There are many who would refer to this guy as coach; many over the past thirty-five years would refer to him as “Hermie;” and probably some at football, basketball, and – more recently – softball games as “Who’s that big ugly guy yelling at?” But to us he was just a husband, a dad, a Papa, and, most of all, our biggest cheerleader.
Dean McKellips passed away peacefully at home on the morning of September 12th, 2021. He was born to Carl and Kathryn McKellips on January 23rd, 1950. Dean is preceded in death by his father Carl, mother Kathryn, and sister Carla. He is lived on by his wife Janet, son Allen and wife Darcee, son Adam and wife Cassie, daughter Tina and husband Omar, sisters Jeanne Ledbetter and Marita Kerns, and grandchildren Kelsey Finney and husband Garrett, Paige, Nate, Zoie, Rubie, Sarah, Chloe, and Taylor.
He attended South Coffeyville Schools until age 6, when his dad joined the oil fields as a Roughneck traveling all over Southern Kansas and Western Oklahoma. He attended multiple schools until his graduation from East Central High School in 1968. Upon graduation, and declining scholarships for track and field, he decided he wanted to see the world and fight for our country. Dean enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 18, and thus his two-tour adventure began. As he would say, he went to “The University of Vietnam,” and graduated in 1971 – earning two purple hearts.
Dean and Janet met on a summer day in 1970 while he was home between tours. Dean asked her to go to the A&W Root Beer. For Janet, it was love at first sight. Just a hair shy of 50 years married, the two were inseparable.
When it came to love, Dean was a man of few words. But as all of us know, he showed it through actions. One of his favorite things was to watch his loved ones compete. Dean was present at every single game. Even the games that were hours away, his sons recall, they could always look up into the stands and see their dad – often times the only parent there. In those moments he was a dad to every player on the team. Always a constant. A cheerleader. A coach. A friend.
After 35 years Dean retired from Martin Marietta/Blue Circle/LaFarge Cement Plant as a Diesel Mechanic and Welder, and his life became devoted to his grandchildren. His famous saying was “If I’ve got it, it’s yours.” Summers were for Papa’s house. Sharing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Cheese Wiz, and Old Westerns or Sharknado movies. When some of his grandchildren lived in a different state, he would make the 12-hour trek there and back in one day just to pick them up. He would’ve gone to the ends of the earth for them. He did go to the ends of the earth for them. In a recent conversation with his granddaughter Paige, he told her “You’ve just got to follow your heart; it’ll lead you to where you’ve got to go.” His heart has led him home.
Anyone who knows Dean knows how much he loved to fish. Adam, his youngest son, wanted to share, “Dad, Grandpa, and I went fishing one summery day. Dad was trying to tie a fishing line around a tree, when the boat came slipping out from underneath him. With all his strength he barreled around that tree for dear life. Yelling for me to ‘bring that boat back, you son of a buck.’ I just folded over laughing. I think we both knew in that moment he wasn’t leaving in the boat. Five minutes later, he let go of that tree, and his pride, and let the inevitable happen. We dragged him, sopping wet, all the way back to the dock.”
Allen, his eldest son, wanted to share… “While fishing on Broken Bow with Gary Ratliff and Gerald Pirtle, Dad and I were back in a cove fishing early in the morning. It was a cloudy, chilly April morning and Dad stood up, put his right foot forward on the trolling motor to change direction, and lost his balance straight into the lake. While I was trying not to fall in from laughing, he was trying to hop back in and couldn’t get up far enough to get his belly over the side. Finally, after some choice words he told me to start the motor and head towards the bank. He finally got in the boat, and the only thing we had were rain suits. So, naturally, he started stripping. About that time, a pontoon full of people started heading toward us. All dad could say was, ‘Oh well.’”
When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them, but to live with the love they leave behind. Dean will live on in our hearts forever. A quote his family wanted to leave us with was, “No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”
The family will have a memorial service honoring Dean on Thursday, September 16th at 1:00 at Foyil Baptist Church. Dean will be interred at Ft. Gibson National Cemetery with his brothers of Vietnam at a later date with full military honors. In lieu of flowers, it would be Dean’s wish that you donate in support of Wrenley Spence. She is the daughter of Gus and Kassidy Spence and is battling Hydrocephalus and Ring Chromosome 18. You may donate using PayPal to Brooke Inman at firstname.lastname@example.org.