Terry Dean, the former editor of Austin Weekly News and Wednesday Journal’s education reporter, died Monday morning. He was 47. Dean’s sister, Yvette Dean, confirmed his death. She said the cause was cancer, a disease that Dean had been dealing with for several years.
Dean came to Wednesday Journal Inc. (which has since become the nonprofit Growing Community Media) in 2005, after having served as managing editor for the North Lawndale Community News.
“He brought excellence to journalism,” said Rev. Ira Acree, an activist and the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin. “He gave the community a voice. He was fair. He had his ear to the ground.”
La Risa Lynch, who freelanced for Austin Weekly News when Dean was editor, lauded his work.
“He was a good editor, very understanding,” she said. “He knew Austin well. If you were stuck on trying to figure out who to go to about an issue, he probably had a phone number for you.”
Jonathan Todd, a West Side activist, echoed Acree, explaining that Dean “gave a voice to the voiceless.”
“When people started seeing his reporting and what was going on — the good, bad and the ugly — they paid attention,” Todd said. “He gave us a voice. He was very knowledgeable about events and what it took within the community and the knowledge he brought and his personality made it very easy to communicate with him.”
Suzanne McBride, the founder of AustinTalks, a digital news site for Austin, and the dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Columbia College Chicago, said she knew Dean in a variety of roles.
“I knew Terry in a few different ways,” she said. “He was a wonderful collaborator when he was editor of Austin Weekly News, when I was just launching AustinTalks 11 years ago. He was just a wonderful partner in terms of understanding and helping us get off the ground and providing a voice on the West Side.”
After Dean left Wednesday Journal Inc. to attend graduate school at Columbia, McBride said she then got to know Dean within academia.
“He had a good soul,” she said. “He cared about telling people’s stories and he’ll be greatly missed.”
But for all of the accolades and respect Dean amassed during his career in journalism, Yvette said his greatest accomplishment was his role as the father of his daughter, Amiri, who has cerebral palsy.
“When I think of my brother, I think of a loving and devoted father,” Yvette said. “He took care of her, all the way up to the end.”
Yvette said her “hear was warmed” when she contacted the facility where Amiri, 21, lives and heard faculty lauding Dean.
“They were praising my brother, because they saw how much he loved her,” Yvette said. “They said they never met such a devoted father. He loved his daughter.”
In 2006, Dean wrote a column in honor of his daughter.
“What can I say about my Buttercup? That’s what I call Amiri (pronounced A-meer-ree). I’ve called her that since she was born in 2000,” Dean wrote, before recalling the first time he’d seen his daughter.
“The toughest thing early on, for about the first year after she was born, was that she didn’t smile. Never,” Dean wrote.
“Finally, when the family got together for Amiri’s first birthday in July 2001, suddenly here was a laughing, giggling, and smiling baby. Who was this kid? This wasn’t the same little girl who just stared at you. She smiled, and she smiled just like me … That made my day, year and lifetime.”
CORRECTION: A previous post included an inaccurate job title for Suzanne McBride. This post has since been updated. AWN regrets the error.