Sam Burnham, Curator
I don’t remember the specific day or time that I met Patrick Dean. We were both in elementary school, probably second or third grade. He was one year behind me in school and we didn’t have any classes together or anything. But we had mutual friends and attended a small school in a small town. It was inevitable we would get to know each other. I’m thankful that we did.
Even at that young age he was always drawing something. It’s easy to watch someone with a gift and assume that it all comes naturally, that they just have this magical ability to do this thing. Patrick made drawing look that easy. It’s easy to overlook the amount of time, effort, and energy that went into his passion. Athletes call it “practice.”
What probably began, in part, as an outlet for that excess energy that young boys all seem to possess grew into much more than a hobby. It became art of his personality, a segment of his very identity. Over the years there must have been thousands of drawings given to friends and family members. He passed them out the way some offer handshakes or hugs.
And that thoughtfulness is one of the many things this world lost on Wednesday when Patrick left this world forever. It was an end we all expected since the day he announced his diagnosis with ALS. We all somehow hoped this day wouldn’t really ever come. Unfortunately, it has.
To have seen him in his youth, energetic and active, it is hard to believe that he is gone this young. Such is the cruel nature of the disease that has robbed his family of their husband, father, son, and brother. Patrick was truly a friendly human being. He never met a stranger. I cannot imagine anyone just not liking him. He was such a gifted artist that I’m afraid people will focus so much on that that they’ll miss his humanity. They’ll focus on the drawing rather than the act - the way he could take your Taco Bell receipt and a Bic pen and make something really cool, not to show off but because he wanted you to have something cool.
That humanity is what fueled his focus on being a husband and a dad these last three years. It was obvious that he was disappointed he wouldn’t growing old with those who he loved most. And that’s the worst part of this tragedy. It’s just heartbreaking. It’s not fair.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Fluke. Patrick was a driving force behind the small and independent press comic and zine festival in Athens. Publishers and artists come and share their work with their colleagues. Fans get to meet their favorite small press heroes. The focus is on the art and the artists rather than on the commercial ideal. This will be a part of Patrick that remains long after he’s gone. We may never know how many young artists find their way as artists and as humans because of their experiences with Fluke.
And so Patrick lives on.
Our world was a little better on Tuesday when he was here. I’m a little better today because I knew him. While I offer my condolences to his family and grieve with them I’m also thankful for his life. Sure, Patrick Dean was a fantastic artist but he was also a fantastic human being. This world needs more of both.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire