an active member of Rotary and Optimists. He was a volunteer with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) for 20 years. In 2004 Dean was selected and honored to meet George W. Bush when Air Force One landed at the Cedar Rapids Airport where President Bush presented Dean with the President’s Silver Volunteer Service Award. In April, 2011, Dean joined other WW II veterans for a one-day visit on an Eastern Iowa Honor Flight to Washington D.C. There they visited the World War II Memorial and other military landmarks.
Celebrating the family’s Norwegian Heritage was an important part of Dean’s Life. He traveled to Norway many times. In 1975 he was one of the founding members of the Sons of Norway Restauration Lodge in Cedar Rapids. He served in leadership roles for Vesterheim - The National Norwegian American Museum and Heritage Center in Decorah, Iowa, and the Norwegian Genealogy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. He was president of Vosselag and was active with numerous other ethnic organizations that celebrate history, customs and traditions of Norway.
Dean was a beloved husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend to many. He is remembered for the happiness, leadership, kindness, honorable and principled ideals he conveyed and lived. His family will cherish the memories of family trips to visit grandparents, vacations, the sailboat, their horse, King, frolf, church softball league, picnics, family reunions, church, Schatzy, Christmas open house, and especially taking his entire family to Norway in 1999. Dean and Ann have lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for 62 years and resided at Cottage Grove Place for the past eleven years.
Dean is survived by his wife of 70 years, Ann, and three children, Dr. Dean H. Gesme Jr. (Laura), Karen Brunssen (Kim), Martha Nielsen (Peter); five grandchildren, Greta Wicker (Colin), Kerstin Balfour (Don), Erika Gesme, Karl Brunssen, and Emma Nielsen; five great-grandchildren, Chase and Parker Balfour, Soren, Berit and Silje Wicker, and a brother, James Gesme.
He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings, Keith, Marlene, Earl, and Marilyn.
There will be a private family service at First Lutheran Church and Dean will be laid to rest at the Vermont Lutheran Church Cemetery in Black Earth, Wisconsin.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that memorials be directed to: Vermont Lutheran Church in Black Earth, Wisconsin, First Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Vesterheim – the National Norwegian American Museum and Heritage Center in Decorah, Iowa.