John Dean Left A Lasting Legacy In Glenwood Community

John Dean was always looking for ways to improve the quality of life in Glenwood.

John Dean at a 2014 ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of Iowa's Adopt A Highway program, which began in Mills County along Highway 34.

EDITOR’S NOTE - John Dean, a staple of the Glenwood business community, passed away May 26, 2023, at the age of 97. Services are Thursday, June 1, 10:30 a.m., at Our Lady Of The Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Information and quotes in this article were taken from a story published during Glenwood’s Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2002.
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The Dean family name has been synonymous with banking in Glenwood for nearly 125 years.

From the day Glenwood State Bank (GSB) opened its doors at the very end of the 19th Century, a member of the Dean family has been actively involved in the management of the financial institution that’s served as a staple of the Glenwood community.

The Dean family’s banking bloodline at GSB started with C.E. Dean, one of the institution’s  original stockholders in 1899. Leonard Dean, C.E.’s son, came aboard as cashier in 1923 after working for the Livestock National Bank in South Omaha.

John Dean was still a youngster when the Great Depression  forced the closure of several banks across the nation, but it was during those financially-challenging times that he inherited a banking philosophy from Leonard Dean, his father.

“My father ran the bank all through the depression, and I suppose I got from him the idea that the depositor’s money has to be absolutely safe,” John Dean said. “If we have five droughts in a row, we still have to make sure the depositors have their money.”

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Glenwood had four banks. After the “bank holiday” in 1931, Glenwood State Bank was the lone survivor.

“In the 30s, they had what they called the bank holiday. The government had every bank in the country closed for a week,” John Dean noted. “The bank examiners came in and did one of three things – they left you closed, they restricted you or they left you unrestricted. If they didn’t let a bank reopen, then all of the depositors lost their money.

“Glenwood State was maybe five or six in all of southwest Iowa that they let open unrestricted. None of the other banks in Glenwood reopened. They stayed close.”

It was after the 1931 bank closings that Glenwood State Bank moved its offices to its current location at 32 N. Walnut St.

John Dean worked at GSB during his high school days in the early 1940s but didn’t become a full-time employee until he had completed two tours of active duty in the U.S. Army and law school at the University of Nebraska.

John Dean enlisted in the service at the age of 17 at the height of World War II. He served from 1943 to 1946 and was called back four years later for the Korean War. In between his two tours of duty, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business and economics at the University of Nebraska and completed one year of law school.  He finished his law degree in January 1954 and returned immediately to Glenwood to join his father at the bank.

Leonard Dean worked at the bank until his death in 1961. John Dean became president of the bank following the retirement of Clyde Rhoads in the mid ‘60s.

Despite seeing many changes in the banking industry, John Dean adhered to many of the same principles and work ethic he started out with in 1954. His philosophy on banking - and life - is that you do the things you believe are right, even if others question your motives or sincerity; always give your best effort; always think big; and be honest and frank with people.

One belief C.E., Leonard and John Dean all shared is that the bank should be involved in promoting the betterment of the Glenwood community. John Dean noted that the bank has been involved in everything from the old Glenwood Apple Carnival at the beginning of the 20th Century to the economic development work that brought industries like Swift and Co., Peter Kiewit Construction and the Bunge Corp. to the Glenwood area. The bank lobbied in Des Moines and Washington to push for the Glenwood interchange on Interstate 29, the rerouting of Highway 34 (closer to Glenwood) and construction of the Highway 34 Missouri River bridge that opened nearly a decade ago.

Those who knew John Dean will remember his sense of humor, as demonstrated in 1989 when he presented former Governor Terry Branstad with a live rabbit at a public dedication ceremony for the Adopt A Highway program.

John Dean was not a person to stand in the spotlight. He prefered to live the simple life, tending to banking business at hand, thinking of ways to make his community a better place to live, sharing a funny story with customers or relaxing at his ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills. His absence and legacy in Glenwood will be felt for years to come.


The Opinion-Tribune

116 S Walnut St Glenwood, IA 51534-1665
P.O. Box 377, Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-527-3191
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