With the exception of a handful of years when he was in college and in the U.S. Air Force during WWII, Terry Dean has lived on Forest Avenue in Verona for all of his 86 years. As the walls of his sunny den testify, they have been years filled with significant accomplishments–35 years as a top salesman for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, 18 years on the town’s board of adjustment and several as president of the Lion’s Club–not to mention three daughters with his wife of 62 years, Wanda, 8 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
Yet one of his dearest and most enduring memories is his 30-0 state championship season with the 1942 Verona High School golf team. He and teammates Frank Bedford, Parker Newell and Charlie Gulla, under coach Elmer Williams, swept the suburban conference championship and then won the state title, which back then meant they were the champions of all four suburban groups. As a tribute to the team’s unrivaled accomplishment, which was recognized at the VHS Alumni Association dinner last fall, the current VHS golf team has asked Dean to drive the first ball in its opening match on April 6.
Going to the match, which will be held at the Montclair Golf Club in West Orange, will truly be a trip down memory lane for Dean, who caddied there more than 70 years ago with his VHS team members. He learned to golf closer to home, however, on the grounds of the Parkhurst Well and Pump company, whose land stretched from Bloomfield Avenue near Forest to what is now Harrison Street. The family who owned the company had a mansion and horse stable on the grounds abutting Dean’s backyard, and Dean would hit balls on the extensive lawn with the owner’s son. “You could drive a ball 150 yards from Bloomfield Avenue with a 5-iron,” he says with a smile.
Dean also played on Verona’s first football team, but gave it up when his golf coach pointed out that, if he broke his wrist, he’d miss a year of golf. He also played on the basketball team. When he was a senior, the legendary Bucky Hatchett was a freshman. Dean recalls: “The basketball coach told Bucky, ‘Terry’s scoring 17 points a game. You’ve got to start shooting.’ Well, Bucky started shooting and he never stopped.”
Dean is happy that the golf team’s accomplishments are being recognized these many decades later. A few years ago, on a visit to his high school alma mater, Dean noticed that there was no state golf banner in the gymnasium. With the help of then-principal Tom Valente, a championship banner was hung.
Then there was the strange incident involving the golf championship trophy. Several years ago Dean received a phone call from the parent of a Verona student who had come across the broken pieces of the ’42 golf trophy in their basement. Apparently their son had picked the broken trophy from the high school trash. The parent was able to make out Dean’s name on the trophy plate and looked him up. He brought the trophy to Dean, whose son-in-law Marty McLaughlin created a replica (pictured). The two trophies, old and new, now reside safely in Dean’s den, alongside his many other mementoes, where they belong.