On August 4, 2015, Mr. Dean Giangrosso of Henderson, Nevada passed away.
Dean was born on March 21, 1964 to Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Giangrosso of Buffalo, New York. Dean made the local newspapers that year, too. See Premature Babies Get Extra Care, from the Buffalo Courier-Express, 1964.
Although we didn’t share the same parents, Dean was family.
Dean and I met at the perfect time: the 1980s. It was during the 80s that he and I were struggling with how to fit into high school. Back then, as it is today, people formed cliques based on looks, athletic abilities, academic scores, drug use, or after school activities. Neither Dean nor I fit into any of these categories. I was very small and very shy and he walked with a limp. We didn’t play football or smoke weed or play the trumpet. We were smart but by no means geniuses. No, we didn’t fit. Instead, our connection ran the other way. We enjoyed the thrill of rock and roll and the spirit of creativity.
I can think of no better example than the 1982 Air Band contest at the Highland Youth Center in Highland, New York.
The next thing you know, here were Dean and I dressed as Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley standing in front of what seemed like hundreds of people. Along with Guy Collins as Gene Simmons and Brian Miller as drummer Eric Carr, the music started (Peter Criss, an original band member, left in 1981).
“I want to rock and roll all night… and party every day!”
Dude, we rocked the heck out of the Youth Center!
Dean and I needed each other. Now that many of us 1980s teenagers are older, we know that life back then rarely met our expectations. Despite best attempts by others to explain things, we often feel alienated. At that age you need a true friend. Dean was mine and I was his. I still recall sitting in Dean’s bedroom one evening as he painfully tried to reconcile his feelings during a particularly bad family argument. I remember how heartsick I felt but I did what any friend would do: I swore with him, I complained with him, but I listened. I also reminded him – as he would with me – that things would get better eventually. All we had to do was remain patient and stick together. We did and things definitely did get better.
Towards the end of high school, and for many years after, Dean was part of our camping crowd. We’d set aside a few days to trek across Western New York to Stony Brook where we’d smoke cigars, drink a few beers, and hike the trails. Dean’s limp made his walking laborious but never affected his ability to do dumb things like the rest of us. So what if the hike was dangerous? So what if the strong current made wading risky? Dean didn’t care. He loved the adventure of trying new things and we all appreciated him for it.
Over time we lost contact – as friends sometimes do – but we never forgot the value of what we had. When we finally did reconnect after 20 years, it was as if nothing had changed. We were older and perhaps heavier, but our years apart had no impact on our friendship. We laughed as if time was meaningless.
And we had the opportunity to catch up on our lives.
Dean was a highly talented artist. If you were ever fortunate to see his work, you would have immediately felt his unbounded creativity. He could draw, paint, and sculpt. Dean was simply born talented. He surprised many of us by not only graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburg but by becoming an art teacher at Greenspun Junior High School in Henderson, Nevada. He did a lot for that school. See Greenspun Junior High students take on disabilities to learn about peers, from the Las Vegas Sun, 2008 and Beard Growing Contest, from the Las Vegas Sun, 2010.
It was the perfect fit.
He loved his job and was very proud of his students. He often spoke of how impressed he was with his classes and how much he learned from them. I have no doubt that his students left school much wiser than when they began – all because of Dean.
Dean Giangrosso touched more lives than he could ever have known. Wherever he travelled he made friends, influenced people, and infected people with his laugh, his humor, and his love. He was, without question, a great man. I was extremely fortunate to have known him and will be forever thankful that he was part of my life.
We will meet again, Dean, I guarantee it.
In the meantime, please know that I love you and will miss you dearly. See you on the other side…