Dean was an advertising and marketing executive at the Advertising Council, Metromedia and Madison Square Garden before he chucked the fast track more than 20 years ago for a life of selling real estate in Florida. For a boy from Iowa, Dean has had quite a kick of the can, as he likes to say.
That's what he was looking for when he graduated from the University of Iowa and went into the Navy. Sure, Dean had dated a girl at Iowa who was "full of the devil" and "a cute little coquette." Equally smitten was Arden Cummings. But she soon realized Dean wasn't ready to settle down.
He "was running as fast as he could the other way," Arden remembers. So they went their own way. She married (returning to college for her degree when her first daughter was two years old). Dean joined General Electric after graduation as one of 30 marketing grads from around the country to be trained in engineering. When the Korean War intervened, he served as an officer on the the USS Iowa.
When the war was over, and Dean was reassigned to the Pentagon, he stopped off in Clinton, Iowa, and called Arden's mom to ask how Arden was getting along. Her mom asked him to come over. When he arrived, there was Arden with her 8-month old baby. She had left her husband.
Dean talked Arden into returning to her husband. The thought, though fleeting, entered his mind that he should take Arden with him to Washington. But he didn't, and when he called Arden's mom a couple of weeks later she said Arden had indeed returned to her husband.
That was in 1953. Arden eventually split with her husband, moved to Washington and started making money enough to put her daughter through Yale. Both U.S. senators from Iowa were friends of hers, and she did political fund raising, worked as director of development for a private school and was executive director for a nonprofit health and environment group. "The point is she was as adventurous as I was," Dean said. He, himself, was married for 11 years and divorced.
The two were out of touch for at least 25 years-until last year. Arden was volunteering at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, when she met some people from Dean's hometown. She asked if they knew him. They replied they were on his e-mail tree. A week later she received an e-mail from Dean, followed by a phone call a week later demanding to know why she hadn't answered his e-mail. "You know you've always loved me," Dean said. When Arden replied, she rather guardedly signed her e-mail, "Fondly."
Dean sent her an airline ticket to visit him in Orlando, but before she could make plans her daughter Amanda called Dean to let him know her mother just had open-heart surgery.
At that time in his life, Dean says, "I'd given up. Buy a place, put in time until I died," was his game plan. He sent her a gardenia bush-the flower that contained both of their names. They began talking on the phone every night for three or four hours. "We revived our friendship and deepened it," Arden said. "We really are soulmates."
Arden sold her house in Austin and moved to Orlando. They married May 8, and bring "great harmony" to each other, Dean said. "Our lives are very rich. I guess we always belonged together, and now we are."