County Recorder Dean dies at 73

January 7, 2017

ROLLING PRAIRIE — Just days into her fourth term, La Porte County Recorder Barbara Dean passed away at her Rolling Prairie home on Thursday.

At the age of 73, her death came as a surprise to county officials – many of whom will remember her as a kind, hard-working, humble woman.

John Jones, chair of the La Porte County Democratic Party, said people were drawn to Dean’s "folksy charm," saying she was down-to-earth and well-liked.

"She was a stalwart, loyal Democrat that could always be counted on in elections," he said. "She always had opposition and she always prevailed against big names."

Earl Cunningham, a Republican who lost the Recorder race to Dean last fall as well as a previous Democratic primary, also will remember her as a worthy political opponent.

Expressing his condolences to Dean’s family, Cunningham said on Friday, "She was very congenial and I always found her to be very honest. She ran a very clean campaign and I have nothing but positive things to say about her."

Having just been elected to her fourth term as La Porte County Recorder, the characteristic that made Dean so electable, according to Jones, was her customer service, something her staff exemplified as well.

"The biggest thing she brought to that office was a zest for customer service," he said, adding that she also brought technology and innovation.

In an interview last year, Dean said she chose to seek re-election to office because she had not yet completed the mission she set out to accomplish.

She had undertaken the Herculean task of digitizing thousands of pages of record books with a goal of making this information more accessible to the public. And her colleagues recognized what an important task that was.

"She took that office from archaic to modern technology," Jones said.

This effort was acknowledged by the Indiana Recorders Association, which issued a statement upon learning of Dean’s death.

Jon Miller, Porter County Recorder and president of the Indiana Recorders Association, said, "Barbara was a great lady, a dedicated public servant and I’m truly going to miss her ... She had implemented several improvements to the office, including eRecording and back-imaging of their books. She always looked for ways to improve the service that her office could provide to the public."

Among the several boards and positions held by Dean, she spent years as a member of the Michigan City Women’s Democratic Club.

President Monica Prosser said Dean was an active member who brought to the club vast political experience and knowledge of the various elected positions around the county.

"We just had our Christmas party and she was there and was very excited about being re-elected and ... continuing what she had done," Prosser recalled. "She talked about her win and said it was very close ... She wasn’t a braggart – she was humble and always appreciative."

La Porte County Councilman John Sullivan agreed, saying, "When you think of Barbara Dean you think: Sweet, dedicated, a loyal Democrat who was very good at her job. The county lost a very good employee and a dear friend of mine."

To fill the position vacated by Dean’s death, the Democratic Party will hold a caucus within 30 days during which precinct committee members will elect a new Recorder.

In the meantime, Chief Deputy Recorder Angie Rose has agreed to a temporary assumption of office, according to Treasurer Lynne Spevak.

A Mass of Christian Burial for Dean will take place 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, at St. John Kanty Catholic Church, Rolling Prairie with Rev. Michael Heimer officiating. Burial will follow at St. John Kanty Catholic Cemetery, Rolling Prairie.

Visitation will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, and from 9 to 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11, at Cutler Funeral Home and Cremation Center, 2900 Monroe St., La Porte.