February 28, 2024

Dean King: The veterans’ veteran

By Curt Swarm

It’s debatable whether it was the fins of 1959 American automobiles that influenced young Dean King of Mt. Pleasant to join the Air Force, or if it was the Air Force that influenced Dean King to collect all 17 makes of 1959 American cars. After all, 1959 was the year of fins for American cars, especially the 1959 Chevrolet. Those fins are like airplane wings. It was a popular joke amongst car aficionados back in the day, that if the ‘59 Chevy got going fast enough, the rear end would lift clear off the ground.

Dean King is well known for his collection of all 17 makes of 1959 American automobiles. At Old Threshers Reunion time, he parks all 17 of them out on the lawn of his house on Washington Street in Mt. Pleasant, their fins sticking proudly in the air as if in flight. Stories abound: “I went to prom in a car exactly like that.”

Born in Mt. Pleasant in 1947, young Dean King attended the very first Old Threshers get-together in 1949. It wasn’t a “Reunion” until the following year, 1950, according to Dean. In high school, Dean was very involved in band and music. He played all of the brass instruments. Upon graduation, he was off to AIB (American Institute of Business) in Des Moines. With his degree in business, he was immediately employed by KRNT Radio and T.V. in Des Moines and was eligible for The Draft. Since one of his brothers was in the Army, and the other in the Navy, Dean decided the Air Force was for him. It was a little tricky getting in since the Air Force had its quota filled for the next year-and-a-half, but because of his high entrance test scores, a lot of standing in line, and a little finagling, Dean made it in. Of course, he was encouraged to try out for the Air Force Band, and was accepted. However, Dean, wanting to expand his horizons, declined the offer. He did accept a three-month stint in the Drum and Bugle Corps at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He was immediately made head bugler. One thing he is particularly proud of is that he wrote the musical arrangement for “Born Free” for the Drum and Bugle Corps, and they did perform “Born Free” at parades and special occasions.

He went to Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, and then Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida, next to Cape Canaveral where he had direct access to the Cape. Note: Patrick Air Force Base was direct support for NASA and would become the first Space Force Base. Dean served on Apollo Missions 9, 10 and 11 and has certificates to prove it. He held his baby girl, Monica, when Apollo 11 made the first manned landing on the moon in 1969.

It was overseas after that and then discharged. Back home in Mt. Pleasant, Dean noticed that the VFW and American Legion were closed. He offered to run it and was told he would never last six months. It’s been 35 years. He’s Quartermaster of the VFW and OIC (Officer in Charge) of the Veterans Hall. He’s Commander of the Henry County Honor Guard, and Chairman of the Avenue of Flags, which runs the Veterans Day and Memorial Day Services. In years past he was on the Veterans Commission for Henry County and served as Chairman. He worked tirelessly and helped lobby the State Legislature to get a Veterans Affairs Officer in every county in Iowa. In addition, as a musician, Dean plays the organ and piano, and is head of the Praise Team at the First Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant.

Dean King doesn’t care if a person has served 30 years or 30 days. A veteran is a veteran. “We need to forgive the country for the dishonor it paid its Vietnam Veterans, and move on.”

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com