He went about his business. Quiet. Unassuming. He didn’t do it for attention nor profit.
The quiet man with the camera was a parent. He rarely spoke. He never attempted to intervene as many parents do. He didn’t try to give the instructors advice and never intruded in attempt to promote his children. A man of faith. He raised his family in a modest home in Waterloo, Iowa. His family was his life. Photography, his passion.
His children were members of the Waterloo Chevaliers Drum & Bugle Corps. They traveled all over the country performing and competing. The quiet man with the camera was always there, clicking, snapping and capturing the moment. I placed no value on what he was doing. I didn’t think I would see the pictures. My job was to teach the percussion section and to help the corps win. He was always there. Part of the landscape. I became blind to him, never noticing him as he went about his business.
Early September of 1973 was the last competition of the Chevaliers for the year. We traveled to Rockford. I noticed quickly that the quiet man with the camera was absent. It seemed odd that he wasn’t present. I learned that his daughter, Kathy, a beautiful young lady, only 19 years of age — quiet like her father — had been taken to the hospital early that morning with a severe headache.
Before the corps would perform that evening, the unthinkable news came. A brain aneurysm had taken her young life. My first thought was of the man with the camera. His love for all his children was clear. I was not yet a parent, but I knew a father is not supposed to outlive his children. Unnatural. Wrong.
The first time I heard a sound come from his mouth was at the funeral a few days later. Only a soft sorrowful sob. He was heartbroken. My heart broke for him. Her funeral was sad, yet beautiful. She was buried in her corps uniform — the very same uniform the quiet man with the camera must have captured her in countless pictures. The members of the corps mourned along with the quiet man and his family. It all sticks with me to this day. As I write this, I am holding back tears. Not for Kathy. My faith leads me to know she is truly at home and happy, but for her family and the quiet man with the camera.
Fast forward to 2018, the world wide web and Facebook.
The quiet man with the camera is gone. David, his son, also a quiet man of faith, is now the curator of his fathers work behind the lens. Over the years, I have found on the numerous pages for drum and bugle corps and the marching arts in general, the fruits of his labor are bringing joy to thousands of drum corps alumni and fans. The quiet man with the camera, Robert “Bob” Dean, captured the history of the activity. While I was a marching member of the Chicago Cavaliers and had not yet met the quiet man with the camera, he had captured pictures of me and my marching years and I have learned of the joy of others who have found themselves within the pictures taken by Mr. Dean. I have found pictures he snapped of Arlene and I early in our courting relationship and had no idea they existed. I was oblivious to what he was doing and why but today I am in awe of his art — his gift to a generation.
I regret that I never really took the time to know him, but today people all over the world know him from his work that is valued and cherished.
Before the era of the smartphone and a camera in every pocket, photography was an expensive hobby and required a degree of training and skill. Robert Dean made a tremendous investment in time and treasure to give ongoing life to the activities of his children and thousands of others. His beautiful daughter lives on in his photographs and I am grateful.
The quiet man with the camera has passed. Thank you to David, Linda, Danny and of course, Kathy, and your mother, Peggy, for sharing your father, husband and his work with the rest of us. We are more grateful than we have words to express.
Today, I am in awe of “the quiet man with the camera.”
Is there a similar quite man or woman in your life? Take notice and tell them you are grateful.