Autobiography, Obituaries

Dean Giangrosso: Artist, Teacher & Kiss fan (1964 – 2015)

Dean at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia (2009).

Dean at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (2009).

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.

Weird, right?

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!

Guy Collins, Dean, me, and Brian Miller (front row). December 1982.

Guy Collins, Dean, me, and Brian Miller (front row). December 1982.

On stage at the Highland Youth Center (1982).

On stage at the Highland Youth Center (1982).

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.

Dean and I during one of our memorable camping trips (circa 1987).

Dean and I during one of our memorable camping trips (circa 1987).

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.

Christmas card design by Dean Giangrosso.

Christmas card design by Dean Giangrosso.

“Eat your Words”, mixed media by Dean Giangrosso.

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…

Dean meets up with the Cole and Daigle families at the Rhyolite ghost town in Rhyolite, Nevada (2010).

Dean meets up with the Cole and Daigle families at the Rhyolite ghost town in Rhyolite, Nevada (2010).



9 thoughts on “Dean Giangrosso: Artist, Teacher & Kiss fan (1964 – 2015)

  1. Wow John that’s fantastic ! Dino would be so happy with all the wonderful things that have been said from you and so many others . 🙏🏻

    Posted by Mike Green | August 8, 2015, 9:08 pm
  2. A beautiful story of friendship. Thank you for sharing your journey with Dean.

    Posted by Lynn Kuppel Fields | August 9, 2015, 9:53 am
  3. So sorry to hear of Dean’s tragically untimely passing. We weren’t close growing up in Farnham, (he was a few years younger than me) but though sad, it’s nice to hear that smiling little kid grew to such a talented artist who touched so many lives. Your beautiful rememberance showed that though his years on earth were short, he truly lived.

    Posted by Tom Rauker | August 15, 2015, 4:19 pm
  4. My condolences to the Giangrosso family. My son, Christopher Alvarez had Mr. G for the last two years. He inspired my son and guided him to become a better artist. Chris spent time with him after school and helped Mr. G prepare for the annual art shows. Mr. G will be greatly missed by all the students at Greenspun Middle School. The school is having a memorial service in his honor on Thursday, August 20th from 6-8pm.

    Posted by Nicole Miranda | August 16, 2015, 1:27 pm
  5. Sorry for your loss. My daughter has had Mr. G.for 2 years of art & learned so much. I was impressed by his love of teaching & his connection to his students–he knew them all. I met him a few times & will miss that great smile.

    Posted by Marie Nicholl | August 17, 2015, 8:08 pm
  6. I am so sorry for the Giangrosso family’s loss, and all of my condolences go out to them. I was a student of his for two out of my three years of attendance at Greenspun Jr. High; and I certainly learned a lot from him. He was a very great teacher and I really felt a great connection to him. Unless students were acting off, he always had a wide grin on his face. He was a very wise and inspiring man, as well as being exceptionally talented. His teaching furthered my inspiration to continue on an artistic path as well as inspired me to continue getting better not only in my forte of drawing, but in other mediums such as painting, and the one he raved about most during class, sculpting. My skills are sharpened more and my life is definitely impacted for the better after he came into it.

    These pieces are only a couple of examples I have from his class, but without him, I don’t think I’d be at the level I am now:

    So, for this, I thank him greatly.

    I’ll never forget what he taught me and all of the memories I have with my short time in knowing him.

    Posted by Sophia B. | August 18, 2015, 9:51 pm
  7. I technically had Mr. G for only one semester but I will never forget his kindness and passion for teaching and art. The art work I made in his class is the best I’ve ever made and it’s definitely because of his encouragement and help. He was a great guy and teacher. He helped so many kids discover their untapped potential and encouraged many to pursue art after they finished his class. My condolences to his family. He will be remembered by many for years to come.

    Posted by Lauren M. | August 20, 2015, 7:51 pm
  8. Mr. G was one of my favorite teachers of all time, and I was very sad to learn that he passed away. I only had him for one year but in that one year I had so much fun being in his class, and now I can barely wrap my mind around the fact that he is gone, but I guess its because he will always live on, not in body but through his work and the memories he gave to his students. I am so happy I finally was able to learn more about him, even though it has been almost a year since he was gone, I remember everyday like it was yesterday in his class, and the funny thing is, I remember him showing the rock photo to us in class.

    Posted by Kylee B | June 3, 2016, 5:41 pm
  9. John…I just came across this article today and unfortunately just learned about Dean’s passing, After reading your post all these Middle and High School memories started flooding back to me. Wow…what a truly great person Dean was. I too am a huge KISS fan and KISS is what brought Dean and I together to become friends when we were 12 or 13 years old back in 1977. Dean also introduced me to you back then. You truly were Dean’s best friend. Dean and I went our separate ways during college, but we did meet up a few times in the early 1990’s before he moved to Nevada. Unfortunately (and I am now very sad to say) my last contact with Dean was by telephone around 1998 when the original reunited KISS just put out a new CD (the first one by all original members in 18 years). We talked about the reunion tour and how awesome that was (especially for Dean who never had the chance to see KISS live back in their 1970’s heydays). Dean was so excited. Now I regret that I never contacted Dean after that call. It goes to show us all…life is way too short, so don’t take time for granted. Oh how I wish I had that time back now. I wish I could hear that great Dino laugh again. Your post is very well written John. What a tribute. Absolutely terrific and spot on. Dean would be proud!

    Posted by Ron Hageman | May 10, 2017, 10:02 am

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