Amherst Magazine

Theodore E. Deaner Jr. '58

Deceased August 29, 2013

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In Memory

Ted Deaner spent just the first year of '58's shared experience together, but those who were closest to him then tell us something of his impact. When he died August 29, 2013, at home in Rochester, Minn., of Lewy body disease, Ted had turned his year with us into a career in law. He returned to the University of Minnesota where he earned his J.D. degree and passed the bar in 1960. In that same year Ted married Janet Helfand, and later they moved to Rochester where Ted joined the O'Brien law firm first as an associate, then a partner. Ted and Janet, who predeceased Ted, had two children--Hugh of Kentucky, Anne and her husband Morris Zimmerman of Philadelphia, and Ted's grandson, Eli.

Lyman Warner and Ev Merritt, Ted's freshman roommates, remember how their geographical roots spanned the nation (Washington, Minnesota, New York), an experience many of us shared as part of the Amherst co-curricular design. They remember a nicer person and roommate than anyone could have asked for, who they couldn't imagine ever being angry with, a quiet guy with a good dry sense of humor, fun to be with. The three studied together, ate together, provided mutual aid and assistance--Ted helping Ev with physics and the other way around with English and history. Lyman recalls vigorous discussions with him about the mysteries of English 1. But the three became fast friends, and although Lyman concluded Ted never quite got what Amherst was all about, a few years later Ted and his family visited Lyman's family in Virginia. Ted had already started on a successful law career, he had a little kid (Hugh) who ran in crazy circles on Lyman's asphalt driveway on a blazing hot summer day, and helped Lyman see that there were other paths to a successful career and personal life than just Amherst.

Over the years Ted gained professional recognition for his expertise in agricultural law. In 2000 he was named a Super Lawyer by Minnesota Law and Politics. Ted was a longstanding contributor to Rochester civic life, at various times donating time to leadership activities for the First Unitarian Universalist Church, Rochester Swim Club, American Red Cross, Sierra Club, and KLSE-FM. He enjoyed American history and became an instrument-rated airplane pilot. In a regular column for the Marine Country Messenger newspaper, he reminisced fondly about his Depression-Era rural childhood, and he extended his family ties by researching his ancestry to the 17th century. Ted loved trail-walking in tandem with wife Janet as they avidly hunted wildflowers and morel mushrooms across wide stretches of the Upper Midwest. Despite his final health circumstances, Ted continued to induce smiles from his family and companions.

Lyman may have been right that Ted never quite got Amherst, but subsequent events showed that Amherst somehow managed to get to Ted. When son Hugh started getting interested in college, Ted urged him to consider Amherst, arranged an interview for Hugh with Sandy Keith '50, a fellow Rochester attorney, toured the campus with Hugh. He was accepted into '83 (which Hugh has always taken as a feather in his cap) but just like his father (only a little earlier) chose to remain closer to home and instead attended Grinnell. The encouragement Hugh got from Ted said something about the value Ted had attached to his experience even though he wasn't always happy that year. (Ev remembers a crystal-clear vocalization from a sound-asleep Ted: "Oh, no, not another C!")

His family remembers the importance Ted learned to attach to arriving to class punctually at Amherst, before the bell stopped ringing lest the doors slam leaving tardy students on the outside. (When telling the story, Ted always emphasized the SLAM, leaving a definite impression upon Anne who was still a young child.) He talked with some wonderment about that certain final exam consisting of only one question regarding the existence or nonexistence of the horizon. (Anne recalls him saying it was a philosophy course, but we all know something different!)

Considering Ted came to Amherst from a small rural Midwestern community, where such ideas as relativity, social constructivism and the opportunity to engage in discourse regarding such concepts were likely uncommon, his daughter remembers her father relished the intellectual rigor and cherished the memory of those first opportunities.

In the final scheme of things, Amherst may not have succeeded in extracting Ted Deaner from the Midwest, but it did send him back with experiences and images he could graft on to the substantial personal qualities and dispositions that his roommates came to appreciate and that lasted him a lifetime, certainly impacted his family, and enrich our memories of him.

Hendrik D. Gideonse '58

Comments

Ted and I, along with Big Ev Merritt, were roommates our freshman year.  We came from wildly different backgrounds: Big Ev from New York, me from Washington, and Ted from Minnesota.  Ted just didn't get Amherst.  I fondly remember discussing (well actually screaming about) the mysteries of English 1 with him.  Nevertheless, we all became great pals.  Ted went back to Minnesota at the end of the year.  He graduated from the University and law school.  A few years later he and his family visited my family in Virginia.  He had already started on a successful law career.  He had a little kid who ran in crazy circles on our driveway on a blazing hot summer day.  I've often thought about Ted.  Although I value my Amherst education, he made me see that there are other paths to a successful career and personal life.

 

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